The Favorite – Greater Johnstown 17-6: Ryan Durham is enjoying a very successful season in his first year at his alma mater. It has a chance to get better. The Trojans appear to have what it takes to make a deep postseason run. Greater Johnstown has a veteran backcourt led by seniors Imil Britt and Gerrell Simon. Two talented junior forwards in Keyon Gause and D.J. Chatman, along with a deep bench. Although they are the No. 3 seed, Greater Johnstown may be the strongest team in the field.
The Challenger – Huntingdon 19-2: The Bearcats have been playing solid basketball all season long, and that led to them earning the top seed in Class AAAA. This is a balanced team with six players averaging at least seven points per game, headlined by 6-foot-3 forward Nick Rigby’s 17.6. Huntingdon should be playing with some motivation this postseason, as Greater Johnstown knocked it off by 17 last year in the playoffs.
The Sleeper – Forest Hills 15-7: Even as the five seed, you have to pay attention to the Rangers heading into the playoffs. Forest Hills holds a win over No. 4 Central from earlier in the season, and they nearly knocked off top-seeded Hungtingdon as well. This team can compete with anyone, showing there are five legitimate title contenders in this classification. Forest Hills has perhaps the best true post player in the field with 6-3 senior Ryan Richardson.
Players to Watch
Imil Britt, Greater Johnstown, 5-7 senior guard: The Trojans have one of the best floor generals in the area with 5-7 senior Britt. The veteran point guard won a District 6 title last season with Bishop McCort, and that experience should be key for this postseason. Britt is very quick, and has a knack for hitting big baskets in clutch situations.
Ryan Richardson, Forest Hills, 6-3 senior forward: The Rangers go as their 6-3 senior forward Richardson goes. He is averaging a team-best 20.8 points per game, and 9.8 rebounds a contest. Richardson had a monster game a few weeks ago in a pivotal win over Bishop Carroll with 28 points and 16 rebounds. He will be a lot for any team to handle in the post.
Nick Rigby, Huntingdon, 6-3 junior forward: The lanky forward gives Huntingdon a versatile scoring option. At 6-3, Rigby can play an inside-outside game and can even step out and knock down 3-pointers.
The Pick: Greater Johnstown
The Favorite – Richland 19-3: The Rams have been the favorite in Class AAA since the season began, and the regular season only supported that notion. The Rams have proven all season long that they have a team that can make a run deep into the postseason. Richland has a balanced starting five led by a strong inside presence with Collin Instone and Trevy Hardison. Tyler Zimmerman is an athletic wing that can do it all. Tyler Paul is a 3-point sharpshooter, while Caleb Burke is a smooth point guard that runs the show. When this team is clicking, it is tough to beat.
The Challenger – Ligonier Valley 18-4: The Rams really caught fire after a slow start to the season, and enter the District 6 playoffs with a 14-game winning streak and a Heritage Conference championship to their credit. Ligonier Valley is fueled by the play of two underclassmen, Marrek Paola and Michael Marinchak. Paola, a 6-6 junior forward, has been a double-double machine this year. Marinchak is a steady sophomore point guard that runs the show for Todd Hepner’s team.
The Sleeper – Central Cambria 12-10: The Red Devils are the defending champions in this bracket, so no real need to sleep on them. Still, it has been a difficult season for Central Cambria at times as they fought to a 12-10 record. Through it all, this could be a dangerous team for one of the top seeds to face given the championship experience they possess and the senior duo of Matt Holsinger and Luke Bennett.
Players to Watch
Matt Holsinger, Central Cambria, 6-6 senior center: Holsinger was an all-state player last season, and has a chance to make it there again. The 6-6 Pitt-Johnstown recruit leads his team with 21.3 points per game. The senior center also posts team-high numbers in rebounds (13.5) and blocks (3.3) per game. Holsinger has the ability to carry his team to a deep run.
Marrek Paola, Ligonier Valley, 6-6 junior center: Ligonier Valley’s 6-6 junior center, Paola has posted a double-double in nearly every game this season and leads the Rams with 25.1 points and 13.8 rebounds per game. He will be a tough matchup for anyone to defend in this playoff field.
Tyler Zimmerman, Richland, 6-2 junior guard: Richland has many options that can score the basketball, but what sets the team over the top is perhaps the play of Zimmerman. The athletic 6-2 wing can score from anywhere. He can handle the ball, rebound, and is a strong defender. Richland has a very talented team, but Zimmerman is what makes them the favorite in this bracket.
The Pick: Richland
The Favorite – Bishop Guilfoyle 18-5: The Marauders came up just short in last year’s District 6-AA title game falling to Bishop McCort at the buzzer. They appear to be the team beat this year. Bishop Guilfoyle possesses a potent offense centered around the 3-point shot, as they have multiple players that can knock down shots from the outside. Junior point guard Luke Ruggery fronts the Bishop Guilfoyle squad, and is supported by senior A.J. Labriola.
The Challenger – Bishop McCort 14-8: The Crimson Crushers will be going for back-to-back titles for the first time since 2011-12. Bishop McCort is a very different team from last season, but has proven it can beat anybody on a given night with some impressive wins this season. Jerry Murphy’s team has a strong inside-outside game with senior forward Matt Petrosky controlling the paint, and junior point guard Ben Seidel running the offense.
The Sleeper – Purchase Line 18-4: The Red Dragons enter the playoffs as the No. 2 seed, but it still may be a surprise to some if they win it all, but it shouldn’t be. Purchase Line has a veteran team led by 5-10 senior point guard, Melvin Sanchez, who is averaging 15 points, four rebounds, four assists, and three steals a game. Four starters return from last season’s team that earned a bid to the state playoffs giving them valuable experience for this postseason.
Players to Watch
Luke Ruggery, Bishop Guilfoyle, 5-10 junior guard: Ruggery committed to coach Rob Krimmel and St. Francis before his junior season even started. The Marauders’ guard is a very effective 3-point shooter, but can run the show as a traditional point guard as well. He really separates Bishop Guilfoyle from the rest of the pack, as he is arguably the top guard in all of District 6 in any class.
Matt Petrosky, Bishop McCort, 6-4 senior center: As the lone starter returning off of last year’s District 6-AA title team, Petrosky had added pressure and responsibilities this season. He has responded by averaging a career-high in scoring (14.8) and rebounding (7.5) this season. No player may be more vital to his team than Petrosky, as he is the only real post presence on the Crimson Crushers’ roster.
Shamar Campbell, Purchase Line, 6-2 senior forward: Most people know Campbell for his exploits on the football field as a star quarterback, but he’s a pretty impressive basketball player as well. Campbell is an athletic forward who can change the game on the defensive end, as he leads his team with 10.7 rebounds and 2.6 blocks per game. Campbell is also one of four Red Dragons that average double figures in scoring with 13.4 points a contest.
The Pick: Bishop Guilfoyle
The Favorite – Juniata Valley 16-5: The Green Hornets surprised many last season by not only making the state tournament, but upsetting Imani Christian to advance to the round of 16. This team did not sneak up on anybody this year, by earning the top seed in Class A. Juniata Valley is led by one of the most exciting players in all of District 6, with 5-8 junior guard Cameron Collins running the show.
The Challenger – Bishop Carroll 14-8: The Huskies will be going for their fifth District 6-A title under coach Cosie Aliquo. After only winning seven games last season, Bishop Carroll has doubled that total with a chance to add a few more this playoff season. Senior Ben Eckenrode has been around for a few playoff runs, and his outside shot will be key for another, as he is hitting 3-point shots at a 41-percent clip this season.
The Sleeper – St. Joseph’s Catholic Academy 16-6: The Wolves are quietly putting together a nice season, and finally could break through for the program’s first District 6-A title. St. Joseph’s Catholic Academy has played a challenging early season schedule and should be prepared for some postseason challenges.
Players to Watch
Cameron Collins, Juniata Valley, 5-8 junior guard: Collins has been a scoring machine this year, topping 30 points in nine different games to help fuel his 25.6 points per game average. Collins is already a member of the 1,000 point club, as he achieved that milestone earlier this season.
Jude Gdula, Blacklick Valley, 5-10 junior guard: Blacklick Valley is enjoying one of its finest season in recent memory entering the playoffs with an 19-4 record, and champions of the WestPAC. A big reason why has been the play of Gdula. He tops the Vikings in scoring and assists with 16.1 points per game and 6.1 assists per game.
The Vikings should be a threat to contend for the championship as well.
Rashadd Knorr, Williamsburg, 5-11 senior guard: Williamsburg may be the No. 6 seed, but can be dangerous when Knorr is on his game. The senior guard leads the Blue Pirates with 19 points, six rebounds, and five assists per game. Watch for Williamsburg as a team that can pull an upset if Knorr plays well.
The Pick: Bishop Carroll
Jim Hammett is a news assistant at The Tribune-Democrat. Follow him on Twitter @jimhammett.