Boys Basketball Notebook: In search of true champion, Central League expands playoffs

Garnet Valley’s Neel Beniwal, center, shoots over Penncrest’s Aidan Carroll in a three-overtime game two weeks ago. The teams hail from different divisions in the Central League and could meet in next week’s Central League final. (Pete Bannan/MediaNews Group)

By Matthew DeGeorge

The Central League’s unbalanced schedule has long been an impediment to crowning a true champion. It’s a delicate balance with 12 teams in the league. Playing each opponent twice in a true home-and-home is impossible under the PIAA’s 22-game limit. Playing each team once doesn’t solve the home-court imbalance, and leaving 11 nonleague games is too burdensome of a schedule.

So the Goldilocks solution being tried this year is an expanded league playoff system that admits six teams into a knockout tournament.

The Central League used to qualify only the top four teams in the regular-season standings, or the top three if one team finished unbeaten, which is fairly commonplace and could happen again this year with Springfield’s girls at 15-0 entering the last day of league play Thursday.

The new playoffs take place over three days at neutral sites. The third seed plays the sixth, and four will play five Saturday, with the re-seeded winners taking on the top two seeds Monday night. The winners advance to Tuesday’s final.

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