By CoBL Staff
The 5A bracket is the PIAA’s version of the Wild West West: unexplored territory, up for grabs.
If there’s one Goliath in this classification, at least in District 1, it’s Chester. The eight-time state champions have by far the best resume of any program in the 5A classification, which is otherwise chock-full of teams who’ve been traditionally strong on the hardwood but had issues breaking through on the district/state level against previous AAAA powerhouses like Chester, Lower Merion, Plymouth-Whitemarsh and others.
So Larry Yarbray’s group opens as the favorite to emerge victorious at Villanova in two weeks, but there are plenty of capable contenders.
With seven teams from the district qualifying, a win in this round doesn’t guarantee a state berth — but only one of those eight winners will ultimately miss out. Here’s a look at the eight first-round matchups (all games 7 PM on Weds., Feb. 22 unless otherwise noted):
1) Chester vs. 16) Upper Moreland
The first team that will step up to take down the Clippers comes out of the Suburban One League, as Upper Moreland is one of a few AAA teams from a year ago who have bumped up to the 5A classification. The Bears closed the year out strong, winning five of their last eight, playing 6A No. 2 seed Plymouth-Whitemarsh within seven points as well. Matt Heiland doesn’t quite have the size to work with that Yarbray does, but he’s got an upperclassman-led group that’s got some reliable pieces. A pair of seniors, 6-3 Shane Stone (12 ppg, 9 rpg) and 6-5 Damian Washington (10.8 ppg, 42 3-pointers) lead the way in the scoring column; they also get contributions from 5-10 junior point guard Ryan Coyle, 6-2 senior guard Casey Decker, junior guard Brett Brossman and more.