NEPA Sports Nation

Boys basketball playoff analysis: District 2 Class 2A

By Tom Robinson,

FORMAT: The six-team, three-round tournament uses home courts of higher seeds in the quarterfinals and semifinals before moving to Mohegan Sun Arena at Casey Plaza for the final. The top two teams receive quarterfinal byes. Only the champion proceeds to the Pennsylvania Interscholastic Athletic Association state tournament.

SCHEDULE CHANGE: The first round was moved back from Wednesday to Thursday because of weather.

2022 RECAP: Holy Cross defeated Old Forge, 39-27, in the final. Old Forge reached the final as the third seed, defeating second-seeded Elk Lake, 60-51, in the semifinals.

HIGHEST SEEDS: 1. Holy Cross; 2. Blue Ridge; 3, Elk Lake.

REGULAR-SEASON CHAMPIONS: Holy Cross and Blue Ridge are the Lackawanna League Division 3 and 4 champions.

RANKED TEAMS: Holy Cross is second and Blue Ridge fifth among Small School boys teams in the Riverfront Sports Super Six Power Rankings of District 2 teams.

WINNING RECORDS: Holy Cross 17-5, Blue Ridge 19-3.

BEST OPENER: Montrose at Mountain View in Thursday quarterfinal, postponed from Wednesday. The teams, both 7-15 overall, split their Lackawanna League Division 4 meetings. Montrose won at home, 61-53, Jan. 13 and was the stronger team through the first half of the season. Mountain View won the Feb. 7 rematch, 48-46. Montrose’s victory was part of a four-game winning streak for the Meteors. Two games later, they started a stretch where they lost eight of their last nine. The first meeting was also the last game of a nine-game losing streak by Mountain View, which is 5-6 since. With a semifinal trip to Holy Cross the reward for the winner, this game is more about bragging rights between the bordering schools than it is about title pursuits.

KEY GAME: Until recently, this bracket seemed to be entirely about the final with Blue Ridge trying to make up for an embarrassing non-league loss at Holy Cross. But Elk Lake has made itself into a factor with a four-game winning streak to end the regular season. It was Elk Lake’s victory over then co-leader Forest City on the final night of the Division 4 schedule that helped Blue Ridge secure its first division title in school history. And, in the game before the winning streak started, Elk Lake pushed Blue Ridge in a 57-52 loss, improving upon 22- and 10-point losses to the Raiders earlier in the season. There is no sign that winless Lackawanna Trail can be a threat to Elk Lake, so Saturday’s Elk Lake-at-Blue Ridge semifinal, with a trip to the arena at stake, shapes up as the best game of the bracket.

PLAYERS TO WATCH: Hayden Hosie, Gabe Gonzales and Logan Tierney from Holy Cross; Connor Cranage and J.J. Rosa from Blue Ridge; Wyatt Casselbury and Logan Ayotte from Elk Lake; Tanner Stout from Mountain View; Jack Russell and Sammy Stashko from Montrose; Jake Antolick from Lackawanna Trail.

NOTEWORTHY: Holy Cross has advanced to the state tournament in 14 of the 15 previous seasons of the school’s existence. The only exception was when the Crusaders could not compete because of COVID in 2021. Holy Cross has won its last 15 District 2 playoff games by an average of 24.8 points, producing 5 titles in the process. … Holy Cross reached the state Class 2A quarterfinals where it lost to Constitution, 50-48, last season. … The drop from two state qualifiers to one for this two-year cycle makes this a difficult time for Blue Ridge to have its best team ever. Following up the first district, league or division title in the school’s 70-year history, Blue Ridge is seeking its first state tournament trip. The only times any of the schools that merged to form Blue Ridge made it was in 1935 and 1937 when Hallstead dropped 32- and 30-point decisions in the first round. … Blue Ridge junior Connor Cranage, the 2021-22 Lackawanna Division 4 Player of the Year, surpassed 1,000 points earlier this season. Teammate Carson Gallagher set two school records for 3-pointers late in the regular season – 8 in one game and 67 in a season.

QUOTABLE: Holy Cross coach Al Callejas on the message to his team as a heavy favorite: “You just remind them that good teams get better as the season goes on. That’s what I’ve always emphasized and this year is no different.”

Blue Ridge coach Wes Parks during preseason: “The boys are locked in on a big year in New Milford.”

Follow us on social media