Dallas seniors hoping to extend careers with win over Allentown Central Catholic

By John Erzar - jerzar@timesleader.com
Dallas’ Jay Bittner is one of five seniors in the Mountaineers’ starting lineup. - Tony Callaio file photo | For Times Leader

Only six of the 96 boys basketball teams left in the PIAA state playoffs will finish the season with victories. That means plenty of heartbreak and for many, the end of their playing days.

Sure, a fortunate few will go on to play in college. But for most, when the season ends so does the cheering.

District 2 Class 5A runner-up Dallas (21-5) isn’t looking at the negative as it plays District 11 champion Allentown Central Catholic (24-4) at 8 p.m. Tuesday at Hazleton Area High School.

“We don’t like to think about that,” senior guard Jay Bittner said after Friday’s 70-54 win over D3 fourth seed Lower Dauphin. “Every team we play, we’re there to win. We never think abou, ‘This could be our last game.’ (Thursday) could have been our last practice, but nobody talks about that. We’re here to compete every day, and when we go down we go down.

“Right now, we’re going to enjoy it while we’re here.”

Dallas is the only WVC team among the four still playing with an all-senior lineup. Besides Bittner, Alex Charlton, Nick Kocher, Matt Mathers and Joey Parsons will be finishing up their Dallas careers in states. So will a pair of seniors who have contributed off the bench — Ben O’Connell and Brody Strickland. The other three WVC teams have a combined six senior contributors — three starters and three bench players.

The focus, though, is Allentown Central Catholic, which disposed of D3 seventh seed Greencastle-Antrim 69-52 in the first round. The Vikings were in a tussle in the first half before pulling away, very much like Dallas did against Lower Dauphin.

Allentown Central Catholic had four players in double figures, headed by 6-foot-4 sophomore Nick Filchner with 19. Two seniors — 6-0 Jay Vaughn and 5-10 Dat Lambert — are the team’s top scoring threats. Keeshawn Kellman, a 6-8 senior, brings size but is more of a rebounder and rim protector than scorer.

The winner plays Friday against the winner of the game between D3 runner-up William Penn (17-10) and D12 champion Bonner-Prendergast (23-4).

Here’s a look at the other state games involving WVC teams.

Hazleton Area (24-1) vs. Pocono Mtn. West (17-10)

PIAA Class 6A Second Round

7:30 p.m. Wednesday, Wilkes University

District 2 champion Hazleton Area is trying to get to the quarterfinals for the first time since 1995. In the Cougars’ way is D11 third seed Pocono Mountain West, which is similar to their first round opponent.

Like Norristown, PM West has some nice although not overwhelming, size and a couple active backcourt players. Hazleton Area had some minor but sporadic problems in Norristown’s size in its 62-45 win. Eventually, Hazleton Area’s bigs — 6-foot-8 West Chester University recruit Josh Samec and the 6-5 trio of Da’Mir Faison, Joe Grula and Jeff Planutis — won the battle in the second half.

PM West’s top players are 6-6 senior Travis Elmore and 6-5 senior Lee Mosley. Elmore had 21 points and 11 rebounds in a 53-52 overtime win against Chambersburg, where PM West rallied from 10 points down in the third quarter. After those two, the Panthers are rather undersized, especially when matched up with Hazleton Area.

The winner plays Saturday against the winner of the game between D1 champion Abington (23-5) and D12 third seed St. Joseph’s Prep (19-8).

Wyoming Seminary (22-4) vs. Neumann-Goretti (19-6)

PIAA Class 3A Second Round

7:30 p.m. Wednesday, Bethlehem Freedom HS

Knocking off the District 12 fourth seed — like Wyoming Seminary did in the first round against Mastery Charter South — is one thing. Beating the District 12 champ, Sem’s task in the second round, is something completely different. Neumann-Goretti has been a king in the state since joining the PIAA nine years ago.

The Saints have won seven state championships in that nine-year span. They demolished District 2 champion Holy Redeemer 72-27 last year. Good news is two of their top players have graduated. One is playing for Kentucky and the other for Villanova.

Neumann-Goretti has an imposing player — 6-foot-9 senior Marcus Littles. He’s not just tall but big … like really big. But not fat. The George Washington University recruit averages about 10 per game. The offense goes mainly through senior guards Dymir Montague and Noah Warren, who each average about 14 points and are capable from outside the arc.

District 2 champ Seminary disposed of MCS 62-47 in its opener to move to the second round for the third time in school history and the first time since 1992. Guard Jeremy Callahan had 21 in the win, including four 3-pointers. His shooting will be key since inside players Dimitri Gnall and Nick Ganter likely will have issues with Littles.

The winner plays Saturday against the winner of the game between D12 third seed Bishop McDevitt (15-10) and D11 champion Notre Dame Green Pond (19-8).

Northwest (11-15) vs. Moravian Academy (20-6)

PIAA Class 2A Second Round

6 p.m. Wednesday, Martz Hall, Pottsville

Thanks to incredible shooting performances from Jaxson Yaple and Sam Saxe, District 2 runner-up Northwest defeated D4 champion Muncy 69-57 in the first round. The duo combined for 57 points and nine 3-pointers. The defense shut down Muncy’s multi-prong attack, but D11 champion Moravian Academy presents a different challenge.

Moravian, which made its first state appearance via the district title, is led by junior Jordan Holmqvist. Holmqvist has already topped 1,000 points for his career, averages close to 20 per game and can nail 3-point shots. He had 24 points in the Lions’ 55-47 victory over D12 third seed Paul Robeson. Peter Chiaradia is a 6-foot-3 junior who can score and rebound. He had a double-double against Robeson. Sophomore guard Abe Atiyeh is the team’s other main scoring threat.

The winner plays Saturday against the winner of the game between D12 runner-up Constitution (17-11) and D6 champion Bishop Guilfoyle (22-5).

Dallas’ Jay Bittner is one of five seniors in the Mountaineers’ starting lineup.
https://www.mydallaspost.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/03/web1_Dallas-Lake-Lehman-BBB-3_CMYK.jpgDallas’ Jay Bittner is one of five seniors in the Mountaineers’ starting lineup. Tony Callaio file photo | For Times Leader
Mountaineers play Allentown Central Catholic in second round

By John Erzar


Reach John Erzar at 570-991-6394 or on Twitter @TLJohnErzar

Reach John Erzar at 570-991-6394 or on Twitter @TLJohnErzar