Scouting the State Semifinals; KDJ’s picks

Three boys teams and two girls squads are headed upstate this weekend for the NYSPHSAA Basketball Final Four. Here is my breakdown on each semifinal and my predictions for the weekend:

NYSPHSAA BASKETBALL FINAL FOUR
BOYS – BINGHAMTON, N.Y.

Class AA Semifinal
Mount Vernon (23-2) vs. Liverpool (24-0)
When: Saturday, 2:30 p.m.
How did Mount Vernon get here: The Knights knocked off Horace Greeley in the Section 1 semifinals (article/video) and defeated Ramapo in the final (article/video). They then defeated Pine Bush in the Regional Championship on Friday at Pace University (article/video)
Who is Liverpool: The No. 2 ranked team in the state, behind on Long Island Lutheran, the Warriors are in the state final four for the second year in a row. Liverpool returned two dynamic all-state guards from a year ago in Charles Pride (14.3 ppg) and Naz Johnson (17.1 ppg) plus another playmaker in 6-4 wing Alan Willmes (14.4 ppg). The Warriors don’t have quite the level of depth as Mount Vernon but will want to push the tempo and get out in the open floor.
KDJ’s Pick: Mount Vernon 71, Liverpool 64. The Warriors will go step for step with Mount Vernon and may even be leading this contest at the half. But the game is 32 minutes for a reason. As great as Jason Douglas-Stanley and Demetre Roberts have played this season, this is a game where Charles Lovett and Brandon Scott come off the bench and make the difference down the stretch.

What’s next: The winner will take on either Half Hollow Hills East (Long Island) or McQuaid Jesuit out of Rochester in the Class AA final on Sunday at 2 p.m. Odds are, it will be Hills East, which features one of the state’s premier backcourts in Savion Lewis (Qunnipiac commit) and Julian Crittendon. Hills East may be the tournament favorite.

Class A Semifinal
Ardsley (20-7) vs. Mohonasen (15-9)
When: Saturday, 10:45 a.m.
How did Ardsley get here: Well, you recall the shot Julian McGarvey hit at Pace University? Watch it again here as the Panthers beat Tappan Zee on an epic finish in the Section 1 title game. They follow that up with double-digit wins over Maine Endwell and New Paltz in the regional tournament.
Who is Mohonasen: Like Ardsley, Mohonasen isn’t a school you hear from very often in the state tournament in basketball. The Section 2 champion Warriors were not expected to win their section but advanced and upset Utica Notre Dame in the regional final in overtime. Duncan Tallman is Mohon’s top scoring threat, coming off a 25-point effort where he knocked down five 3-pointers. Jelani Abdul-Aziz and Greg Van Epps balance out the scoring for a team that commits to defense, doesn’t have overwhelming size and, like Ardsley, plays disciplined, sound basketball.
KDJ’s Pick: Ardsley 54, Mohonasen 52. I picked Mohonasen on my radio show last night but thought better of it after a night of sleep. Ardsley has serious mojo at this point and the week of preparation will allow them to settle and refocus. As long as Zeke Blauner is able to create off the dribble and open up shots for the guys around him, Ardsley is a threat to win every time they step on the floor.

What’s next: The winner will play either Amityville of Long Island or defending state champion Irondequoit. Whoever wins between Ardsley and Mohonasen will be a significant underdog in the championship on Sunday at noon.

Class B Semifinal
Briarcliff (22-4) vs. Mekeel Christian Academy (22-3)
When: Friday, 6:45 p.m.
How did Briarcliff get here: The Bears beat Irvington in the Section 1 semifinals (article/video) before defeating Blind Brook in the championship. Briarcliff then defeated Marlboro in the regional semis and knocked off Center Moriches of Long Island in the regional title game (article/video)
Who is Mekeel Christian: The state’s No. 1 ranked team in Class B is loaded with talent. MCA enters the weekend as the tournament favorites after returning two all-state players in guard Deonte Holder and 6-6 forward Carter Stewart. Both will pose matchup problems for the Bears, Holder with his quickness and Stewart with his ability to move around the paint and finish over defenders. Mekeel also has an improving 6-foot-7 big man in Gideon Agbo, who moved from Nigeria, as well as guard Jordan Jackson. If there’s one area of concern for Mekeel it’s that they don’t go far into their bench.
KDJ’s Pick: Briarcliff 52, Mekeel Christian 50. Defense is boring. But it’s what makes Briarcliff such a threat in this matchup. The Bears probably need as close to perfect an effort in this game to advance. Starting strong, like they did against Center Moriches, will be vital. Briarcliff bigs Spencer McCann and Jackson Gonseth have to keep Agbo and Stewart off the glass and Miles Jones and Jack Ryan cannot allow Holder to penetrate where he’s at his best. If Briarcliff can replicate what they did on Saturday, the Bears will move on to the state final.

What’s next: The winner will play either Seton Catholic of Section 4 (Binghamton area) or Health Sciences Charter from Section 6 (Buffalo).

Check back soon for predictions and breakdown on the girls games

Follow the NYSPHSAA tournament on KDJBlog.com and on Twitter: @KDJMedia1. Email KDJ at kdjmedia1@gmail.com

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