Final Four boys basketball preview capsules: Intriguing matchups in semifinal round

PAC-10 Final Four Boys Basketball Championships

Semifinal Round

Friday, Feb. 11

At Perkiomen Valley High School

Game 1, 6 p.m.

Pottstown  (Frontier Division #2) vs. Spring-Ford (Liberty Division #1)

Records:  Pottstown (9-4 league, 14-9), Spring-Ford (11-2 league, 15-7)

Trends: Pottstown had won 5 straight prior to Tuesday night’s 70-54 to New Hope Academy of York; Spring-Ford was on a 6-game win streak before Monday night’s 55-46 setback to Pope John Paul II

Previous meeting: Spring-Ford rolled to a 73-46 win at home on Jan. 18

For more photos, visit our photo gallery on pac-10sports.com

Projected starting lineups

Pottstown -Dawon Matthews (6-foot-3 senior forward, 19 ppg), Jeff Endy (5-10 senior guard), Miles Elliott (5-9 sophomore guard), Elijah Jackson (6-3 junior guard, 18 ppg), Antonio Moore (6-6 sophomore center)

Spring-Ford – Ryan O’Hara (5-9 junior guard), Josh Dishman (6-1 junior guard, 9 ppg), Steve Joyce (6-1 senior forward, 13 ppg), Darryl Branch (6-3 junior forward), Zameer McDowell (6-5 sophomore center, 11 ppg)

Coachspeak

Jai-T Randall (Pottstown): “We don’t even talk about (the 27-point loss to Spring-Ford). They know that was a poor representation of us as a team. We’d like to prove to the league that we belong here. The kids want to prove to their uncles and cousins that they have what it takes to win championships, like they did at Pottstown.

“For us, it’s a matter of execution, a matter of discipline. If we play like we’re capable, we can beat anybody. The kids know that. This is going to be a different atmosphere, and we’ll have to control our emotions. Spring-Ford has experience, they’ve been to the Final Four many times before, so they won’t be affected by the crowd or the hype.”

Mike Young (Spring-Ford): “Any time you’re playing against the league’s top two scorers (Matthews, Jackson), that’s a dangerous team. But this could be the best defensive team we’ve had at Spring-Ford in a few years. We stress defense in practice, work on it constantly with a lot of different drills. The kids have bought into it. We do a good job with communication and have that certain level of toughness it takes to play good defense.

“We’ve been to the Final Four three of the last four years, but only Joyce and Zameer played a lot last year. Josh and Darryl got some minutes off the bench, so that’s a positive. Fortunately for us, everyone’s healthy.”

Game 2, 7:30 p.m. (Or 20 minutes after completion of first game)

Methacton  (Liberty Division #2) vs. Pope John Paul II (Frontier Division #1)

Records:  Methacton (10-3 league, 14-8); Pope John Paul II (10-3, 14-6)

Trends: Methacton has won 10 of its last 12, with the only losses coming to Spring-Ford and Norristown in overtime; PJP has won 7 of its last 8, the only hiccup a 2-point loss to Pottstown during that impressive run

Previous meeting: Methacton used a strong fourth quarter to prevail, 50-38, on Jan. 19

Projected starting lineups

Methacton – Scott Markle (6-3 senior forward, 10 ppg), Pat Dinan (5-10 junior guard), Evan Galloway (5-10 senior guard, 11 ppg), Mike Handley (5-9 senior guard, 9 ppg), Brendan Casper (6-2 sophomore center, 12 ppg over last 10 games)

Pope John Paul II – Dave Cotellese (5-10 junior guard, 8 ppg), Jeff Evans (6-0 senior guard, 12 ppg), Jake Gribb (6-3 junior forward), Billy Malescio (5-11 senior guard, 5 apg), Paul Mills (6-1 senior forward, 13 ppg, 8 rpg)

Coachspeak

Jeff Derstine (Methacton): “I’m thrilled with how our guys have played, they’ve really done a nice job, especially defensively. We’re very similar to Pope John Paul II size-wise and personnel-wise. They’re a balanced team, with a lot of guys that can hurt you. The way they can shoot, you have to defend the perimeter and that opens up some lanes for them to drive.

“We’ve had a lot of different guys stepping up. They might not always score, but the little things they do, boxing out, setting screens, playing defense, add up. Depth has been a big part of what we do. We’re going to miss Brian Miller (out for season with torn ACL), so instead of a 10-man rotation, we’ll be going with nine guys. It’s a good matchup, two teams playing good basketball at the right time.”

Jack Flanagan (Pope John Paul II): “We were playing well after the New Year, then we got into a situation where we missed a lot of days because of the weather and had a bad stretch. We got outplayed the last time against Methacton, they outhustled us, beat us to a lot of loose balls. Methacton is a real good team. They play a brand of basketball that a guy like me appreciates.

“Paul (Mills) and Jeff (Evans) are doing just fine (after sustaining minor injuries in last Friday’s loss to Pottstown). I don’t think I’ve ever been happier to watch the snow melt, we’ve had two real good days of practice. We’re ready – but we need to do the things we do best. We need to make the hustle plays, get after them on defense, play at both ends of the floor."