By Joseph Santoliquito
Philadelphia, PA (CBS) — In the past, it was easy. All anyone needed to do was look at the tiny city in the nook between Philadelphia and the Delaware state border to determine which team would be PIAA Class AAAA state hoops champions.
Chester has been the Rolls Royce of high school state basketball, winning more state basketball titles than any large school in Pennsylvania. The Clippers have won eight state championships: 1983, 1989, 1994, 2000, 2005, 2008, 2011 and 2012 (Lower Merion is second with seven state titles).
But this year was going to be challenging. The Clippers had to replace star Rondae Hollis-Jefferson and there are 10 new players that had to meld together.
Chester took one major step in winning its fourth-straight District 1 Class AAAA championship. Now the Clippers (22-5 overall) will embark this week on another journey, going for their third state championship in the last four years.
This year, however, the path will be filled with major obstacles. Roman Catholic (22-4), the District 12 champ, for one. If the seedings hold true, Chester could meet the Cahillites in the state semifinals.
There are 10 District 1 teams in the 32-team field—more from District 1 than any other area of the state. There are 13 teams total from the Philadelphia area, including Roman, La Salle (19-6) and District 12 runner-up Martin Luther King (23-5), which would meet Chester in the state finals. King, however, may face a second-round showdown with Pennsbury (22-5), the District 1 runner-up.
New Castle Area, the WPIAL champs, bears watching. The Red Hurricanes are 26-0, the only undefeated team in the Class AAAA tournament. They’re led by twins Stew and Drew Allen, and 6-foot-1 senior guard Malik Hooker, an Ohio State football commit. Stew is committed to Duquesne and Drew to Robert Morris in Moon Township.
New Castle may not face any Philly-area teams until the quarterfinal round, where Pennsbury, King or Abington (22-5) could potentially be there.
One thing is for certain: This won’t be easy. There are no clear-cut favorites. Chester may have the toughest course—potentially having to go through District 11 champion Parkland (21-5) in the quarterfinals before the Clippers reach the semis and possibly Roman waiting there.
The Class AAAA state playoffs begin this Saturday. Chester opens with Carlisle (18-8), the District 3 No. 7 team, at 4:30 p.m. at Coatesville.
Joseph Santoliquito is a contributing sports blogger for CBS Philly.