After three months of hard-fought action, and a memorable quarterfinal featuring great games and upsets, the Del Val GOYA Basketball Final Four will kick off this Sunday in Egg Harbor as four teams vie for a spot in next week’s championships.
What a year this has been for GOYA Basketball in the Delaware Valley. Fans from all over have been treated to overtime thrillers, double-header dilemmas, and a league filled with a parody on both the boy’s and girl’s divisions. Now, after the dust has settled on what was a great day of quarterfinal action last week in Upper Darby, which saw two upsets in the boy’s bracket already, Cosmos Philly looks ahead at a preview of this weekend’s four matchups down the Shore, which will ultimately decide the championship participants next weekend in Wilmington.
#1 Holy Trinity (EH) Girls vs. #4 St. Luke (BRM) Girls
After a long rest, the girls from the Shore will get a chance to continue their unbeaten run at home this weekend. Led by Marianna Papazoglou, the girls from Egg Harbor, as they have looked for the past few years, appear to be unbeatable as they enter the postseason. The only thing standing in their way of a repeat trip to the finals are the highly talented girls from Broomall, led by Zoe Nikolos, who played a complete and well-balanced game against St. Demetrios last weekend on their way to a convincing quarterfinal victory in the 4/5 matchup. We do not have a basis to compare regular season performances this year, as St. Luke’s girls forfeit their matchup against Holy Trinity back in November. From what we saw last week, the girls from Broomall have the speed and skill to match up with the unbeaten girls in blue. The question will be how to stop the twin towers of Papazoglou and Samantha Rhodes in the paint? If the St. Luke’s girls can at least slow them down inside, this will be a game for sure. From this season’s history that is easier said than done. I think the girls from the Shore will be a motivated bunch in front of their home crowd, and will ultimately emerge victorious and punch their ticket to the finals next week. Prediction – Holy Trinity 31, St. Luke 23
#1 St. Demetrios (UD) vs. #6 St. Thomas (CH) Boys
Each year, the boy’s division seems to get wilder and wilder, with this year being no exception. The regular season left a four-way tie for the third through sixth spots in the playoffs, all with identical 4-4 records. Even wilder is that, in the early boy’s game last weekend, St. Thomas of Cherry Hill became just the second #6 seed in league history to knock off the #3 seed in the quarterfinals, emerging victorious in a wild back and forth game over St. George Media, whom they lost to earlier in the year. Now standing in their way of history are the closest thing to an unbeatable team the boy’s division has seen this year, in the boy’s from St. Demetrios, who took home the top seed in the playoffs following a 7-1 season. The boys in blue had to be huge St. Thomas fans last week, as their victory ensured that they would not cross paths with the only team to beat them during the season in Evangelismos, but after the performance put forth by Cherry Hill, they might also be thinking they should be careful what they wished for. Kosta Dambalas has emerged as the premiere big man in the league this season, and alongside him are a talented and experienced group looking primed to pull off another upset. Let’s not lose sight of their opponents though, who looked unstoppable in their December dominance leading into the playoffs, knocking off St. Luke with ease in their final weekend. With Laz Louca at the helm, and the ever-dangerous Chris Dawson wreaking havoc on both sides of the ball, this is probably the most complete team in the league. Back in November, St. D’s pulled out a 7 point victory on the road in Cherry Hill. With both teams trending upward since that time, I expect this matchup to be even closer on Sunday. In the end, the experience level and speed of St. D’s may prove too much to handle for the upset-minded St. Thomas this Sunday in Egg Harbor. Prediction – St. Demetrios 47, St. Thomas 41
#2 St. Thomas (CH) vs. #3 St. George (MED) Girls
If you look back at the past few years, on both the boy’s and girl’s side of things, the playoff matchups between St. Thomas and St. George, without fail, have been historically great contests. From double-overtime thrillers to epic championship battles, these teams always seem to bring their A-games when they take on each other in the playoffs. This Sunday should be no exception. The girls from St. Thomas, led by Maria Kokolis, have played consistent team-oriented basketball on their way to a first round bye this season, and have definitely shed any thoughts of being a “one-woman team”. St. George Media has also looked strong as usual this season and proved last week why they are a team to beat in the girl’s bracket, having knocked off the defending champs from Evangelismos in the quarterfinals. Reigning MVP Christina Bourantas will look to get her team back into the finals with yet another great January run. In looking at both teams, there is not much separating them in terms of talent or depth. They also posted identical regular season 5-3 records, with St. Thomas earning the tiebreaker as a result of their 20-18 victory way back in October. If we could predict a tie here, we would, but given the history between these two teams, overtime would not be a longshot this Sunday. When the clock strikes zero, we like our preseason and November favorite to pull out the victory and grab a spot in the finals next week. Prediction – St. George 24, St. Thomas – 23
#2 Holy Trinity (EH) vs. #5 Evangelismos (PHI) Boys
It seems like every year we are talking about the “Koumbari Bowl” in January, so much so, that we looked it up. Sunday will mark the 6th time, in the last 8 seasons, that these two teams meet in the semi-finals. In what has become one of the great rivalries in our league, these two teams will clash once again in Egg Harbor this Sunday. For the boys from Holy Trinity, earning a spot in the finals will be all dependent on their ability to continue the team-oriented and balanced play style that led them to five straight wins to close out the regular season. Led by Saki Mertis, who has emerged as a force on the interior, the boys in blue will look to make a finals appearance for the fourth time in the past five years, in the hopes of ending a 35-year championship drought. In their way, as usual, are the defending champs from Evangelismos, who turned in the most impressive performance of the day last weekend, handling their championship rematch with St. Luke with ease. Joel Mattos has looked unstoppable of late, with last weekend proving to be no exception. This will be the only “divisional rematch” of the year, and during the regular season Holy Trinity took home victories in both contests, but we know none of that matters come playoff time, as these are two evenly matched teams. The last two times these teams met in the playoffs, the game ended with Holy Trinity winning by two points. We see no reason for history not to repeat itself on Sunday, as these two teams will cap off the night with yet another memorable chapter in their great rivalry. Prediction – Holy Trinity – 39, Evangelismos – 37
Be sure to tune into Cosmos Philly for all the weekend’s action, as we provide coverage from Holy Trinity this Sunday, and best of luck to all the teams this weekend.