It’s playoff time in the Delaware Valley and all around the area people are buzzing. Excitement is at a peak as people prepare for an exciting sports weekend. What’s that? The Eagles are playing too? Wow even better!

I, of course, was talking about this weekend’s first ever playoff double-header weekend in league history, where all twelve teams throughout the DVYC will begin the weekend with championship hopes, but by the time everyone settles in for kickoff at the Linc Sunday night, only four teams will be left standing for championship Saturday next weekend.

So who will survive the weekend? Cosmos Philly is here to help you dissect the January Madness weekend of mouth-watering matchups in the DVGOBL.

Girls Preview

This year’s girls playoff bracket has a few new looks and surprises. Let’s take a look at five key questions to be asked and answered this weekend.

1. Who is an under-the-radar player to watch this weekend?

Alexia Louca, St. Demetrios. Before the season started, I didn’t necessarily have St. D’s on my radar, and yet, their improved team play has them locked into a first-round bye and the #2 overall seed in the girl’s bracket.

Anchoring that resurgence has been the great overall play of Alexia Louca. Like her brother, she has been a force and a leader at both ends of the court and has her team thinking about an improbable run to their first league championship appearance in a decade. Her play has also put her into MVP consideration this year as she has led a young group of up-and-comers. This weekend, as Alexia goes, so goes St. D’s.

2. What is the must-see quarterfinal matchup?

St. Thomas, Cherry Hill vs. St. George, Media. A matchup normally reserved for later in the playoff season, these two teams are girls’ basketball royalty. This year, they will be a treat to watch on opening day in Wilmington. In the past, these games have never disappointed, including several one or two point contests, and a triple-overtime thriller a few years back.

Aside from their history, the game will also feature two of the league’s top players in Maria Kokolis and Christina Bourantas, who will both be looking to get their team to the semi-finals. This one should be earmarked as the game of the day on Saturday afternoon.

3. I don’t have a rooting interest, so I should be rooting for?

Holy Trinity, Wilmington. For the girls from Delaware, their return to the league has seen ups and downs as a young group took their lumps for the first two years. Now, for the first time since their return, they have punched their ticket to the dance, earning the #5 seed in the girl’s bracket.

A lot of credit has to be given to the Holy Trinity girl’s staff, led by Eleni Karakisidis, on a job well done for getting this young group of girls playoff ready. Now they will have a home quarterfinal matchup against their rivals across the border in St. Luke’s. It should be a great matchup and an even better story for these girls making their first-time playoff appearance.

4. Who is most likely to crash the party?

St. Thomas, Cherry Hill. Historically, the seeding in the girls’ bracket matters a lot less than on the boys’ side of things, where the top two seeds almost always advance to the finals. That being said, this prediction is not exactly a “bold” one, more than it is a confirmation of my prediction from the preseason.

If St. Thomas can survive a tough opening round matchup against St. George, they will face a tough opponent in St. Demetrios from Upper Darby, where I can’t see much if anything separating the two teams in terms of talent and ability. To break the tie I have to go with the more experienced team, and that is certainly St. Thomas.

Much like the Eagles this Sunday I would actually think the average person would lean towards the girls from Cherry Hill to knock off the higher seed and advance, so, if you’re a fan of the St. D’s girl’s team, you can bring out those underdog masks a few hours early come Sunday afternoon.

5. When the dust settles, the championship matchup will be…?

#1 Holy Trinity, Egg Harbor vs. #3 St. Thomas, Cherry Hill. I already covered the potential 2 versus 3 matchups above, so the other half of the bracket runs through Egg Harbor.

That being said, I looked at the regular season results between Holy Trinity and the three teams they could potentially face this Sunday. What did I find? Three wins by an average of 18 points.

If Holy Trinity can avoid a monumental letdown on Sunday, their spot in the finals is all but a sure thing. Their challenge will really come next weekend when they would likely face one of the two teams I mentioned above, who gave them their toughest challenges to date, including a come-from-behind last-minute victory against St. Thomas back in November.

It was my championship prediction back in October, so I am sticking it out to the end and saying it will be an all-Jersey final when the smoke clears this weekend.

Boys Preview

The boys’ bracket went more as expected at the top this year, with the top two teams running away with the opening round byes leaving the bottom four with only one game separating them. Let’s see what we should be on the lookout for this weekend.

1. Who is an under-the-radar player to watch this weekend?

George Arsenis – Holy Trinity Egg Harbor. The boy’s bracket this year is loaded with top-level guard talent across the board, but the one player many might be overlooking this weekend comes from down the shore in Egg Harbor.

Holy Trinity’s 2-5 record can be broken down into two parts, the four games with their top guard on the court, where they finished 2-2 and gave undefeated St. Luke’s a game on their home floor or the three games without him where they went 0-3 losing by an average of 13 per game.

I do not see a team in the boy’s bracket more dependent on one player than George Arsenis, who will look to lead a very young group from Egg Harbor deep into the playoffs this weekend. He may be less under-the-radar than my girl’s selection, but if Holy Trinity is to survive the weekend, George will have to step out of the Vlassopoulous/Mattos shadows and play at an MVP-like level for his team.

2. What is the must-see quarterfinal matchup?

St. Demetrios Upper Darby vs. St. George Media. This one is simple: at full strength, these are the two best teams playing in the quarterfinals this Saturday. The key to that statement is, will both be at full strength this weekend?

For the sixth-seeded St. George, this regular season has been one to forget, having forfeit half of their games due to availability issues. When they have played, they have played well, however, splitting their regular season series with their opponents this Saturday in St. D’s.

Vylandi Apostolopoulos is, in my opinion, the best player playing on Saturday afternoon, as he has anchored his team through thick and thin this season. When teamed up with AJ Aivazoglou, they form one of the most dangerous tandems in the league.

Their opponent? The defending champs from St. Demetrios, arguably one of the best coached and best-prepared teams this year, they weathered the loss of, basically their entire team last year to graduation, and positioned themselves as the top quarterfinal seed on Saturday. While most had visions of sugarplums dancing in their heads preparing for Christmas, St. D’s had the top-seeded St. Luke’s on the ropes in the last week of the season before ultimately falling in the end. This one promises to be a treat on Saturday afternoon in Wilmington.

3. I don’t have a rooting interest, so I should be rooting for…?

Holy Trinity, Egg Harbor. Everyone, come on… we are in Eagles country. As much as everyone loves an underdog, we all can appreciate the heartache that comes with coming so close but falling short time and time again.

In four of the past five seasons, Holy Trinity has reached the final game. In four of the past five seasons, Holy Trinity has fallen in that final game. Three of those games were by a combined 8 points, with one of them coming in overtime. I’m not even counting the times I have seen them at the Wilmington tournament reach the finals and fall short in equally-heartbreaking fashion.

If there is an underdog story we can get behind this weekend, it is this one. Can the young boys from Egg Harbor pull off an improbable run to their fifth championship appearance? It would be a monumental feat if they did, but, this is Philadelphia, we are built on teams crossing the Delaware to improbable victories.

4. Who is most likely to crash the party?

The winner of the St. D’s/St. George game. The boys’ bracket, unlike the girls, typically sees all of the upset victories happen during the quarterfinals, with the rest of the way going pretty much as expected. Only once, since the playoffs expanded to six teams, there has been a semi-final (#3 St. D’s over #2 Elkins Park in 2011).

With much respect to the two Jersey teams competing this weekend, when looking at who can pull off an upset to get to the finals, it has to come from this too-close-to-call matchup. St. D’s has proven they can hang with St. Luke’s already, and as for St. George, again, “if they are at full strength” I had this team as a potential party-crasher from day one.

With no team being “perfect” this year either, and with the quarterfinal winner having just played a day before, you can also factor in that one of these two teams will have had a game under their belt, while their opponent would not have played since before Christmas. If I had to say one team or the other is more likely to get beyond the semi-finals, I would have to give the edge to a full-strength St. George team, but, on the other hand, if there is to be a semi-final upset, it’s a good bet to go with the 2/3 matchup, where the last four 2/3 semi-final matchups have been decided by 9 points… combined.

Also, St. D’s is the champs until they aren’t the champs anymore, and will be looking to make a return trip to the finals, on their home court, in a semi-final game, on their home court. A part of me wants to go out on a limb and say this year might be the year that we could see a semi-final upset for the ages, but for it to happen, it will almost certainly come out of this Saturday matchup.

5. When the dust settles, the championship matchup will be…?

#1 St. Luke Broomall vs. #2 Evangelismos Philadelphia. This has been the matchup prediction from day one, and the regular season did nothing to sway my mind. Broomall and Bustleton have combined for one loss this season. The next closest team has four.

Yes, the four quarterfinalists all certainly have a shot to unseat one of these two teams from the top, but each one of them has issues with youth (the Jersey teams), depth (St. D’s), or attendance (St. George). The two teams at the top are by far the most complete, and they proved it by, with a few exceptions, rolling to the top two seeds this season.

My prediction is both of these teams get tested on Sunday against, whoever they face but, when it’s all said and done, both will leave the weekend with a ticket to the championship next Saturday.

As always, stay tuned to Cosmos Philly for playoff recaps and coverage, and good luck to all the kids competing this weekend.