History will be made on Sunday at St. Demetrios with improbable matchups, replays, and thrillers in the 35th annual Del Val GOYA championships.
What a fantastic few months it has been. From early October, the youth of the Delaware Valley has gathered with churches spanning from as far North as Elkins Park, as far South as Wilmington, as far East as Egg Harbor, and as far West as Broomall. Teams have gathered and competed fiercely in league and playoff play. The league has featured many ups and downs, stunning performances, classic upsets, and historic playoff runs. Now, four months later, we are down to four… or should I say we will be shortly, with still one piece to be decided. One thing is for sure, when the day is done on a cold Sunday evening in Upper Darby, Pennsylvania, two teams will be crowned champions in one of the more memorable years of GOYA Basketball in our league’s storied 35-year history.
2:00 – Semi-Final Game – #1 St. Thomas Cherry Hill Boys (6-1) vs. #6 St. Luke Broomall Boys (3-5)
In an unprecedented turn of events, a ruling was issued regarding the controversial finish to two weeks ago’s thrilling semi-final to have both teams replay the contest. Without getting into the details of the why’s behind such a ruling, I can say that, in my opinion at least, this was the most fair decision that could have been made, and will leave both teams feeling as though they were given a fair shot at proving their merits. Nevertheless, we start the day with the game that was so nice, we’re gonna play it twice! Like many of the games I have seen this year involving St. Luke, it was a game of runs in Round 1 of this contest, with St. Thomas opening up a 17 point lead in the third quarter, before Greg Vlassopoulos turned it on and, along with some superb defensive play in the interior, cut the lead down to 5 with about 4 minutes to go in the fourth, before St. Thomas was able to buckle down and carry the last few minutes of play en route to a 50-41 victory.
Round 2 of this matchup should feature more of the same from a gameplan standpoint. For St. Thomas it will be about pounding the ball inside with their big man John Nutaitis, along with premiere post man Giorgio Karadonis. This strategy worked very well for the top-seeded boys from Cherry Hill in the first game. Also key for Cherry Hill will be the guard play of Andrew Karolidis, who has led his team with his ball handling and strong perimeter defense this year.
For St. Luke the game plan will center around elite youngster Greg Vlassopoulos, but I also look at the interior defensive core of the Palmieri brothers and Tony Mironidis as key factors, as they showed flashes of great defensive play in Cherry Hill and will look to do so again on Sunday. This game also features some interesting dynamics in that, the winner of this game will have to play in the championship game just three or so hours later against Egg Harbor, so there is also an element of trying to be efficient with spending energy, while also playing as hard as possible to win this game. In the end I see this one being another close contest, but I think that the experience factor from the more-senior team in Cherry Hill will come into play, as Broomall will not be sneaking up on them this time. I expect to see the top-seeded boys advance to the championship game to face off against the second-seeded boys from Holy Trinity.
Mr. GOYA’s Prediction – St. Thomas Cherry Hill – 46, St. Luke Broomall – 42.
Girl’s Consolation Game – #1 Holy Trinity Egg Harbor Girls (6-1) vs. #3 Evangelismos Philadelphia Girls (4-3)
See! Mr. GOYA was right these two would be facing off on championship Sunday! I was just wrong about the time. Details, details. For the girls from Evangelismos, a hard-fought loss to St. Thomas lands them in the consolation game for the third consecutive year, which is certainly an accomplishment as they have shown continued improvement in emerging as one of the top teams in the league year-in and year-out. For the girls from Holy Trinity, coming off of one of the most improbable upsets in league history, they will find themselves not in the finals for the first time in four years, and will need to shake off the stunning loss from two weeks ago in the hopes of ending the season on a high note.
It may be the game for third place but this game will feature plenty of star power, as two of the league’s top players in Francesca Bogiatzis and Despina Lianidis will face off in what should be a classic guard matchup. Another key matchup to watch will be in the interior, as two of the league’s top post players will also meet in Samantha Rhodes and Alexis Nakos, who have both anchored their teams’ front courts on the season. Call me crazy but I think this could wind up being one of the more entertaining games of the day, but I think it will ultimately be the girls from the Shore who rebound from last week’s stunner and show why they were the heavy favorites to win it all back in October.
Mr. GOYA’s Prediction – Holy Trinity Egg Harbor – 34, Evangelismos Philadelphia – 27.
Note from Mr. GOYA – As this weekend’s games are a little out of the ordinary, I am going to write the consolation game preview as if my semi-final prediction was correct. I will, however, write a championship preview with both scenarios as options. Fear not St. Thomas and St. Luke fans!