As the second-third of the DVGOBL season wrapped up this past weekend in New Jersey, with games being played at St. Thomas and Holy Trinity (EH), the playoff picture is still as foggy and tough to predict as it was on opening day, with all teams still very much in contention, and with only one spot locked up firmly, the month of December will be filled with fireworks as teams vie for playoff spots and first-round byes heading into January’s playoffs.
We will take you around the Delaware Valley as we check-in with each team to date heading into the stretch run and the Christmas season. Teams are reviewed in order of standings as of 11/28/2016.
As we enter December, the only known factor is that, for the third consecutive season, the girls from Holy Trinity will go into the playoffs undefeated and with the number one overall seed in the playoffs. Beyond that, there is still everything left to play for, as the 2 through 6 seeds are still very much in play, as there is currently a 4-way tie in the loss column, with four teams sitting at 3 losses, and two more teams in the 4-loss column. Holy Trinity Egg Harbor – Well here they are again. For the third consecutive year, the girls in blue powered their way to an undefeated regular season and the top overall seed in the playoffs, having won their 8th in a row this past Sunday via forfeit. What the girls from the shore will be looking to do is turn that regular season success into a league championship, something that has eluded them in the past two seasons. Youngster Mariana Papazoglou and top guard Aggie Potiris lead a balanced attack that will be looking to dodge a third-straight disappointing playoff finish. The girls from Egg Harbor will have to wait a long time to find out who they will face off against, having clinched the first round bye to the semi-finals, which will be played almost two months from now. The constant remains as this will be the team to beat in the girl’s bracket.
St. George Media
Sitting in the driver’s seat for the second opening round bye are the girls from St.George, who actually, at this time, are the only other team in the league with a winning record at 4-3 (and are also technically the only team aside from Egg Harbor to clinch a playoff spot at this time). Led by reigning MVP Christina Bourantas, these girls have shown time and time again an ability to peak at just the right time heading into the postseason, where they have had tremendous success over the past few years. Looking ahead to December, the Media girls will play a critical game against the reigning champions from Evangelismos, in a matchup that will likely decide who will have the inside track for that second bye and critical week off in what has been a very balanced girl’s division. Regardless of their final standing, if history has proven anything, it is that this is one team that NOBODY wants to see come playoff time, as they could yet again emerge as a sleeper contender for another girl’s championship.
St. Thomas Cherry Hill
In looking at the record of the St. Thomas girls thus far, it has been a tale of two halves. The first half of their season saw a brutal slate of games, including two tough contests against divisional opponents from Egg Harbor. The second half has seen them rebound quite nicely, going 3-1 in their last four games, with only a tough loss to the reigning champs from Evangelismos blemishing a solid run. Maria Kokolis has resumed her MVP-caliber form as she leads a very talented group of young ladies into a December playoff push and, like St. George, a hope for a first-round bye. For St. Thomas it may all come down to the final week of the season, as they take on Evangelismos for a game that could very well decide the second and third seeds in the girl’s division on December 18th.
The reigning champs, like their sisters across the Delaware, have also suffered from the pains of being placed in the same division as Egg Harbor, as they too owe two of their three losses to their long-time rivals. Couple that with a stunning loss to the girls from St. Demetrios and the defending champs have had an uphill climb out of a 0-3 hole to start their young season. But climb they have, winning their last two against St. Thomas and Holy Trinity of Wilmington, they now sit at 2-3 and are still in control of their own destiny as well as they look to slide into that second bye position. Led by senior standout forward Alexis Nakos, the girls from the Boulevard will look to lean on their championship experience, as they head into slate of games that will definitely test their skills in December, including a double-header weekend against fellow three-loss teams in St. George and St. Luke on December 11th. One thing is for certain; this team will be battle tested and ready to defend their title come January, as they look to make another historic run in the hopes of a championship repeat.
St. Luke Broomall
The girls from Broomall apparently suffered from a holiday lull, as they dropped a loss by forfeit over the Thanksgiving weekend to the girls from Egg Harbor. That aside, the St. Luke’s girls are still in fine shape at 2-3, and with a big win over St. George last month, and with two games remaining against teams that also have three losses, they too, hold their fate in their hands as they battle for playoff positioning. Maria Raptis and Zoe Nikolos lead an experienced group of girls into December, where they will look to take key victories against Holy Trinity Wilmington (December 4th ) and Evangelismos Philadelphia (December 11th ). Winning one of those two should be enough to get them into the playoffs, but winning both would be a huge confidence boost for a group of girls looking to break into final four contention come playoff time.
St. Demetrios Upper Darby
For the girls from St. D’s, their playoff hopes will come down to one key game this Sunday, as they take on Holy Trinity Wilmington, for what will likely prove to be a battle for the final playoff spot, as both sit at 4-loss records heading into December. When you look at the season Upper Darby has had thus far, you have to be impressed with the win this young team collected back in October, knocking off the defending champs in stunning upset fashion. While that win has failed to generate momentum, this team of young and talented girls has played some tough games against St.George Media and St. Thomas Cherry Hill the past two weeks, and will look to carry some of that into their game this weekend in what will sure to feel like an early playoff atmosphere. While there are many games on the schedule in December that will decide playoff positioning, only one will ultimately decide who gets in or who is left out, and it promises to be a great matchup this weekend.
Holy Trinity Wilmington
For the girls from Holy Trinity Wilmington, who are still in search of their first win of the season and their first playoff berth since rejoining the league, there is a lot to be excited about. While the wins have not yet come, there has been definite progress and improvement for this team of youngsters, who will now get their chance to play for the sixth and final spot in the playoffs this weekend against St. Demetrios. It has been exciting to watch these girls develop over the year, and now the question will be, can they make that big next step and climb into the playoffs? If you are a casual fan of the league this is the team to pull for, as they take on St. D’s this weekend.
As we head into the final third of the season, there is nothing that would indicate anything other than that Holy Trinity of Egg Harbor should continue their success and claim their first league championship in three years. That being said, the same could have been said last year or the year before that. Therefore we are sticking with our championship prediction. Someone, somewhere, will knock off the giants, and the team that seems most poised to do so is the team we picked back in October. Prediction – St. George Media
Wow. That is all we can say as we head into December in what has been a wild and crazy boy’s division this year. With a few games remaining, and with some teams having played more than others to this point, there is still everything to play for, with all seven teams still alive in the playoff hunt, with no teams remaining unbeaten, and with no seed being clinched as of yet, it promises to be another great December as the boys division takes shape heading into the playoffs.
St. Demetrios Upper Darby
Remember that “Game of the Year” candidate we wrote about back in October? Those free throws with one second left currently have the boys from St. D’s atop the standings, as they rode the momentum from that thrilling opening day victory to a 4-1 record, with their only loss coming at the hands of the defending champs from Evangelismos. Chris Dawson has risen to form as the year has progressed, as have his teammates Laz Louca and the Stergiou brothers, who have led a balanced and well-rounded roster to the top spot in the standings. With a huge win this past weekend in what was a battle for first place in the standings against St. Thomas, they now find themselves in control of their own destiny for claiming their first number one overall seed in the playoff since their last championship victory in 2010 (when they were led by now-coach Louie Karapanagiotides if we are not mistaken). The boys from Upper Darby will have three games left in December, with two against divisional opponent Holy Trinity Wilmington, and one semi-final rematch against St. Luke Broomall on December 18th that should have huge playoff implications.
Holy Trinity Egg Harbor
For the boy’s from the shore it has been a trip from the outhouse to the penthouse, as a rough 0-3 start has been washed away by a 5-game winning streak and a clinched playoff berth as they wrapped up their season this past Sunday with a key victory over St. Luke’s Broomall in South Jersey. Led by the trio of Saki Mertis, Alexi Paraskevas, and George Arsenis, the boys in blue have relied on some impressive defensive displays during their winning streak. As their season has now ended, they will need to watch the league action in December to find out when and who they will play come January. For a team that not many had on their radar given their struggles last season, this has certainly been one of the surprises, as they will look to make a run in the playoffs in the hopes of reaching their fourth championship appearance in five years, and even more hopeful, to capture their first championship in team history.
Like their longtime rivals from the shore, the defending champs also stumbled out of the gate, losing their first two games of the season. That tough start to seems long forgotten, as the boys from the Boulevard have fired off three straight victories, and now sit alone as the only two-loss team in the league at 3-2. For the boys from Evangelismos, there is still everything to play for, as they own the tiebreaker with St. Demetrios, having beaten them in what could be a championship preview a few weeks ago. Led by the uptempo tandem of Joel Mattas and John Armentani, the boys in black and gold seem primed to defend their title. With the inside track for the second bye in the playoffs, Evangelismos will have to survive the dreaded double-header week on December 11th against fellow title contenders St. George Media and St. Luke Broomall. If they get past that test unharmed, it will likely set up a “Battle for the Bye” on the last day of the season against St.Thomas Cherry Hill, whom they beat two weeks ago. Regardless of where they stand come January, Evangelismos seems to be a top contender to repeat as league champs.
St. Thomas Cherry Hill
For the boys from St. Thomas, a hot 2-0 start against in-state rival Holy Trinity has been cooled in November by a 1-3 run, putting them into fourth place currently at 3-3. Led by senior big man Kosta Dambalas, who seems to be next to unstoppable in the post, this is a well-balanced and experienced unit that can definitely bounce back come December in the hopes of claiming the second first-round bye. A perfect mixture of size and speed, the boys from Cherry Hill are built like a title contender, and will look to maximize their playoff standing with key games against Holy Trinity Wilmington and the big “Battle for the Bye” versus Evangelismos on December 18th . If you are looking for a sleeper team come January, this is one to look at, as the St. Thomas boys look to make a run in the hopes of capturing their second league title in three years. With championship experience still very much a part of their core roster, there is no reason to count them out against anybody come January.
St. George Media
If the word “double-header” was never heard again in Delaware County, I’m sure that would be just fine for the boys from Media, who saw a 3-0 start (with huge wins against St. Thomas and St. Luke) erode to a 3-4 standing in a matter of two weeks. Those roadblocks now behind them, the boys from St. George will look to recapture their early-season momentum as they make a push for the playoffs. The sharpshooting tandem of AJ Aivazoglou and Chrisovalantis Apostolopoulos will be the key for the boys from Media, as they look to finish the regular season at 4-4, and will actually, be the beneficiaries of the double-header schedule this time around, getting Evangelismos Philadelphia in their second game on December 11th. Regardless of their final standing, this is a team that, when hot, can run with any team in the league, as they proved both in their victories and losses (including an overtime loss to the top-seeded St. D’s and a very close contest against Holy Trinity Egg Harbor last week). Let’s also not forget this team finished fifth in the regular season last year, and pulled off two playoff upsets to finish as the third place team when the dust settled in January. With a balanced attack, history could certainly repeat itself come playoff time.
St. Luke Broomall
There seems to be a “runner-up” curse brewing in the boy’s division of the DVGOBL, as for the second consecutive year, the reigning second place team has found themselves fighting for their playoff lives as we hit the home stretch, sitting in the sixth and final spot at 2-3. With a playoff-clinching game on the horizon this weekend against Holy Trinity Wilmington, St. Luke’s will look to right the ship as they try to climb back up the standings come playoff time. They will need to rely heavily on reigning MVP Gregg Vlassopoulos, and top big man Chris Palmieri, if they want to make that final step to capturing a league title. Like their neighbors from St. George, this unit also has a history of making great playoff runs regardless of seed, being the first team in league history to advance as the 6th seed two years ago, and coming one play away from being the first 6th seed to advance to a championship a few weeks later. They may be down as we head into December, but this team is far from out when it comes to looking at championship contention come January.
Holy Trinity Wilmington
For the young boys from Wilmington, like their sisters, December will be about trying to take that big first step in claiming their first playoff berth since coming back into the league. They have a slightly more uphill climb than the girls, however, but still control their own destiny, as they have four games remaining and everything to play for. Led by senior Dino Matulas, who has exemplified great leadership in rallying a young group of boys week-in and week-out, Wilmington played their best game to date just this past weekend, giving Evangelismos everything they could handle before falling just short in Cherry Hill. If the boys from Holy Trinity can carry that momentum into their December stretch run, they could very easily flip the script and snag a playoff spot. In looking at the streaky runs, both hot and cold, of all the teams above them, the boys from Wilmington have to be thinking “why not us?” come December, and hopefully, January.
In looking at the results of the first two months, it is impossible to
determine a trend in figuring out who the “best” team actually is. More than any other season in history, it seems as though January’s results will be entirely dictated by matchups, with teams across the Delaware Valley all showing that, on any given Sunday, anyone can be beaten. Rather than flip a coin, which seems to be the best predictor right now, we are looking at the team riding the highest heading into December. With how crazy this year has been, why not go with the team no one saw coming week one?
Prediction: Holy Trinity Egg Harbor.