Quick Note from Mr. GOYA – Hello Everyone. It has been brought to my attention recently that a Twitter account entitled “GOYA Basketball” has been created and has presented itself as me. I would like to let all of my readers know that that account has absolutely nothing to do with myself, nor anything to do with Cosmos Philly as a whole. You can consider that account to be nothing more than a parody account attempting to serve as a copycat to the work done here. Mr. GOYA does not even use Twitter, ironically enough, and will continue to provide articles exclusively through Cosmos Philly. I felt it was important to clarify this as it was brought to my attention that the postings of this fake account have recently become controversial and disrespectful to the kids of our league. As Mr. GOYA my first and most important job is to provide the community with information regarding the activities of the league in a manner that casts all of our children in a positive light. Thank you so much and I hope that you continue to enjoy reading the articles posted on the website as the true, and only, Mr. GOYA.
Well, now that that’s taken care of, let’s get rolling on playoff action. As always come playoff time, there is a special atmosphere in the air, and especially in the quarterfinals, where a win puts you into the GOYA Final Four and a loss eliminates you from the playoffs and trophy contention. As the crowds filled St. Luke Broomall to capacity this weekend, they were certainly treated to some incredible contests, Anyone who was fortunate enough to be there, witnessed some historic events, some great individual efforts, and some incredible displays of basketball talent. When the dust was settled, four teams survived to advance to play the four teams on bye this weekend, setting up the 2015 GOYA Final Four:
#5 St. George Media Girls – 20, #4 St. Luke Broomall Girls – 16
Some old school basketball kicked off the day as the hosts from St. Luke’s took on St. George Media in a matchup of local rivals seeking spots in the final four. The game also kicked off without a scoreboard, leading to some interesting and creative time and scorekeeping to ensure the games carried on as scheduled. On the day St. George jumped out to a hot start and a big early lead, and then hung on after the home girls tried furiously to stage a late game comeback, winning by a final score of 20-16. As usual, Corina and Christina Bourantas anchored the backcourt for the girls from St. George, but I was also particularly impressed by the interior play of Alexis Terris and Francesca Hourican, whose rebounding and interior offensive work helped to carry the day for Media. If they can continue to play with that level of teamwork and intensity, they might just be able to unseat the powerhouse from Egg Harbor, in what is sure to be an intense 1 vs. 5 matchup next weekend.
For the girls from St. Luke’s, it was simply a matter of finding themselves in too early of a hole to overcome. Give credit to the host team though as they battled back late, led by Zoe Nikolos and Maria Raptis, to give their young team a shot at the comeback victory. The loss, on paper, goes down as an upset, with the 5 knocking off the 4-seed, but honestly these were two very evenly matched teams all year and both can hold their heads high on the day. The girls from Broomall will look to build off of their second-consecutive top-4 regular season finish and look to make that jump into the final four of the playoffs next season. Congratulations on a great year girls.
#6 St. Luke Broomall – 43, #3 Annunciation Elkins Park – 38
Well I said they would get a scare, but what I did not anticipate was to witness history on the day. The three-time defending champs entered the day in unfamiliar territory, playing in the quarterfinals for the first time since the league expanded the playoffs to a six-team format in 2010-2011. They also entered the day noticeably short handed, with only five boys making the trip. For the hosts from St. Luke, a month of waiting and hoping that breaks would fall their way found them landing the final playoff spot and a shot to make history. They most definitely made the most of their shot, riding the home crowd and their “nothing to lose” attitude to a historic upset, knocking off the three-time defending champs by a score of 43-38. The game featured some exciting offensive efforts by Greg Vlassopoulos, but I think the real difference maker on the day was the rebounding work done by the boys from Broomall, as the second chance opportunities they generated, along with the one-and-done offensive possessions they forced by their opponent, wound up being the difference maker in this contest. Some shaky play by the youngsters late almost allowed an Elkins Park comeback, but give credit to this young and up-and-coming team as they showed great resolve in hanging on for the win. Their task at continuing their Cinderella story will not get any easier, as they must travel now to St. Thomas to play the top-seeded boys from Cherry Hill in a rematch of opening weekend.
For the defending champions, let’s first just take a moment to congratulate the run of playoff success that these boys have had over the years. Championship appearances in 5 of the last 6 years, and three straight championships, will put this team in the history books of Elkins Park basketball. What impressed me the most on the day was the individual effort of Jimmy Armentani, who led a young group of boys into a difficult contest, and who, pretty close to single-handedly, kept the Elkins Park dream alive. More than the points scored, and the manner in which he was able to attack the basket at will, even when it was obvious to everyone in the room what was going to happen when he touched the ball, I was impressed by the manner in which he led his team, with encouragement to his young guys and direction on both sides of the ball. While I do not get an MVP vote as Mr. GOYA, it would be hard to argue against the effort he put forth all year in getting a team of youngsters as far as they were able to get. The “youngsters” though handled the pressure very well, and will look to build off of this experience in forming a new run of playoff success in the coming years. Hats off to these boys for battling and for a great season.
#3 Evangelismos Philadelphia – 23, #6 St. Demetrios Upper Darby – 11
Would the run of upsets continue on the day? Not if the girls from the Boulevard had anything to say about it. Evangelismos entered the day looking to get to their third consecutive final four, and they did not disappoint, carrying the day by a final score of 23-11 over the girls from St. Demetrios. Francesca Bogiatzis’s supreme guard play was business as usual, but the real difference maker was Alexis Nakos, who channeled her inner big-brother in dominating the interior with rebounding and putbacks to secure the decisive victory. It really was a total team effort defensively for the Evangelismos girls as well, as they held Upper Darby to 2 points through three quarters of play. The girls from the Northeast will now travel to Cherry Hill to take on the hosts from St. Thomas in what should be an exciting 2-3 matchup.
It was tough sledding on the day for the girls from St. D’s, as they entered the contest without their star center Irene Evangelopoulos, who would have been a key factor in stopping the Evangelismos interior attack. Stephanie Paras did all she could to keep the girls in the game early, but there was just too much firepower to overcome. There is hope on the horizon for St. D’s though as this young core of players will largely be intact for next season, as they will look to climb up the rankings and slip back into the final four for the first time in 4 years. I’d also like to applaud these girls for never getting down on themselves and for having fun and cheering right up until the end. Congratulations on a great year girls.
#4 Evangelismos Philadelphia – 47, #5 St. Demetrios Upper Darby – 44
Let me first just say that I have watched a lot of games this season, and this contest was by far the greatest display of overall team skill by both teams all season. It is really a shame that one of these teams will go home trophy-less this year, but that’s also part of the excitement of the playoffs. In a back and forth contest that saw a number of lead changes and momentum swings, the boys from the Boulevard, finally at full strength, emerged victorious in a thriller by a final score of 47-44. Big man Antonio Nakos was the key on the day for Evangelismos, as his size and scoring touch around the rim was a bit too much for the boys from St. D’s to handle. Also the slashing attack of Cameron Elliot provided a huge spark for Philly on the day. With a minute to go, and with Evangelismos in foul trouble down two starters, give a lot of credit to the boys coming off the bench as well for hanging on for dear life and for knocking down key free throws at the end to secure the victory. The win, coupled with the Elkins Park loss, sets the stage for a semi-final rematch with the boys from Holy Trinity of Egg Harbor next weekend in Cherry Hill.
It was an up and down year for the boys from St. D’s, but it was good to see them back healthy and at full strength with star guard Chris Dawson completing the dynamic duo up top with Anastasios Gjejede. When this team gets going they are tough to stop, and I still stand by my statement that, at the beginning of the year these two teams were my pick to meet in the finals. Such an incredible back and forth contest, with a lot of speed both ways and with the St. D’s guard play constantly battling back, with some incredible passing and ball handling. I don’t care who you were rooting for, it was tough not to be a fan of both teams and their efforts on the day. There is a lot of talent in the Upper Darby pipeline for sure, so I would expect this team to be right back at it next season primed to make a deeper run in the postseason. Hold your heads high boys you played a fantastic game.
As always, stay tuned to Cosmos Philly for all league action, including a semi-final preview that will have a lot to live up to if the quarterfinals were a measure of what to expect from an excitement standpoint this year.