As the calendar shifts to November and the temperatures start to drop, the competition begins to heat up across the Delaware Valley, as the Del Val GOYA Basketball League approaches the midway point of its 2018-2019 season. As the league takes its annual week off for the Metropolitan Awards Banquet coming this Sunday, we at Cosmos Philly will be taking a look at five key items that highlight where we stand thus far, and more importantly, where we go from here as teams battle for playoff positioning across the region.

Girl’s Division

1. Jersey still at the top, but a changing of the guard

Historically over the past few years, the girl’s bracket has been dominated by the Garden State, with Holy Trinity’s seemingly endless run atop the standings. Now in 2018, the crown jewels of the Girl’s division seems to remain in New Jersey, but just under a different color.

The St. Thomas girl’s, runners-up last year, seem poised to take the throne away from their fellow sisters to the southeast, as they have jumped out to a convincing 4-0 start, and have knocked the defending champs off twice to date, including two weeks ago with a 29-23 victory on their home court.

Relying on a total team effort, the girls from Cherry Hill look to be in a great position to get back to the finals, as they stand atop the girl’s standings as one of the final two undefeated teams on the season.

Meanwhile, for the defending champions, it appears to be a rebuilding year, as the Holy Trinity girls have struggled out of the gate with a young core across the board. If the girls in blue want to defend their title, they will have to continue to grow throughout the season and make some magic happen come January.

2. St. D’s marching on

The girls from St. Thomas are not the only team in the league without a loss so far, as the St. Demetrios Girls have rattled off a 3-0 start of their own, including back-to-back 20+ point victories over St. George Media and Holy Trinity Egg Harbor.

Led by leading MVP candidate Alexia Louca, the girls from St. D’s have been able to rely on their speed and skill to sit just one game behind St. Thomas for 1 st place overall.

Their first major test will come after the league resumes on November 18, as they face off in a battle for first place with their unbeaten sisters from St. Thomas at home in Upper Darby in what should be the game of the year so far in the girl’s league.

3. The battle for third, and beyond

While the top two teams seem to be distancing themselves from the competition, there is also a tight race for third through fifth, as Holy Trinity Wilmington, St. George Media, and Holy Trinity Egg Harbor all sit with one win separating the three (and the one win coming by forfeit).

Among the three, Holy Trinity Wilmington has looked to be the most complete of the three, as they have given St. Thomas and St. Demetrios better games to date thus far. The question will be, who if any, can contend with the top two teams? For me, my money is on Holy Trinity Wilmington.

The girls from Delaware showed great improvement last year, and if they can continue to build on that in November and December, they could see themselves matching up in a key semifinal game against whichever team from the top falls to second.

Don’t count out St. George Media either, as the girls from Delco are not too far away from the last time they pulled off a historic playoff upset.

Last but certainly never least, the girls from Egg Harbor will not be going down without a fight, and if they can string together some magic, they too, could be looking to defend their title.

No matter what, there should be no easy games come the second half of the season and into January.

4. Grading Mr. GOYA’s preseason predictions

What good would I be if I didn’t hold myself accountable for my predictions at the midway point of the year? Overall, I’d have to give myself a solid C+, as my coach of the year and MVP predictions seem to be right on track as we head into November.

Also, I did (this time) correctly predict the step back for Holy Trinity, although they still have plenty of time to prove me wrong in the second half (to be fair, their schedule so far has been brutal, and their only loss to a non-unbeaten was by forfeit).

My championship prediction may have been a bit off, but I am still holding out hope for a bounce-back second-half for the girls from St. George, who are never an easy out come playoff time. Either way, there is still plenty of time for me to improve my grade before year end.

5. Mr. GOYA’s midseason award winners

As we head into the halfway mark, here are my midseason winners that are 100% subjective and 100% likely to change:

  • Best team: St. Thomas Cherry Hill/St. Demetrios Upper Darby (tied – next week will tell all)
  • Best player: Alexia Louca, St. Demetrios Upper Darby
  • Best coach: Dean Pappas, St. Thomas Cherry Hill
  • Best game (so far): 10/28, St. Thomas 29 Holy Trinity (EHT) 23 (the only single-digit margin this year so far)
  • Game to watch in the 2nd half: 12/16, St. Thomas vs. St. Demetrios (Round 2) (this game may very well decide who gets the top seed in the Girl’s division)
  • Championship prediction: St. Thomas Cherry Hill vs. St. Demetrios Upper Darby

Boy’s Division

1. On any given Sunday

At the halfway mark this year, the boy’s division seems to be clear as mud, as already no unbeaten team remains. There is, however, a tight race for the top, as three teams all sit with one loss as we enter November.

Holy Trinity of Egg Harbor leads the pack at 4-1, with their only loss coming, surprisingly, at the hands of St. Thomas Cherry Hill who pulled off a large upset two weeks ago knocking off the last unbeaten to earn their first win of the year.

Evangelismos Philadelphia sits one game behind their annual rivals, with their loss coming at the hands of Holy Trinity a few weeks ago.

Finally, St. George Media sits just another game back from the top at 2-1, but a key loss to Evangelismos last week has them in third at the halfway mark.

There is not much separating the three teams from each other, and also, as we saw a few weeks ago, not much separating them from the teams below them either. So far each team at the top has come up with at least one signature win, and have all stumbled in one uncharacteristic loss.

With still half a season to play, these are the teams that seem most likely to contend for the top seed in the boy’s division, but from what we have seen so far, unlike last year where the top two teams had one loss combined, it would not surprise me at all to see a two or three loss team as the top seed come January.

2. Who will be on the rise?

After the top three, there is talent up and down the Boy’s Division. St. Demetrios sits at 2-2, having played possibly the toughest schedule so far, but the boys from Upper Darby have looked solid in all four games and are the top candidates to rise-up in the second half, and perhaps even steal a first-round bye away from the teams above them.

Holy Trinity Wilmington, young and energetic, scored their first win of the season in a key matchup with St. Thomas Cherry Hill a few weeks back, in a result that will have big-time playoff implications down the line. They almost followed it up with another huge win as they took St. Demetrios to a double-overtime thriller two weeks ago in Broomall.

As for St. Thomas, they’ve been the toughest to figure out, as their strong and aggressive style of play keyed the major upset of Holy Trinity two weeks ago, but have also stumbled against Holy Trinity Wilmington and Evangelismos this past weekend.

These three teams still have many games in hand against each other down the stretch, and will look to climb in the standings while avoiding stumbling down into the dreaded 7th spot currently occupied by St. Luke’s Broomall.

3. Speaking of the defending champs

Someone just getting back from Greece after last year’s championships will look at the standings and scratch their heads. St. Luke’s Broomall, the defending undefeated champs from 2017-2018, sit in the basement at 0-3 and have their work cut out for them if they want to get back into playoff contention to defend their title.

The loss of Chris Palmieri to graduation has been key, but the loss of Gregg Vlassopoulos, reigning MVP, has stung even more so as he has foregone his senior year to focus on high school basketball. The league will surely miss him, but his teammates have felt the loss even more so as they have struggled out of the gate.

It took more than two players to run the table last year though, so I believe that the boys from Delco will rely on their experiences from last year, as well as solid coaching, and make a charge in the second half.

You can never count out championship playoff experience, and for the boys from Broomall, every game in the second half will be a playoff game as they look to climb and rebound in November. Mr. GOYA’s ambitious prediction? St. Luke is not the team that misses the playoffs this year.

4. Grading Mr. GOYA’s preseason predictions

On the boy’s side, I think I missed the mark a bit more as we hit the halfway point, but to be fair, I was working with incomplete information. I did not know that the reigning MVP would miss the season. I did not know that my MVP pick would have missed half of the current season due to injury, and even more so, that his team would rally despite this to sit in first place.

My number one mistake though was to discount the play of Evangelismos, who despite losing four seniors to graduation last year, sit in the exact same spot in the standings as this time a year ago.

Except for a shorthanded game to forget in Egg Harbor, the boys from the Boulevard have looked sharp in their three wins, including against my preseason pick in St. George.

Grading on a curve, since so much was unknown this year, I’m still giving myself a passing C-, but if you are asking me if I am comfortable with my preseason picks? I’d have to say I have seen a lot that has surprised me in the first half of this season.

5. Mr. GOYA’s midseason award winners

Same rules apply as with the Girl’s division, but it seems to be a lot less clear-cut than on the Girl’s side this year.

  • Best team: St. George Media (still holding strong to my original prediction)
  • Best player: Vylandi Apostolopoulos (St. George’s only loss came without their best player)
  • Best coach: Jim Contoudis, Evangelismos Philadelphia (see above for why)
  • Best game so far: 10/28, St. Thomas Cherry Hill 32 Holy Trinity EHT 31 and St. Demetrios Upper Darby 48 Holy Trinity Wilmington 47 (a double-overtime thriller)
  • Game to watch in the 2nd half: 12/2/18, Holy Trinity EHT vs. St. George Media (in their only matchup of the year, will at least decide who gets a bye week and may also decide the top seed in the Boy’s division)
  • Championship prediction: St. George Media vs. Holy Trinity Egg Harbor

With so much left to play for, stay tuned to Cosmos Philly as we recap and cover the mouthwatering matchups of the second half of the season in the coming weeks, and provide all of the playoff previews for the DVGOBL this season!