As we approach the end of the holiday season and prepare to enter into the New Year, it is tradition for everyone to make resolutions with the promise of a fresh start. For twelve teams in the Delaware Valley, the New Year brings the start of the second season of GOYA Basketball, and the common resolution for all will be to be the last teams standing come January 25th. But who will take home the championships this season? No one can know for sure, but with three months of games to go off of, we are going to give it our best shot to give you everything you need to know as you watch the next month of exciting action throughout the Delaware Valley, starting with the quarterfinals in St. Luke’s this weekend.
Regular Season Recap
It was a highly competitive year in the girl’s division this season that saw many upsets and incredible finishes. Starting from the bottom, the final seed in the playoffs was ultimately decided on November 11th, with St. Demetrios hitting a near buzzer-beating three to defeat Holy Trinity of Wilmington, in a game that proved to be the difference in the race for the sixth and final seed. The year featured lots of jockeying for playoff position in the middle ranks, with St. Thomas of Cherry Hill overcoming a late rally by Evangelismos of Philadelphia to secure their second-consecutive first round bye in the playoffs. Ultimately this year everyone has been looking up at the girls in blue, as Holy Trinity of Egg Harbor has emerged atop the standings, coming off of their second undefeated season in the last three years. The big question that will be answered in the coming month is simply, can anyone knock off the powerhouse from down the shore? A few teams will take their first steps at trying to accomplish that feat this weekend.
#4 St. Luke Broomall (3-3) vs. #5 St. George Media (2-4)
This weekend will offer two exciting quarterfinal matchups on the girl’s side of the bracket, starting with a southwestern rivalry game between #4 seeded St. Luke’s of Broomall taking on #5 seeded St. George Media. St. Luke has relied on a balanced offensive and defensive effort this season, led by Zoe Nikolos and Maria Raptis. For the girls from Media, the Bourantas sisters have carried the load, rallying from a rough start to their season to climb their way back into the playoffs once again. In the regular season matchup on October 19th, St. Luke’s won the day by a score of 29-23, but since that game St. George has improved their overall team play, going 2-2 to round out their season, including an upset victory over St. Thomas Cherry Hill, and with one of those losses being to powerhouse Egg Harbor by just 7 points. Last year the St. George girls treated us to two thrilling playoff games, and with a game against their local rivals right off the bat, I can see no reason why we should not expect yet another thrilling down to the wire finish. It’s been a wild and whacky year to date, so I am keeping with the theme in predicting an upset right off the get-go, as I expect St. George to emerge victorious in a thrilling contest.
Mr. GOYA’s Prediction: St. George Media 25, St. Luke Broomall 23
#3 Evangelismos Philadelphia (4-2) vs. #6 St. Demetrios Upper Darby (1-5)
In the later girl’s game, the girls from the Boulevard will head into Broomall looking for a repeat effort of their 19-13 victory over the girls from St. Demetrios just two weeks ago. With both teams already locked into their respective positions there is not necessarily a whole lot to take away from that game, but what can’t be ignored is the skill level of standout guard Francesca Bogiatzis, who has led her team throughout the year and will look to continue to do so in January. For the girls from St. Demetrios, an underwhelming 1-5 record is not a reflection of this team’s skill, as fellow standout guard Stephanie Paras, along with one of the top centers in the league in Irene Evangelopoulos, lead their team looking to pull off the upset in the quarterfinals. Overall I think this will be a great contest, but there has never been a 3-6 upset in the history of the league, and I do not think this weekend will be any different.
Mr. GOYA’s Prediction: Evangelismos Philadelphia 22, St. Demetrios Upper Darby 14
Mr. GOYA’s Championship Prediction
With a year to get to see all the girl’s teams in action, the one constant really has been just how dominant the girls from Egg Harbor have been. It would take something really special to beat the girls from the shore in their quest for a third consecutive championship this season, and I just do not see that happening. I do however see an upset on the horizon, with the girls from Evangelismos looking as impressive as they have been of late, I can see the finals featuring a 1 vs. 3 match up, for a semi-bold prediction, and I would love to see two of the top guards in the league face off in Despina Lianidis and Francesca Bogiatzis. In the end, I think Holy Trinity does it once again, cementing their place in Del Val GOYA history with a third consecutive championship victory.
Mr. GOYA’s Girl’s Champion Prediction: Holy Trinity Egg Harbor
Regular Season Recap
I really can not emphasize enough what an unpredictable and crazy year it has been in the boy’s division. If you asked me to say who the best team in the league appeared to be at any point in the season, I could have given you about 4 or 5 different answers, including one team currently not in the playoffs in Holy Trinity of Wilmington, who got off to a hot start before injuries cut into their playoff hopes late in the season. We had upsets, we had forfeits, we had overtime thrillers. And now we have six teams that all have a very real shot at a championship. I guess you can say it is no surprise to see who sits atop the standings, as everyone will, literally, be looking up at St. Thomas, who, led by big man John Nutaitis, played consistent basketball all season and stand alone as the sole one-loss team in the league. The wild and crazy year also produced a Cinderella from down the shore, as Holy Trinity of Egg Harbor, a team that not many had on their playoff radar at the start of the season, rallied off a solid second half to their season to find themselves with the other first round bye. I feel like we are forgetting someone… oh yeah, what about the team that has not lost a playoff game since 2011 in Annunciation of Elkins Park? A disappointing end to their season, losing the bye by forfeit, does not change the fact that they are hunting for a fourth-consecutive title. When you have arguably the top player in the league in Jimmy Armentani, to quote the great Kevin Garnett, “anything is possible”. Throw seeding out the window in the boy’s division everyone. This January will be featuring some serious bracket-busters.
#4 Evangelismos Philadelphia (4-3) vs. #5 St. Demetrios Upper Darby (3-4)
If you need any more proof about how wild this year has been, if you had asked me on October 1st who would be in the finals for the boys, I would have given you these two teams. Both are loaded with experience and talent, and a combination of size and speed that make them a matchup nightmare. Unfortunately, both of these teams had issues to overcome. For the boys from the Boulevard, it was simply getting a full team on the court. Dropping competitive games to Elkins Park and Egg Harbor without a full compliment of players is honestly the difference between this team playing this week as opposed to watching. For the boys from Upper Darby, the early season injury to Chris Dawson can not be understated, as this team coasted to a 2-0 start (against two playoff teams) before dropping three straight immediately following his injury. These factors also make it incredibly tough to predict the outcome of this game. Will Evangelismos have their full roster? Will Chris Dawson be healthy to play? The only thing we really have to go off of was a preseason-like game last week between the two teams, with Evangelismos winning by a score of 46-38. The big question will be can St. Demetrios stop premiere big man Antonio Nakos, and can their transition game, led by Anastasios Gjedede, power the Upper Darby attack? It’s going to be a close call, but I think ultimately the boys from the Boulevard carry the day.
Mr. GOYA’s Prediction: Evangelismos Philadelphia 44, St. Demetrios Upper Darby 39
#3 Annunciation Elkins Park (5-2) vs. #6 St. Luke Broomall (2-5)
For the defending champs it will definitely be an uphill climb, as their quest for a four-peat starts a week sooner than I think most would have expected. To make it worse yet they will open against a young and talented team from St. Luke’s who will be playing on their home court. On November 9th these two teams squared off in what turned out to be an exciting back-and-forth game, with Annunciation pulling away late winning by a score of 52-43. Jimmy Armentani led the way for Elkins Park (as usual), but on the other end of the spectrum St. Luke’s has an up-and-coming star in Greg Vlassopoulos, who to date showcased his long range ability, but on this day showed that he could also attack the basket at will. That coupled with the emergence of some young talented players and some veteran guys makes this a more interesting matchup than the records may indicate. Ultimately if you asked me who Broomall reminds me of, I would have to say a young Elkins Park team, so this matchup is almost a student versus teacher like clash. This game will also feature loads of offense, so if you like scoring it’s a must-watch. Will there be a changing of the guard in the opening game of the boy’s playoffs? I think this game will have the Elkins Park fanbase sweating for a bit, but ultimately the defending champs will do all that matters in a one-and-done playoff, and that is, survive.
Mr. GOYA’s Prediction: Annunciation Elkins Park – 51, St. Luke Broomall – 45
Mr. GOYA’s Championship Prediction
If things go as I think they will go, there are sure to be some must-watch contests in the coming weeks. There is a lot of balance and talent in the league this year, and, unlike in years past, I do not see there being a single game where you can simply chalk it up to there being a “better” team. That being said, when I look at the top seed in Cherry Hill I see a lot of size and a team that has really played well down the stretch, with their only loss coming way back in October. Now, we were all cheated a bit in not getting to see St. Thomas take on Elkins Park with first place on the line, so my finals prediction has a bit of fan redemption on the horizon, as I see St. Thomas of Cherry Hill facing off against Annunciation of Elkins Park for all the marbles, in a best team versus best player matchup. Will there be a four-peat on the horizon? Mr. GOYA says no, as St. Thomas of Cherry Hill will find themselves back on top for the first time since 1990, when not a single member of the team would have been born.
Mr. GOYA’s Champion Prediction: St. Thomas Cherry Hill
It’s fun to predict and speculate how these things will go, but it is ten times the fun to watch it happen live. We hope to see you all out this weekend at St. Luke’s for the quarterfinals, and as always, we hope you will stay tuned to us here at Cosmos Philly for all the playoff action. Have a Safe, Happy, and Healthy New Year’s to you and yours, and we hope you are getting ready for the exciting second season on the horizon.