It’s hard to believe that October has started already. It is even harder to believe that this year marks the 37th year of GOYA basketball in the Delaware Valley. I am honored and excited to be selected as Cosmos Philly’s New Mr. GOYA for this year, and I am even more excited to get to see the tip-off of the 2017 season this weekend.
As I get my feet wet, and with the help of a few people whom I will be relying on this season, I have decided to do my preview a little differently than in past years, by making ten bold predictions for the 2017 season, 5 for each division. It will be fun to see how things all shake out though, as we all know the championships are not won or lost in October. Let’s get started!
- The Most Improved Team in 2017 will be… St. Thomas. Last year the girls from Cherry Hill fell just shy of a championship appearance with a semi-final loss to St. George Media. This year, with their core intact, and with reigning MVP candidate Maria Kokolis leading the way, these girls definitely have what it takes to make some noise this season, and potentially, can take the final step in getting back to the league championship.
- The Team That Will Take the Greatest Step Back in 2017 will be… Holy Trinity. Nothing against the reigning undefeated champions, but it is really hard to maintain the dominance that the girls from Egg Harbor displayed last year. That is not to say this team still will not be atop the standings come January, especially when you have a once-in-a-generation star like Marianna Papazoglou leading the way. These girls should be just fine, they will just have to work a bit harder this year to defend their title.
- The Coach of the Year will be… Alex Terris, St. George Media. As one of the longest lasting coaches in the league, Alex will have a tough challenge ahead in getting his girls back to the championship game, where they fell last season to Holy Trinity. One of the great guys in the league, Alex will look to get back to the final game, where he has appeared in 3 of the last 4 seasons. As one of only two coaches to knock off Holy Trinity during their run of dominance, a return to the top should earn a well-deserved honor for Alex, whose daughter Alexa enters her final season this fall.
- The 2017-2018 MVP will be… Marianna Papazoglou, Holy Trinity Egg Harbor. This year the clear-cut best player in the league will not have the same amount of firepower in support as in year’s past, which I think will finally get her over the hump in capturing her first MVP title. Realistically she has been the best player since the second she stepped foot onto the court, but others have had to do more with younger and less experienced players around them. If Marianna can continue her dominant play this year, I would say this is my easiest prediction to make.
- The 2017-2018 Champion will be… Holy Trinity Egg Harbor. For me, they are the champs until someone beats them. Losing their star point guard will hurt a lot but, there is no one in the league who can match the skill set of the frontcourt of Holy Trinity. St. George Media and St. Thomas Cherry Hill are the two biggest threats I see to a repeat, but in the end, if Holy Trinity’s frontcourt can hold strong, I can see them returning as repeat champions this season.
- The Most Improved Team in 2017 will be… Evangelismos. Okay, taking out of the equation how their season ended last year, the boys from Bustleton were a scrappy and strong team, that handed the eventual champions their only loss in 2016. Also, all of the teams who finished ahead of them in 2016 have graduated one or several key players, while Evangelismos remains entirely intact for this season. If they can stick to their aggressive game plan, they could emerge as the team to beat in 2017.
- The Team That Will Take the Greatest Step Back in 2017 will be… St. Demetrios Upper Darby. That epic championship battle from last year saw a senior-filled and composed group from St. D’s prevail in a hard-fought and closely contested game against Holy Trinity Egg Harbor. For the boys from Upper Darby, this year will be about replacing four starters from that championship team. Top point guard Laz Louca seems to be the type of player to be up for the challenge, but it might be too much to expect them to repeat their one-loss champions from a season ago. I still would not want to be the team that gets matched up against them come playoff time.
- The Coach of the Year will be… Anthony Panetta, Holy Trinity. It’s simple. I have been watching this league and have been a part of this league for a long time. Every year, Holy Trinity loses players. Every year, Holy Trinity is supposed to finish at or near the bottom. Yet every year, “Pappouvich” as some call him, manages to get his team to a spot in the finals. Seriously how has this guy not won one yet? He will have his work cut out for him this year, as he loses three starters from last year’s finals appearance as well, but if I have learned anything, it is, do not bet against this team playing well above their heads come to the start of the season, which starts from the guy with the clipboard.
- The 2017-2018 MVP will be… Greg Vlassopoulos, St. Luke Broomall. It was a down 2016 season for the Delco boys, who saw their season end far earlier than most would have expected. To get back to championship-contending form, the boys from Broomall will rely heavily on their elite junior guard, who really took the league by storm two years ago. After a year off, I can see Greg returning to his top form, and ultimately, retake the crown as the league’s most valuable player, this season.
- The 2017-2018 Champion will be… St. Luke Broomall. In a league with not a lot of top-level talent, St. Luke has the two greatest assets a championship team could ask for – an elite guard in Greg Vlassopoulos, and an elite big man in Chris Palmieri. If they can work out the kinks from last season and can get contributions and support from the rest of the team, I see this as the team to beat in 2017. Evangelismos Bustleton, and St. George Media will definitely have something to say about that, as they have strong contending teams as well, but I think this is the year that St. Luke’s gets back on top and captures the league title.