February 28, 2019
By: Sean Fritz
Friday night's 4A Boys District XI Championship basketball game will have some added excitement besides the top two seeds in the 4A classification set to meet. It'll feature one of the area's top rivalry games in a battle between two historic basketball programs of top-seeded Bethlehem Catholic and second-seeded Central Catholic.
The meeting on Friday night will not only be for the District title, but will also be for bragging rights since it'll be the first time the teams have met this season. Due to the EPC being home to 18 programs divided into three divisions, each division only has the scheduling space for single games against one of the two remaining divisions to go along with their two games with each divisional opponent per season. In other words, it was an oddity that the Hawks and Vikings didn't get the chance to meet during the regular season, but it is an oddity that will become more common over the next couple of years due to how the scheduling is now designed.
In any event, these teams are more familiar with one another than one would think, especially from a coaching perspective. First-year Bethlehem Catholic head coach Scott McClary served on the Central Catholic coaching staff last season under Vikings' head coach Dennis Csencsits. McClary helped the Vikings go on to win a District Championship in the 5A Classification in his lone year with the Vikings, but this year he'll be looking to stop the Vikings short of hoisting another District XI trophy.
This time, he hopes it'll be his Golden Hawks who will be hoisting it, a program who's done so in each of the last two seasons as District XI 4A Champions in both 2017 and 2018. A Beca win Friday over their rivals will cap off an outstanding season within league and district play, boasting a record of 24-3 thus far that would include EPC and District XI championships if they can hold off the Vikings.
But coach McClary knows that's easier said than done for the Hawks, who will have a couple of big challenges to take care of come Friday night. First and foremost will be having to limit and contain Central senior and top scorer Chad Kratzer who has a great ability to create for himself off the dribble and knock down shots from the outside when available. The Hawks will also be facing a bit more size than they've seen in their first two district playoff games. The Vikings also have a couple of impact players who possess a threat with size and their outside game, specifically 6'5" junior forward Nick Filchner who is an excellent perimeter shooter.
On the other end of the floor for Central, they know they've got their work cut out for them as well similarly enough with their need to slow down Beca's leading scorer in senior guard Justin Paz who, like Kratzer, can create off the dribble and shoot from the outside too. Although Central poses a bigger threat with size to the Hawks than some previous opponents, the Vikings will have to use every inch of that size to focus on Golden Hawks' 6'9" big man Kyle Young who has been a double-double machine for much of this season.
All in all, it'll certainly be one of the more anticipated matchups of the season and a great finale to action in the 4A bracket. Bragging rights will be on the line come Friday night and the chance to hoist a championship trophy makes everything an added bonus for a big-time rivalry game like The Holy War.