By Matt Popchock
Welcome to a new feature of the “Mr. High School Sports” blog, the WPIAL Shootaround! Each week for the remainder of the regular season we’ll preview the biggest games on the boys’ schedule, not to mention our Girls’ Game of the Week. This week there are a number of marquee matchups in the South Hills, especially in Quad-A, where we have a top ten battle on the boys’ side, and one team on the girls’ side trying to continue its hot streak after a humongous win. So without further ado, here’s what’s coming to a court near you:
GIRLS’ CLASS AAAA, SECTION 4
Canon-McMillan (0-0, 5-3) @ Baldwin (3-0, 8-1) (7:30)
On Tuesday the Highlanders played the role of giant killer when they ended state champion Mount Lebanon’s streak of 49 consecutive wins against District 7 opponents. Baldwin’s got a nice streak of its own going, seven in a row after beating the Blue Devils, and its defense, which is allowing just 43 points per game, has been a major catalyst. Canon-McMillan is also a confident bunch heading into its section opener, having won four straight, including three in a row against Washington County teams. The Big Macs are led by Emily Hansen, who paced them with 18 points in Tuesday’s win over Fort Cherry, while Taylor Wentzel had 13 and Belma Nurkic also added 13, including the game-winning shot, Tuesday in Baldwin’s epic victory. Check back with “Mr. High School Sports” on 937thefan.com Friday for a complete recap of this game.
BOYS’ CLASS AAAA, SECTION 4
Moon (1-2, 7-2) @ Mount Lebanon (2-0, 8-1) (7:30)
There’s no such thing as an easy night in this section, and it won’t get any easier for the Tigers to get back on track after a tough overtime loss at home to Baldwin Tuesday ended their four-game winning streak. Meanwhile, Mount Lebanon has rolled to six straight wins and is most assuredly riding high after routing arch-rival Bethel Park that same night. Lebo will count on more contributions from Tyler Roth, who put up 20 points in that contest, but the Blue Devils also have to watch out for Moon’s dangerous inside game, featuring Aaron Johnson, who pumped in 33 points and grabbed 14 boards Tuesday.
BOYS’ CLASS AAA, SECTION 5
South Fayette (2-0, 7-0) @ Washington (1-1, 5-3) (7:30)
The Lions will get their first real test since moving up to Class AAA, though posting victories against Class A Lincoln Park and Rochester in succession in the C.J. Betters Tournament isn’t a bad feather to have in their caps considering how well both those schools have fared against teams in higher classifications. It’ll take a great defense to stop the top-scoring offense in the classification, and the Little Prexies are the only team in their section allowing less than 50 points per game. Washington must contain the versatile Mike Lamberti, who averages 22 points per game and lit up McGuffey for 29 Wednesday night while securing 11 rebounds, and sophomore Josh Wise, who scored 19 in Tuesday’s loss to Ringgold, will have to ramp up his game again.
BOYS’ CLASS AA, SECTION 6
Avonworth (1-1, 5-4) @ Quaker Valley (2-1, 8-1) (7:30)
It’s been an up and down season for the ‘Lopes thus far, and they’d better hope Friday is an “up” night, because you can’t afford anyone to let down when you’re about to go against the top defensive squad in Class AA. They already crossed paths with the Quakers just last week, a blowout win by Quaker Valley in the consolation game of the Carlynton Holiday Tournament that was part of an ongoing five-game streak. The losing team tends to be a motivated bunch in the rematch, and Avonworth is hoping Mitch Lochner is still fired up after a 34-point outburst against Aliquippa Tuesday, while QV looks for another big night from Jon West, who averages 11 points and 7 rebounds and chipped in 19 and 9 in the last meeting.
BOYS’ CLASS A, SECTION 4
Clairton (0-0, 1-3) @ St. Joseph (0-0, 9-1) (7:30)
The Bears, many of them perhaps still recovering from another long football season, have gotten off to a rough start–so rough, in fact, they’ve yet to play a home game, but they have a chance to claw their way right back into things as both these teams open section play Friday. It’ll be another difficult test for Clairton’s defense, facing a St. Joseph’s squad that has won four in a row playing teams one and two classifications higher and is averaging a Class A-best 76.7 points per game. Byron Clifford led Clairton with 15 in a loss to Lincoln Park Tuesday, while Brian Heinle has been a bright spot for the Spartans, scoring 22 in the finals of their holiday tournament against Valley last week in the absence of injured star Mike Connelly.
For continuing coverage of WPIAL basketball, be sure to check back with Mr. High School Sports throughout the 2010-11 season!