“Mr. High School Sports” – WPIAL Basketball Playoff Highlights – Preliminary/First Round, Day 3
By Matt Popchock
Avonworth’s defense was on full display once again, and at Northgate High School those girls wasted little time putting on another clinic.
The Lady ‘Lopes (20-3) opened the first half on a 13-0 run and the second on a 14-0 spurt to put themselves on the path to an easy 56-31 First Round victory over No. 12 seed Keystone Oaks last Wednesday. They held the Golden Eagles (16-8) without a double-digit scorer, as senior guard Catherine Costa matched up all too well with junior guard Alexa Xenakis.
Xenakis only managed six points, all of them in the final period. Senior forward Michela Stump led KO with seven and five rebounds. Costa need a quarter to get going, but eventually finished with 13 points, including three of her team’s six three-pointers, and three assists.
Junior forward Lauren Mayernik paced the Antelopes, who advanced to meet No. 5 seed Bishop Canevin in the Quarterfinals, with a game-high 20 points and eight boards. Nine of those points came on free throws.
The Rochester boys, meanwhile, didn’t need free throws to eliminate No. 16 seed Leechburg. They just needed to stop turning the ball over.
Once the top-seeded Rams (19-3) settled down and got their offense in sync, it was smooth sailing in a 63-23 mercy-rule win in the nightcap at Northgate High School, a Boys’ Class A First Round contest. Like the Avonworth girls, their opponent did not have anyone in double figures.
All five Rochester starters scored in the first quarter to help it open up a 19-4 advantage, which eventually swelled to 33-8 at the half. Senior guard E.J. Blackwell chipped in 16 points, five assists, and four rebounds, and senior big man Giovanni Ellis made a big splash down low with 16 points and 12 boards.
Senior forward Dylan Romaniw was one of three Blue Devils (10-12) to score four points and finished with a team-best eight rebounds. Meanwhile, Rochester advanced to the Class A Quarterfinals against a newly-energized Clairton squad.
Here’s what else happened on day three of the 2011 playoffs:
BOYS’ CLASS AAA PRELIMINARY ROUND:
South Fayette 73, South Park 50 (@ Canon-McMillan) – The top-seeded Lions (20-1) started well and handled their business despite an offensive effort by the Eagles (13-11) more balanced than usual. Pat Zedreck paced South Fayette with 21 points to earn his team a Quarterfinal date with Uniontown, while team scoring leader Tom Bigley netted a game-high 22 for South Park.
Uniontown 59, Mars 42 (@ Gateway) – More early-tournament woes for Section 1, as a 12-3 run through the first quarter and a 20-8 beating in the third effectively ended the Planets’ (18-5) season. The ninth-seeded Red Raiders (16-5) earned the right to face former WPIAL/PIAA Class AA champ South Fayette, not to mention their first playoff win in nine years, with 14 points apiece from Daryl Ricks and Marcus Thomas.
New Castle 54, Trinity 51 (@ North Allegheny) – Josh Valentic pumped in five three-pointers for the Hillers (15-9) en route to a game-high 32 points but, in the closing seconds, missed one from beyond the arc that would have forced overtime. No. 4 seed New Castle survived a nice defensive effort by No. 13 seed Trinity that saw Cory Eggleston’s damage limited, but Shawn Anderson managed 23 points for the Red Hurricane (17-6), who advanced to meet section rival Central Valley.
Central Valley 70, Highlands 57 (@ North Hills) – The Warriors (14-8) used an unconventional defense to shut down WPIAL scoring champion Micah Mason and keep the other Golden Rams (15-8) off balance, and used outside shooting to earn their first playoff victory in the new program’s first-ever playoff game. Nick Delisio played hurt and scored 19 of his game-high 26 points in the second half for No. 12 seed Central Valley, which already beat upcoming opponent New Castle once in the regular season.
West Mifflin 35, West Allegheny 28 (@ Baldwin) – Alex Reilly of West A led all with 11 points, and eight points from Leondrae Cobbs helped the second-seeded Titans (21-2) win an ugly one over the Indians (13-11), but the headline-grabber was the status of West Mifflin superstar C.J. Hester. He left the game for good without any points after inadvertently bumping heads with a teammate and presumably re-aggravating a concussion he suffered in the penultimate week of the regular season.
Montour 56, Thomas Jefferson 28 (@ Chartiers Valley) – Aaron McGee drained a game-high 17 points for No. 7 seed Montour, though one could argue the star of the game, collectively, was that team’s defense, which held the tenth-seeded Jaguars (14-9) to single digits in each of the first three quarters. The Spartans (16-7) advanced to a Quarterfinal contest with West Mifflin that got a lot more interesting–and a lot more evenly matched–with news of Hester’s concussion.
Blackhawk 63, Ringgold 47 (@ Moon) – With Chandler Kincade out, the rest of the starting five for the third-seeded Cougars (16-7) had little trouble getting into the act against No. 14 seed Ringgold. Brian Alviani buried five of his six three-pointers in the first half to lead Blackhawk into the Quarterfinals against Hampton with a game-high 18 points, and the Rams (16-8) couldn’t answer after falling behind by ten at the half.
Hampton 51, Greensburg-Salem 37 (@ Franklin Regional) – Don’t count No. 11 seed Hampton out of a third straight WPIAL Final appearance just yet. Tyler Robbins of the Golden Lions (18-5) led all with 13 points, but the Talbots (15-7) had their way with the Section 3 co-champions in the second half, as Mark Pilarski’s 12 points helped them open up an 18-point lead at one moment to earn their Quarterfinal date with Blackhawk.
BOYS’ CLASS A FIRST ROUND:
Clairton 60, Cornell 50 (@ Keystone Oaks) – Once again, the ninth-seeded Bears (9-10) got their football-bound participants back in the nick of time, and so they seem to be peaking in the nick of time, having earned revenge over the eighth-seeded Raiders (14-8) for last year’s playoff setback. Gridiron great Desimon Green, one of four Bears in double digits, led Clairton with a game-high 16 points to put the team in the Quarterfinals against top-seeded Rochester.
GIRLS’ CLASS AAAA FIRST ROUND:
Mount Lebanon 59, Pine-Richland 33 (@ Baldwin) – Not surprisingly, the defending WPIAL and PIAA champs put away the Rams (8-11) early to set up a Quarterfinal date with No. 8 seed Gateway. Player-of-the-Year Madison Cable and Emma Pellicano led the top-seeded Blue Devils (18-5) with 15 points each to capture the team’s 14th consecutive win.
Gateway 46, Kiski Area 44 (@ Franklin Regional) – In the bigger picture this nail-biter was a tale of two halves. The Cavaliers (19-4) built a 12-point cushion at the half, but the Gators (15-8) shot lights-out in the third quarter and held Kiski without a field goal for a majority of the fourth. Destiny Brown managed 17 points for Gateway, while Mackenzie Zidek scored a game-high 20 in a losing effort.
GIRLS’ CLASS AA FIRST ROUND:
Seton-La Salle 54, Our Lady of the Sacred Heart 33 (@ Chartiers Valley) – Sacred Heart’s defense slowed down the most prolific offense in the WPIAL for one half, but that’s all the top-seeded Rebels (21-2) needed to solve the Chargers (14-10). Angela Heintz led all with 14 points to put LaSalle into the Quarterfinals against Greensburg C.C.
Greensburg C.C. 50, Washington 42 (@ Canon-McMillan) – The ninth-seeded Centurions (18-6) stormed out to a 16-4 advantage after one quarter and, from that point forward, had too many answers for the Little Prexies (15-8). Fourteen of those came from Emily Kelly, who finished with a game-high 25 points to help GCC avenge a 2009 playoff loss to Washington and reach its fourth Quarterfinal in five years.
Bishop Canevin 53, Neshannock 39 (@ Moon) – Who needs Erin Waskowiak when you’ve got Johnie Olkosky. Okay, we know the fourth-seeded Crusaders (19-4) need Waskowiak’s leadership, but Olkosky stepped up with her team struggling, draining 18 points to put them into the Quarterfinals against Avonworth. Chelsea Kauffman turned in a commendable 20-point effort for the Lancers (16-8).
Riverside 52, Quaker Valley 26 (@ North Allegheny) – This one was almost but a mere formality, as the second-seeded Panthers (20-3) advanced to the Quarterfinals by taking another Beaver County foe to school. Nineteen points in the first half were plenty, but Sam Weir tacked on eight to finish with 27, and added seven blocks to continue her exciting sophomore year and served the Quakers (15-9) a tough pill to swallow in what was a year of great improvement nevertheless.
Beaver Falls 52, Charleroi 40 (@ Keystone Oaks) – The Cougars (20-2) came in with a gaudy resume, but the Tigers (18-6) eagerly applied the lessons learned from playing in a tougher section in dispatching of Charleroi to earn one last shot at Riverside. Speaking of exciting underclassmen, Ciana Law pumped in 13 points and grabbed 20 boards for No. 10 seed BF–marking the second straight playoff game she’s ended with that many rebounds.
Deer Lakes 60, Sto-Rox 32 (@ North Hills) – Kori Ford cashed in with a game-high 20 points, but she couldn’t carry the 14th-seeded Vikings (11-12) on her back. An 18-0 run and more trademark tough defense propelled the Lancers (21-2) into the Quarterfinals for a playoff rematch against the defending WPIAL champions, as Danielle Kearns led the way with 14 points.
Jeannette 70, Steel Valley 66 (@ Gateway) – No. 6 seed Jeannette got its usual strong performance from Ciara Gregory, whose game-high 21 led the Jayhawks (13-8), but Dominique Hall also contributed in a big way with 15 points amidst a fourth quarter that saw the Class AA champs erase a ten-point deficit. C.C. Dixon led the Ironmen (15-9) with 21 too, as Jeannette moves on to face No. 3 seed Deer Lakes, a team whose season they ended abruptly last year.
For continuing coverage of the WPIAL Boys’ and Girls’ Basketball Playoffs, be sure to check back with Mr. High School Sports later this week!