“Mr. High School Sports” – WPIAL Basketball Playoff Highlights – Preliminary/First Round, Day 4
By Matt Popchock
Bobby Swartwout probably never imagined he’d be so happy to hit two free throws.
That’s because Brett Hoffman’s seemingly meaningless last-second heave banked in from three-quarters the length of the floor. However, since Butler’s senior forward did his duty, the Golden Tornado (13-9) hung on for a 51-50 come-from-behind win over No. 8 seed Moon in Boys’ Class AAAA First Round competition at North Allegheny High School last Thursday.
Hoffman finished with 16 points, the last of them coming on his third three-pointer of the night, while Swartwout led No. 9 seed Butler with 18. Swartwout often handled the daunting task of matching up with Moon senior forward Aaron Johnson, who paced the Tigers (15-8) with a game-high 20 points in defeat.
Moon made it clear that Johnson would once again be the focal point of its offense, and Johnson helped push his team to a seven-point halftime lead. He picked up in the second half with a couple key answers in the third quarter, but the game turned on a dime in that period when Butler’s outside shooting got red-hot. The Golden Tornado hit three three-pointers in succession, including two trifectas in a row by senior guard Zach Slater, which gave Butler a 36-31 lead.
The Tigers forged a 45-45 tie with 2:40 left in regulation, and Cody Herald’s and-one layup with just over two minutes to go gave Butler the lead for good. Johnson cut Moon’s deficit to 49-47 with under a minute left, but Hoffman missed a potentially decisive three from the left side before Swartwout was fouled in the closing seconds.
Butler advanced to meet top seed and section rival Shaler in the Quarterfinals.
The final moments of the Girls’ Class AAA First Round contest at North Allegheny last Thursday were equally dramatic. Hopewell sophomore guard Shatori Walker-Kimbrough played through an injured nose bloodied–twice–by flying elbows, and was determined to make sure Section 4 champion South Park was the one leaving red-faced.
Walker-Kimbrough drained 13 of her game-high 25 points in the fourth quarter, including a game-winning layup in the Vikings’ (13-10) 51-44 upset of No. 3 seed South Park. It was the third lead change she had engineered in that period. She added a pair of game-clinching free throws, making up for two she had missed a short while ago.
Another sophomore guard, Shelby Lindsay, led the Eagles (19-4) with 17 points and six rebounds, and had the ball in her hands in the last minute with the outcome still in doubt. But the PIAA officiating crew on hand surprised both sides of the gym when it fouled Lindsay out by calling a questionable charge.
Walker-Kimbrough also grabbed eight boards for No. 14 seed Hopewell, which moved on to face another Class AAA upstart, No. 11 seed Ambridge, in the Quarterfinals.
Here’s what else happened on day four of the 2011 playoffs:
BOYS’ CLASS AAAA FIRST ROUND:
Shaler 70, Plum 45 (@ North Hills) – They won the play-in game, but the Mustangs’ (9-13) hopes of an eye-popping upset ended when top-seeded Shaler went on a 23-8 run through the second quarter after a tie game through one. As expected, Geno Thorpe came up big with 22 points to lead the Titans (22-1), who advanced to meet section rival Butler. On a positive note, Plum’s Nolan Cressler put on an impressive show with 23.
Mount Lebanon 65, Penn Hills 61 (2 OT) (@ Baldwin) – Every team hits a bump in the road, though this “bump” almost completely turned over No. 2 seed Mount Lebanon’s bandwagon on its way toward the Palumbo Center. Paul Lang helped the Blue Devils (21-2) pound the 16th-seeded Indians (11-11) inside with 28 points, but also making a world of difference was unheralded Evan Eaton, whose 16 points spurned on Lebo to the Quarterfinals versus Connellsville.
Connellsville 52, Pine-Richland 50 (@ Hempfield) – They may have had to settle for a pedestrian seeding out of a difficult section, but the Rams (13-7) proved they belong in the Quad-A playoffs by pushing Section 1 champion and No. 8 seed Connellsville to its limit. Johnny Leonard put the Falcons (20-2) on his back with a whopping 33 points to put his team in the Quarterfinals against the WPIAL champs.
BOYS’ CLASS AA FIRST ROUND:
Greensburg C.C. 65, Carlynton 48 (@ Gateway) – The Cougars (13-10) tried to make things interesting in the second quarter, but the offensive machinery kept on humming for top-seeded GCC, which moved on to face upstart Summit Academy in the Quarterfinals. The Centurions’ (21-2), team scoring leader Jesse Reed topped all players with 24 points.
Summit Academy 46, Shady Side Academy 41 (@ Northgate) – It’s time to start taking this program seriously, as the Knights (16-8) enjoyed one of the biggest wins in their history against No. 9 seed Shady Side, a team short on age but not short on postseason experience. Evan Lutins led the Indians (15-7) with 18, while Ronald Smith paced Summit, which rallied in the fourth quarter, with 13 points.
Quaker Valley 44, Bishop Canevin 30 (@ Ambridge) – Once again, No. 4 seed Quaker Valley used its inside game to wear down an opponent and its defense to break it. Augie Luptak’s team-high 13 points led the Quakers (20-3), who slammed the door in the Crusaders’ (13-11) faces in the second half, despite an impressive 14-point effort from Canevin’s Bobby Gustine.
Sto-Rox 61, Steel Valley 29 (@ Keystone Oaks) – Make it 17 wins in a row for the fifth-seeded Vikings (20-3), who sent a message loud and clear to Quarterfinal opponent Quaker Valley. Marzett Geter and Dontezz Ford chipped in 15 points apiece as, starting with a strong second quarter, the Section 5 champions distanced themselves from the Ironmen (9-15).
Beaver Falls 74, California 34 (@ Chartiers Valley) – One of the most competitive scoring tandems in Class AA was no match for Sheldon Jeter and No. 2 seed Beaver Falls. Jeter pumped in a game-high 22 points, and his game-opening dunk set the tone for an easy day for the Tigers (18-5), who limited the Trojans’ (15-9) dynamic duo, John Tyler and Tanner Huffman, to a combined 17 points.
Wilkinsburg 63, Neshannock 27 (@ Ambridge) – The tenth-seeded Tigers (16-5) completely overwhelmed the seventh-seeded Lancers (17-6), building a staggering 37-point lead at the half. Robert Taylor, a name that would become a little more familiar a couple days later, led the onslaught with 14 points to put Wilkinsburg in the Quarterfinals against Beaver Falls.
Monessen 61, Ellwood City 38 (@ Canon-McMillan) – The team chemistry and team toughness of No. 2 seed Monessen was once again on display, as Brendan Pinkney and Nick Bolias each led the Greyhounds with 12 points to set up a matchup with No. 6 seed Jeannette after an easy win over the young Wolverines (12-11). Brandon Lucarelli scored a game-high 13 for Ellwood City.
Jeannette 58, Aliquippa 55 (@ Fox Chapel) – Despite all the turmoil and turnover at Aliquippa, the 11th-seeded Quips (10-14) proved the old dog could still bark by storming out to a 12-point halftime lead and modest third-quarter advantage. But Jordan Batts led a comeback by the Jayhawks (15-6) with 18 points, ten rebounds, and great defense in the clutch to put them into the Quarterfinals.
GIRLS’ CLASS AAA FIRST ROUND:
Indiana 48, West Allegheny 40 (@ Hempfield) – Perhaps this would be the “scared straight” experience that every great team gets occasionally, and that every great team, in a weird way, needs, in order to get stronger? At any rate, the Indians (10-14) gave the Little Indians (22-1) a run for their money, but the No. 1 seed in Girls’ Class AAA got 20 points from Kristin Brice to break a halftime tie and survive.
Uniontown 66, Kittanning 42 (@ Gateway) – Neither team had any problem turning this game into an offensive track meet, but in the second half the Red Raiders (19-4) turned it into an easy jog to victory over the eighth-seeded Wildcats (18-5). Kittanning gave up a season high in points, including a game-high 17 to Kelsey Sleighter, who helped put Uniontown into a tough spot against top seed Indiana.
Mount Pleasant 52, Chartiers Valley 44 (OT) (@ Canon-McMillan) – The Lady Colts (17-6) couldn’t quite duplicate the success of their male counterparts, because they couldn’t get out of the shadow of Mount Pleasant’s stingy defense. Lexi Herron forced OT for Char’ Valley at the buzzer, but the 14th-seeded Vikings (18-5) shut them down in the extra period, and Nicole Malara supplied 17 points for a stunning win, a date with Blackhawk, and revenge for last year’s playoff misery.
Blackhawk 60, Thomas Jefferson 47 (@ North Hills) – Both the Blackhawk boys and girls seem to have flown under the radar at times, but the Lady Cougars (15-9) put themselves on the map by showing patience to put down the hard-working Jaguars (18-5). It was all about execution, and not only did Alexa Hayward contribute 20 points, but Blackhawk got over half its offense on free throws. TJ’s Ashley Stoner ended her high school career nicely with 21 points.
New Castle 53, Laurel Highlands 29 (@ Fox Chapel) – How far could the defending champions go without top scoring threat Kaylynn Waters? They at least avoided a First Round hiccup with a masterful victory over the Mustangs (14-10). LaShauna Brothers continued to pick up the slack with a game-high 23 points for the Red Hurricane (20-3), which moved on to meet No. 7 seed West Mifflin in the Quarterfinals.
West Mifflin 70, South Fayette 52 (@ Baldwin) – Lost but hopefully not forgotten in the end of the Lions’ (15-7) season was one of the best First Round performances by a player on a losing team. Caleigh Henry scored a game-high 24 points for No. 10 seed South Fayette, but Jayla Leftwich kept her teammates off the glass with 21 rebounds and added 12 points to help the seventh-seeded Titans (17-6) advance.
Ambridge 40, Montour 39 (@ Chartiers Valley) – Codi Lee Dugan led all with 12 points for the Spartans (17-6), but Ambridge’s defense frustrated team scoring leader Meghan Mastroianni and No. 6 seed Montour, and Katie Fischer’s tenth point came in the form of a last-second free throw that gave the 11th-seeded Bridgers (18-6) the upset and a date with Hopewell.
GIRLS’ CLASS A FIRST ROUND:
Vincentian Academy 75, Cornell 39 (@ Keystone Oaks) – Cornell wasn’t expected to put up much of a fight against the number one seed in the Girls’ Class A bracket, nor did it. A balanced effort led by Ashlee Darby’s 13 points, not to mention a halftime lead of 21 points, was more than enough to push the Royals (21-1) past the Raiders (9-15) and into the Quarterfinals against No. 8 seed Rochester.
Rochester 49, Riverview 33 (@ Northgate) – The Raiders (16-6) couldn’t muster much offense in the first half, which led to their demise at the hands of the Rams (11-11). Rochester moved the ball with relative ease, and Ivorie Law led the way with 20 points to move this scrappy Rochester squad into the Quarterfinals against the highly-touted Royals.
For continuing coverage of the WPIAL Boys’ and Girls’ Basketball Playoffs, be sure to check back with Mr. High School Sports this weekend!