“Mr. High School Sports” – PIAA Basketball Playoff Preview: First Round
By Matt Popchock
The snow just won’t go away…and neither will the high school hoops action. The WPIAL boys’ and girls’ champions have all assumed the position of PIAA championship challengers, and a number of teams who didn’t earn gold medals at Duquesne University have earned a stay of execution on their 2010-11 season as well.
Gateway’s victory over Chartiers Valley in the WPIAL Boys’ Class AAAA Final allowed Upper St. Clair to enter the state tournament after its near-miss against the Gators in the quarterfinals, but the Panthers bowed to District 10’s Erie McDowell in the Preliminary Round. Danny Holzer and the Panthers end their 2010-11 campaign at 16-9.
In other PIAA Boys’ Preliminary Round action, the rest of the District 7 participants handled their business. West Mifflin, Uniontown, and New Castle all won Class AAA play-in games, while Beaver Falls was also victorious in its Class AA contest.
On the other side of the ledger, the WPIAL went a perfect–and most appropriate–7-for-7 in PIAA Girls’ Preliminary Round competition. Oakland Catholic, Bethel Park, and Penn-Trafford won in Quad-A, while Mount Pleasant (AAA), New Castle (AAA), Hopewell (AAA), and Avonworth (AA) were victorious in their respective tournaments.
That sets the stage for a full weekend of First Round action Friday and Saturday. Here are some of the boys’ and girls’ games to watch:
BOYS’ CLASS AAAA:
Allderdice (17-7) vs. Chartiers Valley (20-6) – Saturday, 4:30 PM @ Peabody
It’s the Quad-A runners-up versus the City League champions. After struggling mightily with an athletic Gateway squad at the Palumbo Center, the Colts now have to face the zone defense of the Dragons, who can also run the floor well, just like Gateway. Wayne Capers said he never again wants to feel the way he did following the title game loss, so he’ll be fired up for this one, but as he pointed out, Char’ Valley needs to cut down on turnovers.
BOYS’ CLASS AAA:
South Fayette (22-2) vs. General McClane (17-5) – Friday, 7:30 PM @ Moon
The Lions will be anxious to prove the surprising and disappointing end to the program’s historic District 7 campaign was a fluke. The Lancers average less than 50 points allowed per game–roughly the same number as both South Fayette and WPIAL champ Montour.
Perry (21-4) vs. Blackhawk (17-8) – Friday, 7:30 PM @ Brashear
This will be a good test for the Cougars’ defense, which has shown an ability to break down some pretty good offensive teams. They have to isolate Marcus Brown, who personifies the Commodores’ quickness, and isn’t afraid to shoot from anywhere.
BOYS’ CLASS AA:
Beaver Falls (20-7) vs. Bishop McCort (19-7) – Saturday, 3:00 PM @ Richland-Cambria
Sheldon Jeter probably feels like he left a few points on the floor at Aliquippa after scoring 31 and fouling out of an upset loss in the WPIAL Quarterfinals, and he’ll look for a few more against the Crimson Crushers. The Tigers need to contain big man Nemo Trexler, who averages 10.7 points and 9.5 rebounds per game and led McCort to the District 6 title.
Summit Academy (16-9) vs. North East (19-6) – Saturday, 3:00 PM @ Gannon University
We’ve talked before about the rare success of the Knights this season, as they have played some tough basketball against some of the top teams in WPIAL Class AA, and now they have to avoid stage fright against a perennial District 10 powerhouse. Keep your eye on Arley Townsend, who averages 13.6 points per game for Summit, and Aaron Wakley, who averages 11.7 per game for the Grape Pickers.
BOYS’ CLASS A:
Lincoln Park (17-7) vs. West Middlesex (15-10) – Friday, 7:00 PM @ Ambridge
You know the dynamic duo of Chaquille Pratt and Devontae Watson are going to be eager to get back at it after another WPIAL title game failure, and the Leopards seem to have drawn a favorable matchup against the Big Reds. Lincoln Park needs to handle the ball and execute better against the District 10 runners-up than they did against Vincentian.
GIRLS’ CLASS AAAA:
Shaler (24-2) vs. Penn-Trafford (21-5) – Friday, 6:00 PM @ North Allegheny
Ironically, the Warriors, after falling to Shaler, earned the right to play in the state tournament after Shaler’s upset of Mount Lebanon. In the meantime, can they do a better job containing Hillary Sauer this time around, and can they do a better job against the Titans’ in-your-face defense?
Allderdice (21-4) vs. Mount Lebanon (20-6) – Friday, 6:00 PM @ Brashear
The dethroned WPIAL champs still have a shot to three-peat at Penn State, and their redemption tour begins with a matchup against the City League champs. It was Janay Bottoms who helped the ‘Dice roll to a title with a strong second half against Westinghouse, and you’d better believe the Blue Devils will turn to Madison Cable once again for similar leadership on both ends.
GIRLS’ CLASS AAA:
St. Mary’s (22-1) vs. New Castle (24-4) – Saturday, 4:30 PM @ Clarion University
Both these teams know how to put the ball in the basket, let’s just put it that way…and it should be interesting to see how the Red Hurricane handle one of the most dynamic players in the bracket minus Kaylynn Waters, one of their own superstars. This game may come down to whether LaShauna Brothers can outshine Kayla Hoohuli, who averages 30 points and ten boards per game for the Flying Dutch.
GIRLS’ CLASS AA:
Seton-LaSalle (24-2) vs. Girard (22-3) – Friday, 6:00 PM @ Moon
On this side of the state the Rebels enter the PIAA tournament looking like one of the closest things to a state champion we can find, and their second postseason journey begins against the District 10 runner-up. The key for the Yellow Jackets to stay in this game will be to start better than Jeannette did, as Seton-LaSalle averages an incredible 61 first-half points to Girard’s 23.
Marion Center (24-1) vs. Avonworth (22-5) – Friday, 6:30 PM @ Central Cambria
The trademark of the Lady ‘Lopes has been their suffocating defense, and after getting a taste of their own medicine in the WPIAL Quarterfinals against Bishop Canevin, they re-established their identity in a play-in victory over Northern Bedford County. They need to minimize turnovers on offense and use that defense to generate some by Amy Fairman, who averages 12.5 points and four steals per game for the Stingers’ mobile offense.
GIRLS’ CLASS A:
Coudersport (24-1) vs. Aliquippa (21-3) – Saturday, 3:00 PM @ St. Mary’s
After getting schooled by the eventual WPIAL champions, the Quips have a chance to show how much they’ve grown in what should be another measuring-stick game against the gold medalists from Class A in District 9. Defensive rebounding will be a big key against top scorer Jenna Matzinger and the Falcons, who average over 66 points a game, as will the play of Nakira Emerson, who averages a double-double (14 pts., 10 reb.).
For continuing coverage of the PIAA Boys’ and Girls’ Basketball Playoffs, be sure to check back with Mr. High School Sports next week!