By Matt Popchock


8:37 PM – It’s one of the busiest nights of the year in high school sports around these parts. The PIAA Football Semifinals are happening as we speak, and the 2011-12 WPIAL boys’ basketball season is getting underway tonight as well.

Invitational tournaments are raging on throughout western Pennsylvania as we speak, and “Mr. High School Sports” is blogging live from the featured game on night number one of the EQT Energy Classic at Canon-McMillan High School, which pits the host Big Macs against their Washington County brethren, the Burgettstown Blue Devils, in a Class-AAAA-versus-Class-AA contest. Tip-off is set for shortly after 9:00 P.M.

8:45 – ‘Tis true what Joe Cocker once crooned: I get by with a little help from my friends.

Here at halftime, last year’s tournament champion, Pikeville (Kentucky) leads Washington 30-29 in the penultimate game of the first day.

But thanks to my friends at Trib Total Media, including the Tribune-Review’s Chris Harlan, I also have some PIAA football playoff updates for you:

Clairton has opened up a 24-8 lead on Sharpsville in the 3rd quarter, overcoming a sloppy first half that saw the Blue Devils hang around for much of it. Tyler Boyd has accounted for all three Bears TD’s.

Montour is about to resume its game against Bishop McDevitt, leading the Crusaders 26-20 at the half. Julian Durden has 18 carries for 97 yards and 2 TD’s, and Dillon Buechel is 11 of 15 for 215 yards. Gatorade PA Player of the Year Noah Spence was very disruptive at the beginning of the game, but clearly the Spartans have found answers for McDevitt’s defense over the long haul. It was a very back-and-forth half…Devin Wilson, by the way, has 6 catches for 91 yards.

I’ll have more on these games–and more on tomorrow’s football games featuring Aliquippa and North Allegheny later at

8:55 – Andre Robinson and Darnell Holland have scored quickly for Bishop McDevitt, which now leads Montour 34-26 late in the 3rd.

Meanwhile, Washington and Pikeville have just resumed play in the second half here at Canon-Mac.

9:00 – Pikeville guard Will Branham leads all with 18 points. The Panthers have opened up a 36-32 lead over the Little Prexies with 5:00 left in the 3rd quarter.

Moments later, the Prexies surrender a three to Jacob Hamilton and call timeout. 39-32 Pikeville, 4:41 left, 3rd.

9:03 – Wow…3 TD’s in under 7:00 for McDevitt. Now Montour is really on the ropes. Holland scores again to make it 41-26 Crusaders in the 2nd half. Do the Spartans have another rabbit in their hat after erasing a 21-point deficit to Grove City last week?

9:11 – Start of the 4th quarter in this one; the Prexies have done some good work on the glass, and now trail just 42-39. Meanwhile, Montour football continues to trail McDevitt 41-26 early in the 4th quarter of that game.

9:14 – The Spartans have scored on a short catch by Devin Wilson and have the ball again, now trailing McDevitt just 41-32 early in the 4th.

9:21 – Will Branham just made his first field goal of the half on a layup, and Pikeville leads Washington 51-45 with under 4 minutes left in the game.

9:27 – Montour still trails 41-32, and the Spartans have punted with about 4 minutes left in its game against Bishop McDevitt…

9:39 – There will be no repeat title for Pikeville this year; Washington comes from behind to defeat the 2010 EQT Energy Classic champs by a final of 56-53 at Canon-McMillan High. Big game for Eric Ellis, who ends the night with 22 points, including two game-deciding free throws in the final minute. Jordan Drew had missed two charity shots on the previous possession, but redeemed himself with a game-clinching defensive rebound. More on this game later.

Meanwhile, Bishop McDevitt football has defeated Montour 41-32. Congrats to Lou Cerro and the Spartans on a great run in 2011, which ends with a record of 12-3.

9:43 – EQT Energy Classic host Canon-McMillan and Burgettstown, better late than never, are in warmups, and just a few minutes away from tip-off.

9:50 – Big Macs and Blue Devils about to get underway. Anthem time.

By the way, Pikeville, per their loss, will play fellow Kentucky squad Allen Central in the Consolation Semifinals at 2:30 PM Saturday. Trinity beat Allen Central 79-59 earlier today.

10:05 – End of the 1st quarter, Canon-Mac leads Burgettstown 16-9. Both teams shooting well from the perimeter, but the Big Macs’ aggressive defense has been the difference, creating some opportunities in transition.

10:12 – Timeout Canon-Mac, and the home team has extended its lead to 21-9 with 5:20 left in the 2nd quarter. Burgettstown being a little overzealous and now one shy of putting Canon-Mac in the bonus after a couple of charging fouls.

10:20 – Burgettstown calls time with 1:08 left in the half, and the Big Macs are still in command, 27-10. Good rebounding, good ball movement, and good shooting by Brett Haney, who has 11, including three 3-pointers.

10:25 – We’re at halftime of the final game of day one of the EQT Energy Classic, and we’ve got a dance-off at the tip-off tournament among the Canon-McMillan student body…as the Big Macs lead 27-10.

Canon-Mac’s defense has really suffocated Burgettstown, holding the Blue Devils without a “traditional” field goal the entire 1st half. Haney leads all with 11, while John Todd leads Burgettstown with 7, including a pair of threes.

10:30 – Canon-Mac is shooting around, and we’re moments away from resuming this one. If the Big Macs handle their business, they’ll play Waynesburg, which beat West Greene 69-51 earlier today, in the tournament semifinal Saturday at 8:00 PM.

10:32 – THE CLAIRTON BEARS HAVE WON THEIR 46TH FOOTBALL GAME IN A ROW, DEFEATING SHARPSVILLE 30-8 IN THE PIAA CLASS A SEMIFINALS. The Bears are one win away from a state title for the third year in a row, and from beating Braddock’s WPIAL record for longest win streak. More on this later at

10:37 – Canon-Mac takes timeout off a defensive rebound, leading Burgettstown 32-14 early in the 3rd. The Blue Devils’ Ryan Glover hit their first “traditional” field goal of the game 1:45 into the period.

10:44 – The disparity between Class AA and Class AAAA is apparent, at least in this game, as the Big Macs hold a 40-18 advantage, their biggest of the night, with 2:19 left in the 3rd quarter. Canon-Mac a little sloppier offensively, but it hasn’t mattered, because they’ve put a brick wall around their own basket.

10:50 – D.J. Johnson beats the buzzer with an easy layup, and Canon-Mac has doubled up Burgettstown, 46-23, after three. Big Macs already with 6 fouls (to the Blue Devils’ 3), but getting good minutes from their bench on both ends of the floor, and taking advantage of bad ball-handling by the visitors. Canon-Mac has outworked them.

10:53 – Timeout Burgettstown after a three by Haney, his fourth of the night. 51-27 Big Macs early in the 4th.

11:00 – It remains a foregone conclusion, with Canon-Mac leading Burgettstown 60-29. Once again, the Big Macs are outworking and out-hustling their counterparts. They’re working the ball inside nicely, and there really hasn’t been much of a Burgettstown presence in the paint. They seem in awe of the Big Macs.

11:10 – The Blue Devils are doubled up one last time; the game ends, as Canon-McMillan routs Burgettstown 64-32. Burgettstown will play in the first of Saturday’s consolation semifinals at 1:00 PM. Canon-Mac’s team defense was just too much. Good all-around effort tonight from the hosts.

Once again, the Big Macs will play Class AAA Waynesburg in the tournament semifinals Saturday night at 8:00.

More on this game to come later at…

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