By Matt Popchock

The stretch run of the 2010-11 regular campaign is underway, meaning for some time to take charge of their own destiny, and for others, time to do some scoreboard-watching.  A couple of Catholic school programs will be saying their prayers for victory this Friday, while some top-fives await golden opportunities to inch closer to the top WPIAL Playoff seeds.  Speaking of top-fives and Catholic schools, two of the top girls’ squads will be on display uptown this weekend.  So without further ado, here’s what’s coming to a court near you:

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North Allegheny (7-2, 15-3) @ Pgh. Central Catholic (4-6, 9-10) (7:30)

Since they were humbled by Shaler, the Tigers have won four in a row and look to continue their strong finish in a difficult section.  It’s so difficult, in fact, that the Vikings, losers of three straight, might miss the playoffs for the first time since 2000.  To keep their postseason hopes alive, Central needs to ramp up its defense and play a complete game, something Bob Crummie recently said has been a year-long bugaboo for his team.  Defensively they have to watch the perimeter and slow down NA’s guards, particularly Anthony Dallier, Quad-A’s No. 3 scorer at 26.3 points per game and drained an amazing 47 points to go with 14 rebounds in the last meeting, an 80-75 victory last Thursday.  Mike Anselmo had 19 for Central that night, and Lincoln Davis leads the team, averaging 18.6 per game.


West Mifflin (8-1, 16-2) @ South Park (6-3, 10-7) (7:30)

We haven’t had much of a chance to talk about the Titans this season, and as they inch closer to the Section 4 crown, this is as good a time as any to start.  West Mifflin, the Post-Gazette’s No. 2 Class AAA squad, has been one of the most consistent teams on the boys’ side in the WPIAL, winning nine of its last ten, largely because leading scorer C.J. Hester has been one of the most consistent players in the district.  Hester averages 19.9 points per game and matched that with a 20-point outing in an earlier 28-point rout of the Eagles.  South Park has already locked up a playoff spot but still needs to worry about positioning, and is in dire need of an upset if it wishes to grab a share of the section title.  To make it happen the Eagles will try to put the ball in the hands of Tom Bigley, who scored 17 in last Wednesday’s meeting and sits fifth in Class AAA with 21.8 points per game.


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Springdale (6-3, 9-8) @ Shady Side Academy (8-1, 11-6) (7:30)

A win at home would put the Indians squarely in the Section 1 driver’s seat, but one can’t underestimate the team chemistry of the Dynamos.  If necessity is the mother of invention, then Springdale, even though it doesn’t necessarily have a breakout star, will find a way to make this a ballgame, as it is one of five teams in the section still mathematically alive in the playoff chase.  Besides, they’ll be eager to get the bad taste out of their mouths from an embarrassing loss to Freeport Wednesday.  Football star Bill Arch led the charge for Springdale with three three-pointers and 20 points in a win over SSA back on Jan. 31.  Ryan Reynolds led Shady Side with 14 that night, but the one Springdale really needs to watch out for is Cooper Handelsman, who, in limited action, has climbed to No. 3 on the Class AA scoring charts at 21.3 points per game.


Sewickley Academy (4-3, 7-8) @ North Catholic (6-1, 12-5) (7:30)

Graduation, as we suspected it might, has taken its toll on the Panthers, but last year’s PIAA champions have still navigated their way through this year of transition and are perhaps just one win away from surviving it and getting back to the playoffs.  Sewickley has won three of its last four and sits right behind North Catholic in third place with just two more section contests to go after this one.  The Trojans have already proven themselves against the Panthers in a 54-47 decision Jan. 14 and have a higher bar to reach, as the Post-Gazette’s No. 5 team is just one game away from tying Post-Gazette No. 2 Vincentian Academy for the Section 2 lead with a big showdown against the Royals on the horizon.  North Catholic has won three in a row and seven of eight overall and though Ryan Lewis led them with 14 in the first meeting and had 14 in a recent win over Quigley, the Trojans like to spread the ball around and look for Martin Long to get open.  They’ll gameplan around Sewickley’s Carrington Motley, who averages 19 a game, but they also need to be patient on the other end against the Panthers’ defense, ranked fifth in Class A.  Check back with Mr. High School Sports at later for extensive coverage of this game.



Bishop Canevin (8-2, 14-3) @ Oakland Catholic (8-2, 12-7) (2:30)

A fascinating inter-classification contest will take place just a couple blocks from the Oakland Zoo.  The Donahue Pavilion isn’t an easy place to play either, though the Eagles have stumbled in their last couple home games and stumbled to No. 3 in the Post-Gazette’s girls’ Class AAAA rankings in the process.  But they at least have a chance to measure themselves against another WPIAL title challenger, the Post-Gazette’s No. 5 girls’ Class AA squad.  Something, theoretically, has to give when Oakland Catholic’s defense, which ranks fifth in Quad-A at 44.4 points allowed per game, meets Canevin’s defense, which ranks seventh out of the 43 programs in Class AA at 35.4 points per game.  The Eagles need to worry about the inside game of Erin Waskowiak, a sharpshooter who sits 12th in the WPIAL at 18.5 points per game, and at the same time, they need to get guards Bobbi Baker and Cory Taglianetti, who tend to shoulder the offensive load, plenty of good looks.

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For continuing coverage of WPIAL basketball, be sure to check back with Mr. High School Sports throughout the 2010-11 season!