By Matt Popchock

Opening night ended without any significant upsets in the 2011 WPIAL Boys’ and Girls’ Basketball Playoffs, but of one thing we are certain: there will be a new state champion in boys’ Class A this season.

Sewickley Academy junior Carrington Motley did his usual best to carry the 10th-seeded Panthers (9-12), but his game-high 24 points wasn’t enough to keep last year’s district and PIAA gold medalists alive, as No. 7 seed Our Lady of the Sacred Heart pulled away for a 56-42 victory in a Class A First Round game at North Hills Friday night.

Motley helped Sewickley pull even at 26-26 in the waning seconds of the first half, but a 15-2 run by OLSH in the third quarter set the tone for the rest of the contest.  Five different players figured into that run, including junior guard Andrew Orie, who scored 11 of his team-high 19 points in the first quarter, and senior forward Julian Falascino, who added 13 for the Chargers (15-7).

Orie also had five rebounds, and junior forward Matthew Sangermano grabbed a game-high 10 boards, mostly defensive, to go with four points and three assists.  The OLSH boys will face No. 2 seed North Catholic in the Class A Quarterfinals next week at a site and time to be determined.

OLSH vs. Elderton Girls @ North Hills

OLSH vs. Eldteron Girls @ North Hills

It was an equally productive night for the OLSH girls.  Despite a tentative effort in which both offenses struggled mightily, the Chargers defense ground out a 40-19 win over Elderton in girls’ Class AA Preliminary Round action at North Hills earlier Friday night.

The OLSH girls now face the daunting task of taking on top-seeded Seton-LaSalle, last year’s WPIAL runner-up, next Tuesday, but for now they can celebrate a night that saw them hold Elderton to a single point in both the second and third quarters.

Senior guard Marissa Eckerle led the Chargers (14-9) with 10 points, and freshman forward Teodora Sciulli added 10 of her own to go along with a game-high nine rebounds.

Sophomore forward Jill Glover led the Bobcats (15-7) with 10 points and six boards.

Here’s a glimpse at what else happened in the high school basketball playoffs Friday night:


South Park 63, Southmoreland 39 (@ McKeesport) – The Eagles (13-10) breezed past the Scotties (10-11) for their first playoff win in boys’ basketball since the turn of the century.  Their reward?  A First Round date with South Fayette.  Anyway, Tom Bigley led South Park with 26 points, and Dante DaBaldo added 21.

Trinity 54, Mount Pleasant 26 (@ Belle Vernon) – This was a sobering day at Mount Pleasant for a couple reasons.  Number one, the Vikings’ (9-13) season ended.  Number two, the coaching career of Tom Traynor, who has led the Vikes for nearly half a century but is retiring due to pancreatic cancer, also ended.  On a more positive note, Josh Valentic had a great night for the Hillers (15-8), draining five three-pointers and 34 points in all, to set up a First Round meeting with New Castle.

Ringgold 74, Keystone Oaks 69 (@ Moon) – Rocco Constritano led all with 29 points, and it looked like he and his Golden Eagles (11-12) had the Rams (16-7) dead to rites.  But Ringgold, down 13 in the third quarter, made a terrific comeback, thanks to 22 points from Mike Beveridge and 19 from Zack Smith, to win just its second playoff game in a decade and a half.  This sets up an intriguing First Round matchup with Blackhawk, which is dealing with a key injury to Chandler Kincade, next week.

West Allegheny 62, Valley 47 (@ North Allegheny) – Is it Groundhog Day in Imperial?  Will the Indians (13-10) use their second-half outburst against the Vikings (13-10) to spark them on a Cinderella title run comparable to that of the ’06-’07 team?  Dylan Bongiorni, who led West A with 16 points, got them one step closer, but that “step” is a big one: No. 2 seed West Mifflin in the First Round next week.


Vincentian Academy 83, Bentworth 57 (@ Canon-McMillan) – John Bray led the No. 4 seed Royals (21-1) past the 13th-seeded Bearcats (9-14) with a game-high 24 points, but don’t overlook Adam Dian, who had a career night with 21 points and 16 boards.  This sets up a Quarterfinal matchup with No. 5 seed and 2008 WPIAL champion Serra Catholic.

Serra Catholic 73, Carmichaels 46 (@ Yough) – Jonathan and Seth Krall had a huge night for the 12th-seeded Mighty Mikes (12-11), but Serra’s Daryan Robinson was too much for both of them.  He took charge with 18 points and a staggering 20 rebounds to put the Section 4 co-champion Eagles (15-7) into the Quarterfinals against the same team that beat them there last season (see above).

Lincoln Park 76, Quigley 35 (@ Ambridge) – The Leopards (15-6) didn’t have to go very far to earn the right to play in the Quarterfinals for the fourth year in a row, and they didn’t have to work too hard to end the Spartans’ (10-13) season.  Once again, the dynamic duo of Chaquille Pratt and Devontae Watson, who combined for 39 points, did the major damage, and Watson had a double-double.

St. Joseph 65, Avella 50 (@ South Fayette) – As a coach, you’d like to see a little more balance, but surely Kelly Robinson won’t mind that Brian Heinle popped off and scored 38 points, half of which came via six-three pointers.  The third-seeded Spartans (20-3) move past the 14th-seeded Eagles (12-10) in a battle of section co-champs to face Lincoln Park, another offensive-minded team, in the Quarterfinals next week.

North Catholic 58, Geibel 30 (@ Plum) – An 18-point run at the beginning of the game cleared an easy path to victory for the Trojans (17-6), who eliminated the 15th-seeded Gators (10-11) to set up their Quarterfinal date with OLSH.  Once again, North Catholic’s inside game was the x-factor, with Ryan Lewis contributing 15 points, and Dan Savulchak leading the Trojans with 17.


Leechburg 46, Jefferson-Morgan 30 (@ Yough) – The Blue Devils (10-11) emerged victorious in this play-in contest thanks to four three-pointers and 16 points overall from Dom Strapac.  Getting past the lowly Rockets (6-17) is one thing, but facing top-seeded Rochester in the First Round next Tuesday will be a measuring stick if there ever were one.


Oakland Catholic 57, Upper St. Clair 44 (@ Northgate) – Guard play and defense, a familiar formula for the Eagles (15-8), got them through a difficult first half and on to the Class AAAA Quarterfinals against Baldwin, a team they’ve beaten already.  Cory Taglianetti had another strong showing with four three-pointers and 15 points to rally the No. 4 seed past the 13th-seeded Panthers (9-13).

Baldwin 50, Plum 23 (@ North Allegheny) – All the 5th-seeded Highlanders (17-5) had to do was put the ball in Belma Nurkic’s hands, and they were well on their way to the Quarterfinals for the third straight year, and to a grudge match with Oakland Catholic.  Nurkic led all with 23 points to end the 12th-seeded Mustangs’ (12-10) season.

Shaler 60, Fox Chapel 32 (@ Hampton) – The No. 2 seed got off to a lightning-fast start to ensure their 2009 playoff loss to the 15th-seeded Foxes (11-12) would not be repeated.  Shannon Powell led the Titans (21-2) with 19 points, 18 of them coming in the first half, and Shaler shut out Fox Chapel in the third quarter.

Penn-Trafford 52, Woodland Hills 40 (@ Gateway) – Brittany Chiodo led the Warriors (19-3) with 14 points, including ten at the foul line, and contributed to a big fourth quarter that helped No. 7 seed Penn-Trafford pull away from the 10th-seeded Wolverines (12-10).  The Warriors need to eliminate their early offensive struggles if they wish to have a prayer against Shaler in the Quarterfinals.

Bethel Park 40, North Hills 23 (@ South Fayette) – An entire generation has yet to see the Indians (10-12) win a girls’ playoff game, and because of ten points apiece from Laurel Miller and Kara Rayburn, they’ll have to wait longer.  Those two picked up their games for the Lady Hawks (19-4) on an off night for Candace Martino, as North Hills’ defense kept its halftime deficit at 13-8.

North Allegheny 66, Hempfield 50 (@ Plum) – The 6th-seeded Tigers (19-4) toyed with the 11th-seeded Spartans (13-10), but a 24-5 jaunt through the third quarter effectively punched their ticket to the Class AAAA Quarterfinals.  Kelly Brennan scored 25 and Alexis Aiken, daughter of Pitt alum Curtis Aiken, added 17 for NA, setting the stage for an interesting round two meeting between Brennan and Bethel Park’s Candace Martino.


Pine-Richland 53, Norwin 45 (@ Gateway) – A strong first quarter by Abbie Altman, who nailed three three-pointers and eventually ended with a game-high 18 points, provided the difference for the Rams (8-10).  Jen Straw had 16 for the Knights (11-11) in a losing effort, though if it’s any consolation, Pine-Richland now has to meet Mount Lebanon in a First Round game Tuesday.


Beaver Falls 53, Springdale 37 (@ Ambridge) – Beaver Falls fell short in its quest for a section title, but the Tigers (17-6) bounced back nicely with a convincing win over the Dynamos (10-13).  Freshman Kiana Law led the charge with 18 points, setting up a First Round date with No. 7 seed Charleroi next Tuesday.

Quaker Valley 49, Ford City 38 (@ Northgate) – One of the best individual efforts from opening night of the girls’ playoffs came from Deann Ryan, whose 27 points, including six three-pointers, were the difference-maker as the Quakers (15-8) survived the Sabers (16-7).  It was Quaker Valley’s first playoff victory since 1997.

Sto-Rox 40, Shady Side Academy 37 (@ McKeesport) – This sloppy contest was also a defensive minded one, and the Vikings (11-11) turned it around in the fourth quarter to earn the right to play Deer Lakes, another difficult team to score against, on Tuesday.  Natalie Gamble led Sto-Rox with 11 points and seven boards, while Alieyyah Lewis had a game-high 15 points for Shady Side.

Steel Valley 76, Brownsville 43 (@ Belle Vernon) – First Round opponent Jeannette won’t be nearly as easy to push around, but the Ironmen (15-8) played with a purpose and let the Jayhawks know they’d be ready on Tuesday.  A strong start in the second quarter put Steel Valley in the driver’s seat, and Taylor Szczepankowski netted 23 to leave the Falcons (13-8) without a playoff win for three straight seasons.

Greensburg C.C. 49, Bentworth 40 (@ Canon-McMillan) – The Bearcats (15-7) just wouldn’t go away, but the Centurions (17-6) moved the ball and managed it efficiently enough to earn a date with Washington.  Emily Kelly, gutting it out through illness, came off the bench to lead GCC with 11 points, and Karly Mellinger added ten.

Neshannock 42, Freeport 38 (@ Hampton) – The Lancers (16-7) went on a big run in the third quarter and held off a late rally by the Yellowjackets (12-10) to advance to the First Round against a very tough Bishop Canevin squad.  Ericka Warvell led the charge with a game-high 19 points.

Keystone Oaks 62, New Brighton 28 (@ Moon) – The resurgent Golden Eagles (19-3) simply let Alexa Xenakis do what she does en route to an easy win over the Lions (7-14).  She pumped in a game-high 25 points to avenge a tough loss by the KO boys.  Hopefully for their sake the girls saved some offense for their Tuesday meeting with Avonworth.

For continuing coverage of the WPIAL Boys’ and Girls’ Basketball Playoffs, be sure to check back with Mr. High School Sports later this week!

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