Thursday, January 31, 2008

Incredibly encouraging, part II

Covered Tuesday night's Monessen at Washington Section 5-AA boys basketball clash and expected the Greyhounds to win a close one.

The Greyhounds, with Tim Tyree, Terrance Stepoli and Delmar Pritchett, boast the section's best talent and they had won 17 of 18. Washington, meanwhile, had struggled in recent games and lost at Burgettstown, a fine team but also a squad without its starting point guard.

Something clicked with Wash High starting in the second quarter. Tom Kelly and Nick Bryant were relentless, and teammates followed suit. Troy Wilson and Mark Wise attacked the basket with determination and toughness. Washington rebounded and played tough perimeter defense.

And the Prexies won the game by 15 points in front of the most supportive crowd I've seen at Wash High since Dan Davis played at Fort Cherry and those two teams battled for section supremacy.

The best thing about Washington's victory was their offensive aggression. If the Prexies continue to maintain their edge, they will be a very difficult matchup for any team in the postseason.

Incredibly encouraging

Something kept me from believing in the Canon-McMillan boys basketball team, even after wins against McKeesport, Moon and Peters Township.

Maybe McKeesport, whose only loss is to C-M, just played a bad game or overlooked the Big Macs.

Maybe Canon-McMillan played the game of its life against Moon.

And, I covered the game against Peters Township, it was not a pretty sight.

I kept saying, "We'll see what happens when they play Upper St. Clair. I think it's a mental thing. The only thing Canon-Mac can beat them in is wrestling."

Once again, I am wrong.

The Big Macs made believers out of me with their win over Upper St. Clair Wednesday night. It's the kind of victory, as the playoffs near, that can prove vital to postseason success. Beating the team that's been unbeatable to C-M for years, has to be a massive mental boost.

All that stands in the way of C-M's first section championship in boys basketball since 1973 is a tough game Friday at Peters Township, who'd like nothing better than to keep the Big Macs from claiming the title outright or sharing it with Moon.

Kudos to the Big Macs players, Coach Rick Bell and his staff. Now, I expect C-M to contend for a WPIAL championship.

No pressure though.

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

O-R basketball rankings

A lot of movement in this week's rankings. The Canon-McMillan boys inched up to No. 4 in Class AAAA. Blackhawk debuted in Triple-A. For the first time in memory, Aliquippa is not ranked in Class AA. South Fayette also dropped out. Those two were replaced by North Catholic and Monessen. California jumped up to No. 2 in Class A, while Bentworth dropped out for the first time this year.

There's a new No. 1 team in girls' Class AA as OLSH replaces previously unbeaten Washington.

WPIAL boys
Class AAAA
1. McKeesport 16-1
2. North Allegheny 19-2
3. Pittsburgh Central Catholic 18-3
4. Canon-McMillan 15-6
5. Moon 14-6
Class AAA
1. Chartiers Valley 20-2
2. Highlands 16-4
3. Hopewell 16-4
4. Uniontown 16-3
5. Blackhawk 15-5
Class AA
1. Beaver Falls 16-3
2. Jeannette 14-3
3. Riverside 20-1
4. North Catholic 18-2
5. Monessen 17-4
Class A
1. Serra Catholic 19-1
2. California14-4
3. Lincoln Park 12-5
4. Carmichaels 14-4
5. Wilkinsburg 11-9

WPIAL girls
Class AAAA
1. Norwin 21-0
2. Butler 22-1
3. Mt. Lebanon 21-1
4. Upper St. Clair 17-4
5. New Castle 16-4
Class AAA
1. West Mifflin 19-3
2. Hampton 20-2
3. Hopewell 17-3
4. Indiana 20-2
5. Elizabeth Forward 19-4
Class AA
1. OLSH 20-1
2. Washington 21-1
3. Greensburg Central Catholic 14-6
4. Bishop Canevin 15-6
5. South Park 15-7
Class A
1. North Catholic 18-3
2. Monessen 22-0
3. Geibel 15-5
4. Serra Catholic 13-5
5. Vincentian Academy 14-7

Girls scoring leaders

Would have posted these sooner but this is my first time in the office in nearly a week.

Girls Scoring Leaders
Through Thursday, Jan. 24
Name G Pts. Ave.
Correal, Peters Twp. 13 285 21.9
Chukwuedo, Monessen 17 317 18.6
Chory, Mapletown 17 272 16.0
Sowers, Beth-Center 18 281 15.6
Duke, Carmichaels 18 274 15.2
Floyd, Washington 19 289 15.2
Phillips, Washington 19 288 15.2
Schartner, Ringgold 20 302 15.1
Selby, Ringgold 20 293 14.7
Neff, Charleroi 16 227 14.2
Miles, Fort Cherry 20 282 14.1
Phillips, Jeff-Morgan 19 253 13.3
Sargent, Washington 19 243 12.8
Amrhein, Canon-Mac 18 227 12.6
Wilson, Burgettstown 22 275 12.5
Williams, Canon-Mac 18 221 12.3
Papa, Avella 18 217 12.1
Lee, Charleroi 17 202 11.9
Thornburg, McGuffey 11 128 11.6
Speed, Bentworth 17 192 11.3
Moluski, California 16 181 11.3
Rosemeier, Char-Houston 19 207 10.9
Czulewicz, McGuffey 18 195 10.8
Novak, Mapletown 17 180 10.6
Schober, McGuffey 18 185 10.3
Mornak, Monessen 14 141 10.1

Statistics reflect only those games reported to the Observer-Reporter.

Greyhounds off and running

The Monessen boys basketball team, in just its second season in Section 5-AA after years of Class A dominance, can clinch an outright section championship tonight with a win at Washington. Monessen already has won a share of the title.

If the Greyhounds win, they can send a thank you note to Burgettstown, who upended the Prexies Friday night without point guard Sean Tunno.

Here's an interesting note on Monessen, whose only loss since Dec. 4 is to Upper St. Clair: the Greyhounds won their first three section games by a combined 10 points over Beth-Center, Chartiers-Houston and Burgettstown. Since, their closest section game was an eight-point win over the Bucs.

A shot at history

Several weeks before the high school basketball season began, I was talking to Canon-McMillan boys coaches Rick Bell along the sidelines of a Big Macs football game. The conversation eventually turned toward his basketball team and their prospects for the season.

The always enthusastic Bell offered a somewhat subdued assessment.

"We have the chance to be a pretty good team," he said.

Bell went on to tell me how the team won a fall tournament in Morgantown, W.Va.

"I'm not sure what that means but I'm coming into the year cautiously optimistic," Bell added.

Fast forward several months and Bell and the Big Macs are on the verge of making history.

If Canon-McMilan (8-2, 15-6) can beat Upper St. Clair at home Wednesday and Peters Township on the road Friday, it will fare no worse than section co-champs. Canon-McMillan boys basketball has won just one section title. It came in 1973.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

WPIAL field hockey alignment

Field hockey
Class AAA
Section 1 – Hempfield, Latrobe, North Allegheny, Norwin, Penn-Trafford, Pine-Richland
Section 2 – Fox Chapel, Mt. Lebanon, Oakland Catholic, Peters Township, Upper St. Clair, Woodland Hills
Class AA
Aquinas Academy, Ellis School, Greensburg Central Catholic, Greensburg-Salem, Sewickley Academy, Shady Side Academy, Vincentian Academy, Winchester Thurston

WPIAL girls volleyball alignment

Class AAA
Section 1 – Franklin Regional, Greensburg-Salem, Hempfield, Kiski Area, Latrobe, Norwin, Penn-Trafford
Section 2 – Albert Gallatin, Canon-McMillan, Connellsville, Peters Township, Ringgold, Trinity, Upper St. Clair
Section 3 – Butler, New Catsle, North Allegheny, North Hills, Oakland Catholic, Pine-Richland, Seneca Valley
Section 4 – Fox Chapel, Gateway, McKeesport, Penn Hills, Plum, Shaler, Woodland Hills
Section 5 – Baldwin, Bethel Park, Chartiers Valley, Moon, Mt. Lebanon, West Mifflin
Class AA
Section 1 – Beaver, Beaver Falls, Blackhawk, Ellwood City, Hopewell, Lincoln Park, Mohawk
Section 2 – Ambridge, Freedom, Hampton, Knoch, New Brighton, Mars, Seton-La Salle
Section 3 – Center, Keystone Oaks, Montour, Quaker Valley, South Fayette, West Allegheny
Section 4 – Belle Vernon, Charleroi, Derry Area, Indiana, Southmoreland, Yough
Section 5 – Elizabeth Forward, South Allegheny, South Park, Steel Valley, Thomas Jefferson, Wilkinsburg
Section 6 – Apollo-Ridge, Burrell, Deer Lakes, Ford City, Freeport, Kittanning, Valley
Section 7 – Beth-Center, Brownsville, Laurel Highlands, McGuffey, Uniontown, Washington, Waynesburg
Class A
Section 1 – Elderton, Greensburg Central Catholic, Leechburg, Riverview, Springdale, Trinity Christian, West Shamokin
Section 2 – Brentwood, North Catholic, Northgate, Serra Catholic, Mt. Alvernia, Sto-Rox, Vincentian Academy
Section 3 – Laurel, Monaca, Neshannock, Shenango, Union, Western Beaver, Beaver County Christian
Section 4 – Aliquippa, Avonworth, Cornell, Our Lady of the Sacred Heart, Quigley Catholic, Rochester, South Side Beaver
Section 5 – California, Carmichaels, Frazier, Geibel, Jefferson-Morgan, Mapletown, West Greene
Section 6 – Avella, Bentworth, Bishop Canevin, Burgettstown, Carlynton, Chartiers-Houston, Fort Cherry

WPIAL soccer alignments

Last night was a bit hectic so we were only able to get the football realignment published. Today, we'll be updating the other sports, starting with boys and girls soccer.

Of note, the South Fayette boys moved to Class AA and the Peters Township girls went to Section 4-AAA after years of playing in Section 5.

Boys soccer

Class AAA
Section 1 – Connellsville, Hempfield, Kiski Area, Latrobe, Norwin, Penn-Trafford
Section 2 – Butler, North Allegheny, North Hills, Pine-Richland, Seneca Valley, Shaler
Section 3 – Pittsburgh Central Catholic, Fox Chapel, Franklin Regional, Gateway, Penn Hills, Plum, Woodland Hills
Section 4 – Albert Gallatin, Baldwin, Bethel Park, Laurel Highlands, McKeesport, Mt. Lebanon, West Mifflin
Section 5 – Canon-McMillan, Moon, Peters Township, Ringgold, Trinity, Upper St. Clair
Class AA
Section 1 – Burrell, Derry Area, East Allegheny, Greensburg-Salem, Indiana, Mt. Pleasant, Valley
Section 2 – Deer Lakes, Freeport, Hampton, Highlands, Kittanning, Knoch, Mars
Section 3 – Belle Vernon, Elizabeth Forward, South Park, Southmoreland, Steel Valley, Thomas Jefferson, Uniontown, Yough
Section 4 – Ambridge, Beaver, Blackhawk, Center, Ellwood City, Hopewell, Mohawk, Riverside
Section 5 – Chartiers Valley, Keystone Oaks, McGuffey, Montour, South Fayette, Washington, Waynesburg, West Allegheny
Class A
Section 1 – Brownsville, California, Geibel, Greensburg Central Catholic, Serra Catholic, South Allegheny, Trinity Christian, Winchester Thurston
Section 2 – Aquinas Academt, Elderton, Riverview, Shady Side Academy, Springdale, St. Joseph’s, West Shamokin
Section 3 – Avonworth, Bishop Canevin, North Catholic, Our Lady of the Sacred Heart, Seton-La Salle, Sewickley Academy, Vincentian
Section 4 – Bentworth, Beth-Center, Brentwood, Carlynton, Charleroi, Chartiers-Houston, Monessen
Section 5 – Beaver County Christian, Freedom, Neshannock, New Brighton, Quaker Valley, Quigley Catholic, South Side Beaver

Girls soccer

Class AAA
Section 1 – Derry Area, Franklin Regional, Greensburg-Salem, Hempfield, Indiana, Latrobe, Norwin, Penn-Trafford
Section 2 – Butler, Knoch, Mars, North Allegheny, North Hills, Pine-Richland, Seneca Valley, Shaler
Section 3 – Fox Chapel, Gateway, Hampton, Highlands, Kiski Area, Penn Hills, Plum, Woodland Hills
Section 4 – Baldwin, Bethel Park, Keystone Oaks, McKeesport, Oakland Catholic, Peters Township, Thomas Jefferson
Section 5 – Canon-McMillan, Elizabeth Forward, Mt. Lebanon, Ringgold, Trinity, Upper St. Clair, West Mifflin
Section 6 – Albert Gallatin, Belle Vernon, Connellsville, Laurel Highlands, Southmoreland, Uniontown, Waynesburg, Yough
Section 7 – Ambridge, Blackhawk, Chartiers Valley, Hopewell, Montour, Moon, West Allegheny
Class AA
Section 1 – Bentworth, Beth-Center, Charleroi, Chartiers-Houston, McGuffey, South Fayette, South Park
Section 2 – Avonworth, Center, Ellwood City, Our Lady of the Sacred Heart, Quaker Valley, Sewickley Academy, Vincentian Academy
Section 3 – Burrell, Deer Lakes, Freeport, Riverview, Shady Side Academy, Springdale, Valley
Section 4 – Bishop Canevin, Carlynton, North Catholic, Serra Catholic, Seton-La Salle, South Allegheny, Steel Valley
Section 5 – Beaver, Freedom, Mohawk, Neshannock, New Brighton, Quigley Catholic, Riverside
Section 6 – East Allegheny, Geibel, Greensburg Central Catholic, Jeannette, Monessen, Mt. Pleasant, St. Joseph

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

WPIAL football realignment

Here are the WPIAL football conferences for the 2008 and 2009 seasons:
Class AAAA
Northern Six Conference

Butler, North Allegheny, North Hills, Pine-Richland, Seneca Valley, Shaler
Foothills Conference
Connellsville, Gateway, Hempfield, Latrobe, McKeesport, Norwin, Penn-Trafford
Big East Conference
Fox Chapel, Kiski Area, Plum, Penn Hills, Pittsburgh Central Catholic, Woodland Hills Great Southern Conference
Baldwin, Bethel Park, Canon-McMillan, Mt. Lebanon, Peters Township, Upper St. Clair Class AAA
Big Seven Conference

Belle Vernon, Chartiers Valley, Elizabeth Forward, Ringgold, Thomas Jefferson, Trinity, West Mifflin
Keystone Conference
Albert Gallatin, Derry, Greensburg-Salem, Laurel Highlands, Southmoreland, Uniontown, Yough
Parkway Conference
Ambridge, Blackhawk, Hopewell, Montour, Moon Tigers, New Castle, West Allegheny
Greater Allegheny Conference
Franklin Regional, Hampton, Highlands, Indiana, Knoch, Mars
Class AA
Century Conference

Bishop Canevin, Cornell, Keystone Oaks, Northgate, Quaker Valley, Seton-La Salle, South Fayette, South Park, Steel Valley, Sto-Rox
Allegheny Conference
Apollo-Ridge, Burrell, Deer Lakes, Ford City, Freeport, Kittanning, Shady Side Academy, Summit Academy, Valley, West Shamokin
Midwestern Athletic Conference
Aliquippa, Beaver, Beaver Falls, Center, Ellwood City, Freedom, Mohawk, New Brighton, Riverside
Interstate Conference
Brownsville, Charleroi, East Allegheny, Greensburg Central Catholic, Jeannette, McGuffey, Mt. Pleasant, South Allegheny, Washington, Waynesburg
Class A
Eastern Conference

Avonworth, Brentwood, Carlynton, Leechburg, North Catholic, Riverview, Springdale, Wilkinsburg
Black Hills Conference
Avella, Bentworth, Burgettstown, Chartiers-Houston, Clairton, Fort Cherry, Frazier, Serra Catholic
Big Seven Conference
Laurel, Monaca, Neshannock, Rochester, Shenango, South Side Beaver, Union, Western Beaver
Tri-County South
Beth-Center, California, Carmichaels, Geibel, Jefferson-Morgan, Mapletown, Monessen, West Greene

Monday, January 21, 2008

APB, Where are they now?

Several weeks have past since the Varsity Letters last issued an All Points Bulletin for a former high school sports standout and the public demands another.

Before we get to that, it's time to update a previous APB that went cold until recently. The Varsity Letters learned that former Wash High three-sport standout Dale Calloway is living in Oklahoma.

This week's APB is for former Peters Township boys basketballer Eric Lang. One of the great players in Indians history, Lang, a 6-5 forward with a mean streak and a great jump shot, once led PT to the No. 1 seed in the WPIAL Class AAAA playoffs and an unbelievable win at Uniontown. That's when nobody won at Uniontown.

The last we heard of Lang, he was off the the Air Force Prep Academy, where he had an opportunity to make the Air Force basketball team.

Anyone having information on Lang is asked to contact the Varsity Letters.

Sunday, January 20, 2008

O-R basketball rankings

There's a new No. 1 team in Boys Class AAAA and some serious movement in other classes. And let's extend a warm welcome to the Carmichaels boys, who crack the Class A Top 5.

WPIAL boys
Class AAAA
1. McKeesport 14-1
2. Pittsburgh Central Catholic 16-2
3. North Allegheny 17-2
4. Upper St. Clair 16-3
5. Canon-McMillan 13-6
Class AAA
1. Chartiers Valley 17-1
2. Highlands 14-4
3. Greensburg Salem 15-3
4. Hopewell 13-4
5. Uniontown 14-2
Class AA
1. Beaver Falls 13-3
2. Jeannette 9-3
3. Riverside 17-1
4. Aliquippa 12-6
5. South Fayette 15-3
Class A
1. Serra Catholic 16-1
2. Union 11-5
3. Bentworth 13-4
4. California 11-4
5. Carmichaels 13-3

WPIAL girls
Class AAAA
1. Norwin 17-0
2. Butler 19-1
3. Mt. Lebanon 18-1
4. New Castle 13-3
5. Upper St. Clair 14-4
Class AAA
1. West Mifflin 15-3
2. Hampton 17-2
3. Indiana 18-1
4. Hopewell 14-3
5. Elizabeth Forward 16-3
Class AA
1. Washington 18-0
2. OLSH 17-1
3. Bishop Canevin 12-5
4. South Fayette 14-4
5. Greensburg Central Catholic 11-6
Class A
1. North Catholic 15-2
2. Monessen 18-0
3. Vincentian Academy 11-6
4. Geibel 12-5
5. Serra Catholic 10-5

Friday, January 18, 2008


I turn on the TV. He's there.
I read ESPN the Magazine. He's there.
I visit a recruiting website. He's there.
I read the daily local metros. He's there.

He is Terrelle Pryor, Jeannette High School's amazing two-sport star, a once-in-a-lifetime talent and the most overexposed figure in the history of the WPIAL. Quite frankly, I'm getting sick of hearing about the teenager. Hope I'm not the only one.

Spent Monday night covering the Pitt-Georgetown game and the student section, among others, placed much adoration of the young man, who will play college football at either Ohio State, Michigan, Oregon, LSU, Penn State or whatever flavor of the month looks good. BTW, my sources say Michigan.

Fans chanted "We want Pryor" they held up signs. It was a lovefest.

At first, I thought it was funny. Then, I continued to watch Pryor.

His nonchalant reaction is no reason to be upset. According to him, he gets that wherever he goes. But for someone who is publicly complaining about the media coverage he receives, maybe it would be a good idea to at least acknowledge the crowd. Show some courtesy.

Miley Cyrus, the 15-year-old who plays Hannah Montana, is comparable in age, far more famous, and, I'd bet she'd at least wave to the crowd.

Next time Pitt needs to offer tickets to someone who appreciates them. If Pryor wants to watch former AAU teammate DeJuan Blair, he can turn on a TV.

My main point is recruiting coverage is out of hand. These kids are getting huge heads before they play a down of college football. How do we know Pryor won't end up at Cal U? Hey, it happened to McKeesport's Cecil Howard. Then again, how do we know Pryor won't win two Heisman Trophies? Of course, that's happened just once. The road is for more populated with should've, would've, could've guys.

I too am guilty of making recruiting stories a big deal. On many occasions, I've written about or hyped the guys with lots of offers and wondered why?

None of the players I've written about, however, are as good as Pryor, who is the best high school football player I've ever seen in person.

But, at this point, I'm sick of hearing about him. Once high school hoops season is over, here's hoping we don't hear about Pryor until the fall.

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Petrucci remains at Ringgold

Jeff Petrucci was appointed head of football operations Wednesday night at the Ringgold School Board meeting.

Petrucci, who has drawn criticism from several Ringgold fans on this site, will make $10,648.20. He replaced Steve Campos before the start of the 2007 season and Ringgold finished 4-6 overall, 4-2 in the Keystone Conference and lost to eventual WPIAL finalist Montour in the first round of the WPIAL Class AAA playoffs.

Gordon ousted at Penn Hills

Neil Gordon, one of the WPIAL's more successful and recognizable coaches, most likely will not be back as the head football coach at Penn Hills High School.

His position was opened at Monday's school board meeting.

Gordon coached the last 22 years at Penn Hills, where he won the WPIAL and PIAA titles in 1995. The Indians played for the WPIAL championship two years ago and lost to Upper St. Clair. Gordon's record was 156-74-2 and his teams reached the playoffs 16 times and won five conference championships.

I can't say I know Gordon though every time I've needed to speak with him, he's been professional, courteous and always returned a phone call, which is a lot more than I can say about many other successful football coaches. I do know that if Gordon can have his position opened, it can happen to any coach.

Consider this:
Over the last several years, school boards have attempted to oust Jim Render (Upper St. Clair, football), Jack McCurry (North Hills, football) and Tim McConnell (Chartiers Valley, boys basketball). Those are just a few.

As someone who deals closely with high school athletics and coaches, it's a profession I would not want to enter.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Girls scoring leaders

Girls Scoring Leaders
Through Saturday, Jan. 12
Name G Pts. Ave.
Correal, Peters Twp. 10 220 22.0
Chukwuedo, Monessen 13 230 17.7
Phillips, Washington 14 231 16.5
Sowers, Beth-Center 13 206 15.8
Chory, Mapletown 14 221 15.8
Selby, Ringgold 12 185 15.4
Floyd, Washington 14 211 15.1
Schartner, Ringgold 12 174 14.5
Williams, Canon-Mac 13 174 13.4
Duke, Carmichaels 13 173 13.3
Neff, Charleroi 13 159 13.3
Miles, Fort Cherry 16 212 13.3
Amrhein, Canon-Mac 13 171 13.2
Wilson, Burgettstown 17 217 12.8
Sargent, Washington 14 179 12.8
Phillips, Jeff-Morgan 13 162 12.5
Lee, Charleroi 13 139 11.6
Thornburg, McGuffey 11 128 11.6
Papa, Avella 14 161 11.5
Czulewicz, McGuffey 12 137 11.4
Rosemeier, Char-Houston 14 154 11.0
Moluski, California 12 130 10.8
Novak, Mapletown 14 144 10.3
Schober, McGuffey 12 122 10.2
Lucas, Trinity 12 121 10.1
Speed, Bentworth 14 140 10.0
Mornak, Monessen 11 110 10.0

Statistics reflect only those games reported to the Observer-Reporter.

Monday, January 14, 2008

O-R basketball rankings

Following its win over Moon, the Canon-McMillan boys team finally cracks the Class AAAA top five. South Fayette's impressive run earned the Lions a spot in the Class AA rankings as well.

Class AAAA
1. North Allegheny 15-1
2. McKeesport 12-1
3. Pittsburgh Central Catholic 14-2
4. Upper St. Clair 13-3
5. Canon-McMillan 11-6
Class AAA
1. Chartiers Valley 15-1
2. Highlands 12-4
3. Greensburg Salem 13-3
4. Hopewell 11-4
5. Montour 11-4
Class AA
1. Beaver Falls 11-3
2. Jeannette 7-3
3. Aliquippa 11-5
4. Riverside 15-1
5. South Fayette 11-3
Class A
1. Serra Catholic 13-1
2. Union 10-4
3. Lincoln Park 9-3
4. Bentworth 10-4
5. California 10-4

Class AAAA
1. Norwin 15-0
2. Mt. Lebanon 16-1
3. Butler 17-1
4. Upper St. Clair 12-3
5. Peters Township 11-4
Class AAA
1. West Mifflin 13-3
2. Hopewell 12-2
3. Hampton 14-2
4. Indiana 16-1
5. Ringgold 12-3
Class AA
1. Washington 15-0
2. OLSH 15-1
3. Greensburg Central Catholic 10-5
4. Sto-Roc 11-4
5. South Fayette 12-3
Class A
1. North Catholic 13-2
2. Monessen 16-0
3. Serra Catholic 8-4
4. Vincentian Academy 9-5
5. Clairton 7-5

Saturday, January 12, 2008

Hot shots

Quick (and deep) thoughts on the local high school hoops scene

I've become convinced that the South Fayette boys basketball team is primed for a deep playoff run. The Lions are very young (two freshmen, one sophomore in the starting lineup) but they have as much on-court talent as any local team. SF may not yet belong in the same class with Class AA heavyweights Beaver Falls and Jeannette but there aren't many other teams in the classification as strong as the Lions. This is a team that may be around come the PIAA quarterfinals.

Fort Cherry's Zach Bellhy put up an astounding 42 points Friday night during a loss to Bishop Canevin. That type of production is what we saw from Monessen's Josh Arnold and former Rangers' guard Dan Davis. FC may not be a playoff team this year but Bellhy and Mike Kropf are two of the better players in the area.

The only game I can see the Wash High girls losing before the playoffs is a non-section contest at Monessen.

Speaking of Wash High, junior Jocelyn Floyd deserves mention along with Peters Township's Emily Correal and Ringgold's Emily Schartner as the best local players in girls basketball. Floyd is an excellent defensive player and one of the best at anticipating the pass that I've seen (boys or girls).

Monessen senior Tim Tyree is the area's most exciting player.

That said, I believe the Greyhounds will lose at Wash High when those two meet again and they will share the Section 5-AA title.

Local teams in the WPIAL playoffs will be:
Boys - Canon-McMillan, Peters Township, South Fayette, Washington, Monessen, Burgettstown, Bentworth, California, Carmichaels, Mapletown;
Girls - Peters Township, Ringgold, McGuffey, South Fayette, Washington, Beth-Center, Monessen, Avella, Carmichaels, Mapletown, California.

What a night

Friday night was one to remember for the Canon-McMillan boys basketball team. The Big Macs' 61-59 victory over Moon in a Section 4-AAAA game may be the biggest win in program history.

There really is no boys basketball tradition at C-M, where the only section championship came in 1973 (I wasn't even born).

This win put the Big Macs into a first-place tie with Moon and, coupled with a win over McKeesport, should give this team supreme confidence for the remainder of the season. Big games remain against Upper St. Clair and Peters Township. The opportunity to create history is there.

And, by the way, Charles Murphy showed why C-M coach Rick Bell believes the senior is "the best point guard I've ever coached."

There are several things to really like about C-M. They are very athletic and rebound well for their size. Most of the players are also strong three-point shooters as well.

A couple potential snags exist. For one, these players have never been in this situation in any sport. Will the Big Macs crumble or respond to the pressure? I can also see a team with a strong interior offensive game plan giving them trouble.

Thursday, January 10, 2008

Boys scoring leaders

Player G Pts. Ave.
Jon Kennedy, Bentworth 13 291 22.4
VanOlst, California 10 205 20.5
Z. Bellhy, Fort Cherry 10 198 19.8
N. Wilcox, Peters Twp. 14 265 18.9
Niemiec, Beth-Center 10 180 18.0
Valentino, California 10 173 17.3
Kovach, Mapletown 10 170 17.0
McKnight, Trinity 12 202 16.8
Kropf, Fort Cherry 10 167 16.7
Bongiorni, Burgettstown 14 229 16.4
Ganocy, Carmichaels 10 157 15.7
Popeck, Char-Houston 12 182 15.2
Baker, McGuffey 13 196 15.1
Brownlee, Ringgold 12 175 14.6
Lamberti, South Fayette 9 133 14.8
Cypher, Char-Houston 14 204 14.6
Kelly, Washington 16 226 14.1
Goetz, Burgettstown 14 184 13.1
Pavan, Burgettstown 14 184 13.1
Russo, Peters Twp. 14 178 12.7
Zedreck, South Fayette 9 114 12.7
Joe Kennedy, Bentworth 13 164 12.6
Stepoli, Monessen 12 150 12.5
Patterson, S. Fayette 9 107 11.9
Czulewicz, McGuffey 13 152 11.7
Bracken, Avella 11 126 11.5
Bular, Bentworth 13 150 11.5
Mox, Jeff-Morgan 11 126 11.5
Murphy, Canon-McMillan 14 159 11.4
N. Bryant, Washington 16 180 11.3
Obade, Charleroi 13 147 11.3
Phillips, Waynesburg 13 144 11.1
Bassi, Ringgold 12 133 11.1
Andrisko, Charleroi 13 140 10.8
Tunno, Burgettstown 14 143 10.2
Hagan, Canon-McMillan 16 161 10.1
Turner, Fort Cherry 10 101 10.1

Games reflect only those reported to the Observer-Reporter.

Wednesday, January 9, 2008

Does mat matter?

My colleague, Observer-Reporter assistant sports editor Joe Tuscano, authored a post on his blog "Mat Matters" concerning the Peters Township at Canon-McMillan boys basketball game which I covered Tuesday night. The Big Macs won the offensively challenged contest, 42-20.

The following is Tuscano's post:
Here is something you don't see very often: more points scored in a scholastic wrestling match than in a boys high school basketball game. On Tuesday night, Burgettstown defeated South Side Beaver 52-16 (that's 68 points if you are mathematically challenged. Canon-McMillan beat Peters Township, 42-20 (again, 62 if you need help cyphering). I think that says a lot about the sorry state of the area's basketball.

There are many local basketball teams I can not defend, they are simply horrible and have been for a long time, however, I believe this is an illogical argument.

Granted, Peters Township played poorly. They lacked aggressiveness but they also held the ball at times. That certainly kept the score down.

I also believe that the influx of AAU teams into the area has considerably improved the play of boys and girls. Yet, as stated before, there are bad teams.

There are also exceptional talents (Peters Township's Emily Correal, Ringgold's Emily Schartner come to mind on the girls side, while Monessen's Tim Tyree, Canon-McMillan's Charles Murphy and Chad Hagan, PT's Nick Wilcox and Beth-Center's Ryne Niemiec are a few of the top boys players).

The Peters Township, Ringgold, Washington and Monessen girls teams are legitimate WPIAL championship contenders. In Class A boys, don't be surprised if California or Bentworth made a deep run. Plus, the Canon-McMillan boys are one game from first place in what is widely regarded as the best section in the WPIAL.

There are awful teams, but there is plenty of positives when it comes to local basketball.

Now, it's time to talk wrestling.

I grew up in a wrestling-crazy area (not here), which can describe certain pockets of the Washington-Greene region as well. But let's inspect the results reported in Wednesday's O-R.

In five matches, there were 25 forfeits and four no matches. So out of a possible 70 matches, 29 were uncontested. That's 41.4 percent. Yeah, wrestling is very strong around here.

True, this area produces an OCCASIONAL PIAA wrestling champion. Can you tell me the last time a local team won a WPIAL or PIAA team title?

And don't ignore the fact that a far greater percentage of high schools throughout the state play basketball, which makes it tougher to win team championships.

Tuesday, January 8, 2008

WPIAL realignment

The WPIAL football committee meets Wednesday and it could provide some of the biggest news of the scholastic sports year.

Among the news expected to be released from the meeting is conference alignments.

There is much speculation on the topic, particularly in Class AAA. I've heard for months from several sources that the Keystone and Big Seven conferences are getting shuffled in an attempt to make the Keystone a stronger product. For those who don't know, teams from the Keystone Conference haven't won a playoff game since teen pop ruled the radio - 2001.

Peters Township and Pine-Richland are among the newcomers to Class AAAA. Burgettstown is dropping to Class A.

Should be an interesting day.

Monday, January 7, 2008

"Offensive deficiencies"

In the aftermath of last Friday's loss at Monessen, Washington High School boys basketball coach Ron Faust said his Prexies had glaring "offensive deficiencies" and they were a big reason why Washington lost the game and its usual place atop the Section 5-AA standings.
"If we can't get to the free throw line and stop the clock, you can't get into any pressure situations," Faust said. "In the first half, we had very little clock stoppage."
Washington (5-1, 11-4) didn't get to the foul line much in the second half either.
The Prexies took four free throws and made just two.
There's little doubt Washington thrives on defensive pressure and offensive rebounding. The Prexies are at their best when creating turnovers and few teams crash the boards as hard.
Monessen (6-0, 11-4), however, managed to expose a couple of Washington's weaknesses, including an inability to get to the free-throw line.
Greyhounds point guard Tim Tyree dominated on both ends and his ability to run the offense was something Washington did not have on Friday night.
The Prexies also struggled shooting, as they continually missed open shots inside and failed to convert several putbacks.

O-R basketball rankings

WPIAL boys
Class AAAA
1. North Allegheny 13-1
2. McKeesport 10-1
3. Pittsburgh Central Catholic 11-2
4. Moon 9-4
5. Upper St. Clair 12-2
Class AAA
1. Chartiers Valley 13-1
2. Hopewell 11-2
3. Highlands 9-4
4. Greensburg Salem 10-3
5. Steel Valley 10-2
Class AA
1. Beaver Falls 10-3
2. Jeannette 4-3
3. North Catholic 11-2
4. Aliquippa 8-5
5. Riverside 13-1
Class A
1. Serra Catholic 10-1
2. Lincoln Park 8-2
3. Union 8-4
4. Bentworth 9-3
5. California 8-4

WPIAL girls
Class AAAA
1. Mt. Lebanon 14-0
2. Norwin 12-0
3. Upper St. Clair 11-1
4. Butler 14-1
5. Peters Township 10-2
Class AAA
1. West Mifflin 11-3
2. Hopewell 10-2
3. Hampton 12-2
4. Ringgold 10-2
5. Indiana 13-1
Class AA
1. Washington 12-0
2. OLSH 13-1
3. Bishop Canevin 9-4
4. South Park 8-5
5. Sto-Rox 10-3
Class A
1. North Catholic 10-2
2. Monessen 14-0
3. Mt. Alvernia 7-4
4. Serra Catholic 6-3
5. Avonworth 7-4

Friday, January 4, 2008

Friday night lights

The boys basketball docket for tonight is filled with quality games likely to impact teams postseason chances. Here, at the Varsity Letters, predicting outcomes for basketball games is not common practice but with so many intriguing matchups, figured we'd give it a try and see how well it goes.

Canon-McMillan (9-5) at Upper St. Clair (11-2)
The Big Macs have won six straight, including a confidence-building win over previously unbeaten McKeesport. USC is on a four-game win streak. This game features two of the WPIAL's best coaches in USC's Danny Holzer and C-M's Rick Bell but the edge goes to Panthers, who are playing at home.
Upper St. Clair by four.

Moon (8-4) at Peters Township (10-3)
Moon, led by Xavier recruit Brian Walsh, is one of the WPIAL's most talented teams and at 4-1, the Tigers stand atop rugged Section 4-AAAA. Moon, however, has been inconsistent. Peters Township is the surprise of the WPIAL and junior Nick Wilcox has developed into a reliable scorer. The Indians have lost three of five. Make it four of six.
Moon by 10.

South Fayette (8-3) at Bishop Canevin (4-8)
Don't let the record deceive, Bishop Canevin played a rugged non-section schedule. The Crusaders are always a tough draw. South Fayette, with two freshmen starters, has not lost to a team that plays below the Quad-A level. It's time to recognize the Lions as one of the most consistent basketball programs in the southern part of the WPIAL.
South Fayette by 15.

Washington (11-3) at Monessen (10-4)
First place is on the line at Monessen as these two heavyweights tangle (make sure to read my game story in Saturday's O-R). The Prexies hit a rough, two-day stretch at the Upper St. Clair tournament and, like South Fayette, have not lost to a team below Quad-A. Monessen has won 10 of 11 behind the play Tim Tyree and Terrance Stepoli. This isn't Washington's best team – the Prexies do not have a true point guard or a reliable go-to guy, but something about this game reminds me of a Ric Flair saying. "To be the man, you've got to beat the man." In Section 5, Washington is the man.
Washington by 3.

APB, Where are they now?

This week's All Points Bulletin is for much-beloved former Ringgold point guard Czar Walsh, who started on the Rams' 1995 PIAA Class AAAA championship team. Ringgold became the WPIAL's first state champion in the state's largest classification and few teams have fielded a point guard like Walsh since.

A showman with a flair for the dramatic, Walsh loved the behind-the-back pass and his halfcourt shot at the buzzer against Erie Prep in the state quarterfinals forced overtime.

Anyone knowing of Walsh's whereabouts is urged to contact the Varsity Letters.

Thursday, January 3, 2008

National exposure, part II

Andrew Sweat is not the only Trinity football player preparing for a national television appearance. Hillers senior Michael Yancich, a Penn State recruit and the O-R Player of the year, will play in the Offense-Defense All-American Bowl.

The game will be played Friday at 8 p.m. from the famous Orange Bowl in Miami, Fla. and will be televised on Fox Sports Net.

Yancich is a linebacker for the East team.

Wednesday, January 2, 2008

National exposure

Trinity's Andrew Sweat arrived in Florida on Dec. 30 to begin preparations for the Under Armour All-America High School Football Game, which will be played Jan. 5 at 2 p.m. and will be televised on ABC.

Practices (morning and afternoon) are being shown on ESPNU and has a several pages dedicated to the game, practice and players.

ESPN rated Sweat as the nation's No. 2 middle linebacker and the country's 47th best college prospect. In addition, some of their coverage and photos includes Sweat, an Ohio State recruit and one of three WPIAL players (Montour's Christian Wilson, Jeannette's Mike Matt) participating. Check it out.

Tuesday, January 1, 2008

Happy New Year

The Varsity Letters wishes all, even those still harboring grudges from football season, a safe and successful 2008.