Thursday, February 25, 2010

Thinking about the playoffs

A few deep, random thoughts ...

Peters Township boys soccer coach Bob Dyer - easily one of the best coaches in Western Pennsylvania - talked about the concerns high school coaches have, even when that team is rife with talent, tradition and a fill trophy case, following a 2009 playoff game.

Dyer mentioned that the easiest of games can concern a coach because, "You don't know if his girlfriend broke up with him in sixth period or he failed a pop quiz and now his week is ruined."

Sounds silly. For coaches, it's not. The psyche of a high school athlete is a fragile one.

What's this got to do with the WPIAL basketball playoffs? Well, in the case of Monessen's unbelievable loss to Laurel in the Class AA preliminaries, a lot.

For those unfamiliar, Monessen led by one with less than a second remaining when Cam Johnson was intentionally fouled. Johnson missed both free throws. Monessen went to inbound with .6 seconds remaining. Rather than throwing the ball to midcourt, the inbounder threw it to his left. Laurel stole the ball and made the game-winning shot.

Now, can a player steal a basketball, gather himself and shoot a jumper in .6 seconds? Absolutely not. That basket should have never been allowed.

But the play goes to show that you'll never know how a 16-year-old kid will react to pressure.

* Speaking of pressure, Washington nearly wilted under it during the final minutes of regulation in Wednesday's overtime victory over Freeport. Again, you'll never know how kids will react to these situations.

Luckily for Washington, Troy Wilson and Zach Barnes, in particular, played with the necessary calm and smarts during overtime to get the Prexies a quarterfinal contest against North Catholic. Wash High also returns to the PIAA playoffs with the victory.

If Washington is to beat North Catholic - something I have predicted on this blog - it has to return to the style of play that carried them to the Section 5 title. Against Freeport, Washington rarely made the extra pass and took far too many forced shots.

When Washington played team basketball - late in the first quarter, the third quarter and the first few minutes of overtime - the Prexies were clearly the better team and I believe that if the Prexies put together a string of efforts like it had at Monessen, they can win the WPIAL.

* After a 32-point win over Laurel, South Fayette rolls into the quarterfinals against Beaver Falls. The Lions have shrugged off a mid-season skid and have won six straight. Five of those wins have been by 19 points or more.

A couple people asked why I picked South Fayette to win the WPIAL Class AA title when the pairings were announced. One reason is because, one through six on the roster, South Fayette is the most talented team in the classification.

I'll always take the team with the best talent when it's combined with toughness and good coaching. South Fayette has all those things.

* Aliquippa lost its first-round game to Jeannette. The result may surprise some but, to local basketball aficionados, it does not. Zach Hooks, a transfer from Charleroi, played major minutes for the Quips. I'm not sure Hooks would make my all-district team if he had stayed in Charleroi.

* Speaking of the all-district team, Peters Township's Craig Wolcott and Trinity's Josh Valentic are shoo-ins and serious considerations for Player of the Year.

Valentic, a relentless worker on the offensive end, will face the ultimate test Friday against Chartiers Valley. The Colts are know to start their press as soon as the opponent walks off the bus.

* Here are a couple observations from the playoffs:

1. Free-throw shooting is at an all-time low. I've seen some terrible performances at the line. There's no excuse.

2. Officiating has been nearly as bad as the free-throw shooting.

* As Pitt marches toward another appearance in the NCAA Tournament, there's growing sentiment that people should never count out a team coached by Jamie Dixon.

Time to say the same thing about Gary Goga.

Goga demands his players have mental toughness, play with smarts and ultimate defensive effort. Peters Township's lack of size has led to a few losses this year but with the way the Indians shoot, can anyone say they have no chance Saturday against North Allegheny?

* Fort Cherry girls coach Bob Miles also deserves recognition for the job he's done.

The Rangers were anything but a playoff regular a decade ago. Now, FC has a chance to make its second PIAA playoff appearance in the past five years with a win Saturday against Monessen.

Unlike previous Fort Cherry teams, which had a standout scorer, these Rangers take turns leading the offense. Fort Cherry is 16-4 and the majority of the top players are sophomores.


Anonymous said...

Hope all is well with you and the family. Thank you for the invite for my thoughts on the things I think I think, so here goes.

1. I did take Peters over Butler. The reason was Goga had his team last season work out at 6;00 a.m. a few days a week in the summer. As a part of my book says "the harder you work and the more investment you have in anything the harder it is to surrender" Peters had to much invested to go down in the first round.However, my pick for AAAA is MT Lebo and coach David.

2. Coach Dyer of Peters is correct, the game is 90% mental 10% physical.

3. From what I think I understand from the rule book, you can get a shot off,if the clock has more than .04 seconds on it. Please have a ref confirm this, but I am somewhat sure the rule is .04 or less no shot..04 OR more you can get a shot off.It is all in the timing on starting the clock, It looked to me,as if it was a slow start of the clock.In reguard to the young men who missed the foul shots, and the young man who inbounce the pass,keep your heads up high, the game never comes down to 1 play. The only question you can ask is if you gave your very best, and I know you did .and thats what matters.It is my hope and prayer that you can grow as young men thru what took place. It is through hardship and tuff times that we often grow the most. Keep your head up and your attitude right, and good will come out of this. My thoughts and prayers are with you. HANG TUFF

4.I told you Freeport was a tuff matchup for Wash Hi. It does not get any closer than O.T.

5.I hope the Wash Hi people do not get mad at me, but I am picking North Cath over Wash Hi. I have 2 reasons 1. They are one of the 3 most disiplined teams I have seen this year. Mt Lebo,Char Valley
and North Cath 2. Coach Long had Heart problems this year,and missed some of the season. I think they are on a mission for him just as Wash Hi was on a mission for coach Faust last year, knowing it was his last year.
The only problem with my thinking is Wash Hi has great pride and the revenge factor of last year is on their side. I know the Wash Hi players and they are just plan tuff young men. This is a flip of the coin, but I will stick my neck out and pick N.C.But, then again what do I know, it just for fun.

Coach Jerry Cypher- Peace to all of you and may God keep you safe.

Anonymous said...

just wondering, with schools closing today will there still be the playoff games such as trinity vs cv tonight?

Dale Lolley said...

The whole girlfriend thing is why my coach didn't want to see us with our girlfriends on game day. Nothing was supposed to distract us from the task at hand. Focus, focus, focus.

And free-throw shooting is horribly bad. When teams have more three-pointers than field goals - despite taking more than 10 shots at the foul line - there's something wrong. The three-point shot has really hurt the high school game.

Sarcastic Sword said...

Mike - I like this "deep thoughts" column......

Free throw shooting - kids dont practice like they used to...too many distractions...XBox.....Playstation.....Air dont want to go outside in the summer.......

If I was a girls coach - I would always play zone....Ive yet to see a high school girls team that could drain the open jumper on a consistent basis......And the girls free throw shooting is worse than the boys....

Anonymous said...

Looks like Coagh Cypher got it right again.
He piched North Catholic over Wash Hi.Just as he picked O.L.S.H.(4-6) over (10-0) Bentworth,and Peters over Butler.
I also know for a fact he picked Peters girls over Oakland Catholic. When I told him he was nuts,He told me changing head coaches in mid year may not hurt Oakland Catholic in the regular season, but he said they will lose their first round playoff game no matter who they played,he said he was 100% positive of this.

Most people knew nothing about Freeport, and Coach Cypher said Wash Hi would win in a very close game.He picked Wash Hi in a very close one, and it was 50-47.He also said, even though he took the Hi, If Freeport were to win, he would not call it an upset.

Not only does he pick the winners, he tells you why he picks them to win, this is the most intresting part to me. He understands the psychology, of the teams and the game. I am very impressed by this.

Anonymous said...

Changing the subject just a tad. I hope you go back to the old ways of selecting the observer reporters all stars.Not the big school/small school. That kind of waters down the award. Just an opinion. I have saw every player play this year and so far here are my selections.
1. Craig Wolcott
2. Marquis Brown
3. Nate Belhy
4. Josh Valentic
These kids have played above and beyond and should play at the next level.
The 5th spot is up for grabs between a few kids (Lambertti,Wilson,Pavan)
Tough selection between the last few and I'm sure others should be considered.
Again consider going back to the old format ONE all star team.

Coach Cypher. Whats your opinion on the above?
Coach sad to see you didnt make the playoffs.The injury to your guard really hurt you bad.

Take care and god bless

Anonymous said...

Just a thought on player of the year awards mentioned earlier. All 4 should be there. I know from watching the wash high/NC game that Brown is the most important wash high player. Didnt understand why coach didnt take hime out mid 3rd qtr with 3 fouls?? brown in foul trouble was the reason they lost no doubt. NC didnt have an answer for him. I also like Valentics game, he is pretty smooth. Bellhy is on a young team in which he gets alot of shots, with that being said their are better players in the OR coverage area than him which dont have those oppurtunities.Wolcott proved he should be there too. 4th and 5th spot open.

Anonymous said...

First, I would like to tell you I am honored that you would want my opinion on the above subjects. Thank you for the complememt.

My first opinion is that Marquis Brown was the most improved player from last year to this year. He came out of nowhere to become a top player.A true force.
That being said, I voted him the 2nd ranked player in the section. I voted Tyler Pavan as the number 1 player. The section M.V.P. In my opinion and we played Washington and Burgettstown twice, Pavan can at will take over the game better than anyone we played all year. He also did not have the supporting cast of talant Brown had with all the talant Wash Hi had. So every game teams would key on Pavan, and he still took the game over.

We were 8-1 when we lost Jones for the season. I would like to think we would have gone deeper with him, but there are no excueses here, we needed to find a way to get it done and I did not.I take full responsibility for this.

I will give you my opinion on the Big-Small all star picks in a bit.
Until then,
Peace to all of you, and may God bless you and keep you safe

Coach Jerry Cypher

Anonymous said...

When considering, don't forget that Wash High was picked to finish 3rd in the section by all the media behind Burgettstown & Monessen...and that Brown was never mentioned when talking about the great guards in this section including the Char Houston ones. What he has accomplished this season with his team is something special - hopefully they can make another run in States. Learning a new system, to start the first few weeks 3-4 overall and 0-1 in the section - only to finish the season with 14 straight wins and to win the section is pretty impressive. Pavan is very good - but Brown is def the MVP and most improved. I don't remember him doing any of the stuff he does now last year? Also that 9th grade shooter from California is tough as well as big Cam Johnson from Monessen.

Anonymous said...

Sorry Coach Cypher, I have to disagree with you on this one.
I have seen every player mentioned play and the best player around is Nate Bellhy, no question.
FYI, I checked the Post-Gazette and OR to make the 4 games he played against North Catholic and South Fayette he had 119 points, over 50 rebounds and over 18 blocked shots. No one on the court could stop him. He had 25 points in the first half against SF against their starters as he did in the NC games when he scored 39.
His shooting average was over 50% all season from what the coaches have told me. At 6'5" he can handle the ball extremely well, shoot the three, take it to the hoop, rebound, assist, and block shots. There is not a coach in the WPIAL who would not want him on their team. If anyone is an MVP you have to consider Nate. On top of all that his coach says he also has a 3.8 GPA.

Anonymous said...

I think you misunderstood my comment, and point of reference. I was talking about Pavan in reguard to our section 5AA only. In fact I stated that a few times in my comment. At least I thought I did , the subject was Brown or Pavan as the SECTION M.V.P.
I then went on to say, I would give my thoughts on the big-small allstars after more thought.

I know Belhys ability better than you may know. He played as the only freshman ever, on Brendans Washington Wolfpack A.A.U. team when his brother was entering his SR year. He was the only Fr to ever make the Wolfpack, that is most of the time made up of players entering their SR year.

I am not ready to name him the M.V.P.of the district as of yet, but, he is one of the players at the top of my list.
The main question for me is, how good was he on Defense. To me to be the best player you must be as good on 'D'as you are on 'O'. If you score 30, but give up 20 what have you gained?

Not that you can place it all on his back,nor would it be fair to, the fact is Ft Cherry had the WORST "D" in the entire W.P.I.A.L giving up 69.5 points per game.To me and you may not like my comment, but giving up the most points in the entire W.P.I.A.L. is a disgrace, and as the team leader he must share in some of that responsibility.They played in a good section, but top to bottom it was no stronger than section 4-5or6 in AA

We to often value a player on how many points he scores. The game is so much more than that.And yes, I know he is a very good all around player

That being said. I have him as one of the top players for the district M.V.P.

Peace and Blessings to all of you.
Coach Jerry Cypher

The Big Dog said...

Kinda tough arguing the Belhy kid. He is a solid player and if I was his parents I would of moved him out of that school district last year. He does have the biggest upside of all the kids mentioned for the next level. He will draw the most college attention around here next year hands down. If he works hard enough he could be an elite player from this area.

Anonymous said...

Sorry Coach,
I did not pay attention that you were comparing Brown and Pavan.
In any case, Nate Bellhy is a quality player. I think the biggest trouble with his defensive ability is that he simply CANNOT foul out of a game or the team is doomed. When he was out of the Burgettstown game earlier in the year with a sprained ankle the entire team only scored 17 points for the game. When I have seen him play it often looks like he gives up some on defense, but that is only because he has to try to cover for the mistakes of the rest of the team on defense and gets caught in no-win situations having to guard 2-3 guys. One more thing for his offensive play, when I have seen him play he is hounded and roughed up the whole game by the other team's defense and still manages to score.
I also agree with the other post...his parents should have moved him to another district. Kind of reminds me of the situation Ryne Niemic was in at Beth-Center.
One last thing, I thought he played for John Miller's AAU team with Zedreck, Lamberti from SF?
Will miss seeing you on the sidelines Coach Cypher...hmmm maybe helping some at B-town?

Anonymous said...

First, it is important to understand how the process works in D1. At the D1 level there is only aprox 8 weeks of live face to face recuriting.
The live time is approx the last 2 weeks of April, the last week of June,The full month of July and the first 2 weeks of August.At this time
90% of D1 coaches and scouting services go to the major A.A.U.Tournys and then go to major 4 star camps.This is how most players are found.

Pitt has a big time A.A.U.Tourny in the last week of April called Jam fest. It is an A.A.U. tourny that is by invatation only. The Wolfpack has been invited for the past 4 years. You will see most of the big time D1 coaches at this event.
The other is the 5 star camp held in all 4 weeks of July at Robert Morris College. Two important factors in this camp.
1. you must be on the N.B.A side of the camp.Not the N.C.A.A. side
2. The big weeks are the last 2 weeks of the camp. Most D1 Coaches and the big time scouting services are at the camp at that time.

Another is the Harley Davidson hoop fest at W.V.U. the first week in August. The Nike camp in vegas, along with a camp in North Carolina and New York are well attented by the big time Coaches.
This is how it is done, coaches do not show up at high school games. You can be the best player around, but if you are not at the high level camps and A.A.U.Tournys you will not get exposure to D1 Coaches.
Would you beleive it if I told you that EVERY player who has played on the Washington Wolfpack has gone on to play at least 1 year of college basketball. The 3 who did not played basketball played football. So I have a little understanding of the process.
If Belhy is going big time he must be at these places to get exposure,There is know other way. There are some kids who send film and coaches will call but this is not the rule.

As always God bless

Coach Cypher