Friday, March 12, 2010

Prexies, Lions loved the layoff

Washington High School's boys basketball team last played a competitive game two weeks ago. South Fayette hasn't played one in 10 days.

Both WPIAL Class AA powers lost to district champion North Catholic during various stages of the playoffs. The Trojans knocked the Prexies out in the quarterfinals and followed with a win over the Lions in the semifinals.

Those layoffs end Saturday when Washington (18-5) plays District 9 champion Brookville (17-7) at Clarion University at 3:30 p.m. and South Fayette (19-5) plays Cambria Heights (15-9) at Baldwin High School at 2 p.m. in the first round of the PIAA playoffs.

For players on both teams, including Wash High junior Zach Barnes and South Fayette senior Mike Burroughs (both pictured), the time away from competitive play has been filled with practice and scrimmages, with Trinity and Gateway being among the respective opponents.

Such a layoff may bother some teams. Washington and South Fayette enjoyed the time off for different reasons.

For the Prexies, it allowed the majority of their players to rest weary legs. All five starters – Barnes, Troy Wilson, Marquis Brown, Julien Anderson and Bryan Thomas – played football and that season ran into basketball season.

"It was a nice layoff. We took a few days of after the North Catholic game and it was the first time our guys had a day off in a long time," Washington coach Mark Gaither said. "These guys played on a successful football team and as soon as that was over it was right into the gym."

Gaither believed tired legs contributed to Washington's loss to North Catholic.

"I think they were a bit tired," he said. "The time off got them refocused and got them a breather."

For South Fayette, the layoff provided an opportunity to forget about its semifinal performance. The Lions only led against North Catholic was at 1-0.

"We've really been focusing on ourselves," South Fayette coach Rich Bonnaure said. "The guys took that loss pretty hard."

South Fayette, making a third consecutive PIAA playoff appearance for the first time, hopes to expand on its past two state playoffs. Two years ago, the Lions lost to Farrell in the second round. Last year, they lost to Mercyhurst Prep in the first.

With two senior starters in Burroughs and Tyler Henry and three junior starters in Mike Lamberti, Pat Zedreck and Josh Patterson, the majority of South Fayette's players have been part of the past three years.

"We're a talented team but we're also a victim of expectations. No matter what we've done this year, a lot of great things get overlooked," Bonnaure said. "We've had some real nice wins against Washington, Greensburg Central and North Catholic. We just try to play a tough schedule to get ready for the tournament."

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