Friday, March 19, 2010

State playoff game or regular season snoozer?

Two teams. One contested rivalry.

The 2009 WPIAL Class AA boys quarterfinals between South Fayette and Washington was the most physical, hard-fought basketball game I've ever covered. Never saw two teams want to beat one another so badly. The game, won by South Fayette, wasn't pretty but the passion to play was intesne.

Why? Not only do the Lions and Prexies respect each other's abilities, they don't like each other too much.

Anyone expecting a similar game (I'm raising my hand) when the two met Wednesday in the second round of the PIAA playoffs had to leave disappointed.

The game felt like a third-place consolation game between two visiting schools at a season-opening tip-off tournament.

The crowd, respectable in size, was dead. Rarely did the decible level pass a dull roar and it often reflected on the court.

"Those first game of a doubleheader, the crowd always seems laid back for whatever reason," South Fayette coach Rich Bonnaure said following the Lions' 56-41 victory which put them in the PIAA quarterfinals for the first time since 2002.

South Fayette, in particular Mike Lamberti (23 points, 13 rebounds) played with more hustle and zeal than the Prexies. With the exception of a second-quarter run, Washington's proud fan base didn't appear as interested as usual.

"It seemed like we came out extremely flat," Washington coach Mark Gaither said. "We just didn't have our same energy that we had throughout the season."

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