Blogger's note: Due to space constrictions in Sunday's edition of the Observer-Reporter, only the top five teams made the newspaper.
1. South Fayette Boys Basketball
South Fayette failed to win its section or the WPIAL Class AA title, but that couldn’t keep a talented group led by all-state forward Mike Lamberti and all-state point guard Pat Zedreck from winning the ultimate prize – a PIAA championship.
With critical contributions from Mike Burroughs, Tyler Henry, Josh Patterson and Christian Brumbaugh, South Fayette dispatched a who’s-who en route to beating heavily favored Strawberry Mansion, 49-47, in the final to finish 24-5.
Henry scored the winning points on a putback with 25 seconds remaining.
Washington, North Catholic and Mercyhurst Prep each lost to the Lions by double digits in the state playoffs. Lamberti was the Observer-Reporter’s Player of the Year and Rich Bonnaure the state’s Class AA Coach of the Year. The Lions were named the O-R Headliner.
2. Chartiers-Houston Softball
Chartiers-Houston didn’t clinch the Section 1-A title until its final game, and the Bucs were nearly ousted in the WPIAL quarterfinals by Brentwood in extra innings.
The near-upset didn’t rattle the Bucs. It merely built character for and a recurring postseason theme that nearly drove head coach Tricia Alderson batty.
Chartiers-Houston played four consecutive extra-innings games in the postseason, with the lone loss against Vincentian Academy for the WPIAL title.
Led by sluggers Kayla Briggs and Colby Miller, the Bucs (22-2) advanced to the state semifinals where Player of the Year Kiersten Conwell took over. Conwell allowed one run over the final two games, including a 4-1 victory over Montgomery for the team’s first state championship in six appearances.
3. Peters Township Girls Tennis
Peters Township won more hardware over a three-week period than most teams do over three decades.
In its most successful season, Peters Township received strong play from No. 2 singles player Caroline Nixon and the Indians won their first district title since 1996 with a 3-2 victory over Upper St. Clair in the finals.
Compared to the WPIAL tournament, the PIAA playoffs were easier and Peters Township claimed the school’s second state championship – the Indians won in 2006 with current pro player Alison Riske – by beating Upper St. Clair again. Brandt Bowman coached both state championship teams.
To cap the gold-medal run, Nixon and Julie Stroyne – one of the most decorated high school tennis players to come from Washington County – won the PIAA Class AAA doubles championship.
4. Canon-McMillan Hockey
Canon-McMillan encountered modest expectations as it headed into the PIHL Class AAA Penguins Cup playoffs. Seeded eighth, the Big Macs weren’t given much of a chance to advance past the first round.
Expectations within the locker room were considerably higher and, as the Big Macs proved, more realistic.
Coached by Yuri Krivokhija, a 1988 draft choice of the Montreal Canadiens, and with little representation on the all-star team, Canon-McMillan (18-8-1) beat top-seed Shaler en route to knocking off Seneca Valley for its first Penguins Cup title.
The Big Macs’ run ended in the Pennsylvania Cup, a heartbreaking double-overtime loss to Cardinal O’Hara. But players Mario Dalesandro, Brett Oldaker, Brandon Smolarek and Alexander Baskakov turned C-M hockey into something special.
5. Canon-McMillan Wrestling
Wrestling powerhouse Canon-McMillan returned to its oft-occupied position atop the WPIAL when it defeated Kiski Area in the Class AAA team tournament to cap a dramatic run.
It marked the Big Macs first team championship – and first for head coach Chris Mary – since 1995 but its sixth overall.
Mike Hull, who hadn’t wrestled in 11 days after suffering a shoulder separation in a high school all-star football game, beat his heavier opponent 3-2 in the final match against Kiski to deliver the 32-27 victory. Earlier in the tournament, C-M beat Penn-Trafford by one point, thanks to Zach Thomas’ win at 160.
Connor Schram (103), Nick Catalano (135) and Sam Lombardo (140) each won silver at the WPIAL championships. Schram won PIAA gold to cap his freshman season.
6. Canon-McMillan Boys Track
Deep and talented, Canon-McMillan had only one WPIAL gold medalist in Nick Gibson, which makes the Big Macs’ accomplishment more impressive. At the WPIAL Class AAA team championship, key performances came from Michael Burchesky, Alex Adams, Hull and a host of others as Canon-McMillan won its second team title in three years.
7. Peters Township Field Hockey
Winners of consecutive WPIAL Division I girls lacrosse titles from 2007-09, Peters Township became a first-time power in field hockey when Jules Femiani scored in the first overtime to lift the Indians past Fox Chapel, 1-0, in the WPIAL final. Under first-year coach Kristin Slemmer, Peters Township finished 13-2.
8. South Fayette Football
South Fayette’s high-powered offense, engineered by Brumbaugh and fortified by all-state linemen Steve McElhinny, rolled over competition in the Century Conference. The Lions (10-1) went 9-0 during the regular season – their first undefeated mark since 1936 – and were the top seed in the Class AA playoffs. They lost to Aliquippa in the quarterfinals.
9. Jefferson-Morgan Girls Volleyball
With nine seniors, Jefferson-Morgan delivered on the potential they first displayed as sophomores. Led by all-state player Mabel Culp along with Morgan Olson and Marissa Cameron, the Rockets (18-3) finished third in WPIAL Class A and became the first volleyball team from Greene County to play in the state tournament.
10. Peters Township Girls Soccer
It’s difficult to imagine any team suffering a tougher loss than Peters Township did to Seneca Valley in the WPIAL Class AAA championship. The Indians fell in extra penalty kicks. Sadly, the Indians (19-3-2) were emotionally devastated again in PIAA quarterfinals when Erie McDowell scored the game winner with 21.4 seconds remaining.