Monday, January 31, 2011

Boys basketball, week in review

Team of the Week – Avella
The Eagles remained one game behind Section 3-A leader Bentworth, but it wasn't without one wild comeback at home against Carmichaels.
One day after Avella (5-1 section, 9-7 overall) – the only team in 3-A with a winning record – dispatched Mapletown, the Mikes forced overtime when Seth Krall hit a three-pointer with six seconds remaining.
Carmichaels got 26 points apiece from Jonathan Krall and Seth Krall and the Mikes surged to an eight-point lead in overtime.
Avella rallied in the final 90 seconds and took the lead for good an a Damon Cupp layup with 18 seconds remaining. A pair of free throws from Cameron Geresti iced the game.

Runner-up – Ringgold
The Rams solidified their playoff position in Section 5-AAA with a pair of wins; the first over Waynesburg and the second at Washington Friday night. Andrew Stine scored a combined 66 points in the two games, including a school record 42 against Waynesburg.

Starting five
Jonathan Krall, Carmichaels
Tyler Pavan, Burgettstown
Andrew Stine, Ringgold
John Tyler, California
Josh Valentic, Trinity
Off the bench
Tyler Corbitt, Charleroi

Pavan-ing the way – As Burgettstown clings to fourth place in Section 5-AA, there's little doubt the Blue Devils playoff chances rest on the scoring touch of Pavan, a senior guard who is nearing 1,000 career points.
Pavan, an all-section selection last year, has been on an offensive tear since a one-point loss to Washington. Over his last six games, Pavan is averaging 27.2 points per game. He is averaging 21.5 points on the season.

Observer-Reporter WPIAL boys basketball rankings

Class AAAA
1. Shaler 17-0
2. North Allegheny 14-3
3. Mt. Lebanon 16-2
4. Chartiers Valley 12-4
5. Gateway 13-3

Class AAA
1. South Fayette 14-0
2. West Mifflin 15-1
3. Uniontown 12-3
4. Greensburg-Salem 12-4
5. Montour 12-6

Class AA
1. Greensburg Central Catholic 16-2
2. Monessen 14-2
3. Beaver Falls 12-5
4. Sto-Rox 12-3
5. Jeannette 10-5

Class A
1. Vincentian Academy 15-0
2. Rochester 14-3
3. Lincoln Park 12-4
4. Serra Catholic 12-4
5. St. Joseph 14-2

Observer-Reporter WPIAL girls baskeball rankings

Class AAAA
1. Shaler 15-2
2. Mt. Lebanon 11-5
3. Bethel Pak 14-2
4. Oakland Catholic 11-6
5. North Allegheny 15-3

Class AAA
1. Indiana 15-1
2. West Mifflin 12-4
3. Blackhawk 12-5
4. New Castle 13-3
5. South Park 13-3

Class AA
1. Seton La-Salle 15-2
2. Avonworth 15-1
3. Deer Lakes 15-1
4. Riverside 15-2
5. Bishop Canevin 13-3

Class A
1. Vincentian Academy 15-1
2. Monessen 16-0
3. North Catholic 12-5
4. Aliquippa 16-1
5. Fort Cherry 13-2

Saturday, January 29, 2011

APB, Where are they Now?

Back by popular demand (OK, by popular demand, three people have asked about the APBs in recent weeks) is The Varsity Letters issues an All Points Bulletin for former McGuffey basketball standout Seth Hunter.

Why McGuffey boys basketball? Well, after hearing from a couple coaches who believe the Highlanders will contend for a playoff spot next year in Section 5-AAA, it brought back memories of the best team in their not-so-illustrious history.

Coached by Ed Goetz, who came to McGuffey after two successful seasons at Sto-Rox, McGuffey gradually built a base for competitive. During the 2001-02 season, McGuffey won a school-record 19 games, its only section championship and made the only WPIAL playoff appearance in its history.

Hunter was a junior and in his second year as a starter. By the time he graduated in 2003, Hunter was McGuffey's career scoring leader with 1,430 points and he averaged 23.1 points as a senior. That year, Hunter established a single-game scoring record of 35 points in the Washington-Greene County Boys Senior All-Star Game.

He went on to play at Bethany College.

Anyone knowing Hunter's whereabouts is urged to contact The Varsity Letters.

All about Bubba

Bubba Starling is a two-sport high school phenom in Kansas - an All-American quarterback and the top baseball prospect not in college or another country. He's headed to Nebraska to play both sports ... for now.

Aliquippa in Sports Illustrated

Even the casual football fan from Western Pennsylvania knows the championship tradition of Aliquippa, the WPIAL's premier football power.

From Mike Ditka to Sean Gilbert to Darrelle Revis and Johnathan Baldwin, Aliquippa boasts a long line of greats and the most football championships and championship game appearances in WPIAL history.

The Quips' home stadium, affectionately dubbed "The Pit" bears the name of former Charleroi resident Carl A. Aschman, and it remains this reporter's favorite place to take in a high school football game.

In the most recent issue to arrive in my mailbox, Sports Illustrated takes an in-depth look at the town, from a historical and sports standpoint. The well-crafted story, done by S.L. Price, features interviews with Ditka, Tony Dorsett (who grew up in Plan 11 but fell inside the Hopewell School District border). Gilbert and others, including current football coach Mike Zmijanac and former head coach Don Yanessa. It's a fascinating read, one that I just completed, and I highly recommend it to football fans from the region.

A lot of the old mill towns throughout Western Pennsylvania can tell similar stories, but none have the number of Hall of Fame names that Aliquippa boasts.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Stepoli brothers leave GCC basketball team

Those wishing for a Monessen vs. Greensburg Central Catholic matchup in the WPIAL Class AA boys basketball championship game may still get their wish but one of the main subplots to the story line was erased when the Stepoli brothers left the GCC basketball team to reportedly
concentrate on football.

Terrance Stepoli, a senior, transferred from Monessen to Greensburg Central Catholic midway through the 2009-10 basketball season, not long after the Greyhounds lost at Wash High. Josh Stepoli, a junior, remained at Monessen until a few weeks later. Josh Stepoli was still with the Greyhounds when a few fans from Monessen and Washington fought during halftime of the second game played between the two teams last year.

According to the story from the Tribune-Review, which you can read here, Terrance Stepoli is expected to accept a football scholarship from Division II Concord (W.Va.) University. Josh Stepoli is a big-time football prospect with schools from Rutgers to Nebraska interested in the 6-7 lineman.

Both Stepolis were key contributors to a GCC team that was bolstered by several transfers and spent the entire season atop the Observer-Reporter Class AA rankings. The Centurions are 14-2 overall after beating California Tuesday night.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Boys basketball, Week in review

Team of the Week – Trinity
The Hillers took care of crosstown rival Washington last Tuesday in convincing fashion then won a non-section game at Albert Gallatin Saturday.
Trinity's win against Wash High firmly put the Hillers into the top four among teams in Section 5-AAA. Josh Valentic scored 23 points and was honored pre-game for becoming Trinity's all-time scoring leader.
Trinity's win was as much about contributions from players like Charlie McCaffrey and Corey Hunsberger and team rebounding as it was Valentic's offensive brilliance.
At 3-2 in section play, Trinity faces, arguably, its biggest week of the season starting tonight at South Fayette. The Hillers follow with a home game Friday against second-place Montour.

Runner-up – South Fayette
The Lions scored an impressive win and clearly established themselves as the team to beat in Section 5-AAA with a win at Montour. South Fayette owns a 17-game win streak.

Starting five
John Barker, Bentworth
Mike Lamberti, South Fayette
Ty Negley, Waynesburg
Gabe Prtiz, Peters Township
Josh Valentic, Trinity
Off the bench
Tanner Huffman, California

Girls basketball, Week in review

Team of the Week – Fort Cherry
The Rangers played just once last week but they further solidified themselves as the team to beat in Section 3-A with a 60-39 victory over visiting Chartiers-Houston last Monday.
Fort Cherry, the No. 5 team in the Observer-Reporter Class A rankings, has a two-game lead over the second-place Bucs with five section games remaining.
Jessie Merckle led a typically balanced Fort Cherry offense with 19 points, 10 coming in the third quarter when the Bucs finally got their offense going. Carolena Gasbarro scored 15 and Beka Bellhy finished with 13. All three players are averaging double figures points for the Rangers.
Fort Cherry is 12-2 overall with the only losses coming against Class AAAA and AAA competition.

Runner-up – Washington
The Prexies remained unbeaten in Section 4-AA with wins over Burgettstown and Bemtworth but dropped a non-section game to Peters Township last Friday to snap a five-game win streak.

Starting five
Morgan Berardi, Carmichaels
Anna Lombardo, Canon-McMillan
Jocelyn Lucsko, McGuffey
Jessie Merckle, Fort Cherry
Aujuwa Moore, Washington
Off the bench
Jessica Dorazio, Bentworth

Feeling charitable - Two of the more important games last week – Canon-McMillan vs. Peters Township and Washington vs. Bentworth – shared one characteristic … lots of free throws. The Big Macs made 21 of 27 in a win over Peters Township. Wash High made 24 of 42 in a win at Benwtorth, which made 15 of 26. Moore made 17 of 22 including all six attempts in overtime.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Observer-Reporter WPIAL boys basketball rankings

Class AAAA
1. Shaler 14-0
2. Gateway 13-2
3. North Allegheny 11-3
4. Mt. Lebanon 14-2
5. Chartiers Valley 10-3

Class AAA
1. South Fayette 11-0
2. West Mifflin 12-1
3. Montour 10-5
4. Uniontown 9-3
5. Ringgold 10-3

Class AA
1. Greensburg Central Catholic 13-2
2. Monessen 11-2
3. Sto-Rox 9-3
4. Beaver Falls 10-5
5. Jeannette 8-5

Class A
1. Lincoln Park 11-2
2. Vincentian Academy 13-0
3. Rochester 11-3
4. Serra Catholic 10-4
5. St. Joseph 12-2

Observer-Reporter WPIAL girls basketball rankings

Class AAAA
1. Shaler 13-2
2. Mt. Lebanon 8-5
3. Bethel Park 12-2
4. Baldwin 12-3
5. Oakland Catholic 9-5

Class AAA
1. Indiana 14-0
2. New Castle 11-2
3. West Mifflin 10-3
4. Chartiers Valley 11-3
5. South Park 10-3

Class AA
1. Seton-La Salle 13-2
2. Avonworth 13-1
3. Bishop Canevin 10-2
4. Greensburg C.C. 11-1
5. Deer Lakes 12-1

Class A
1. Vincentian Academy 14-0
2. Monessen 13-0
3. North Catholic 11-4
4. Aliquippa 14-0
5. Fort Cherry 11-2

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Trinity opens football position

Trinity Area School Board voted 5-4 to open Ed Dalton's job as head varsity football coach. Dalton had served as Trinity's coach since 1999.

Coaching matters at Trinity and Peters Township

The Trinity Area School Board will meet tonight at 6:30 p.m. in the high school auditorium and they are expected to vote on opening the varsity head football coaching position held by Ed Dalton.
This marks the second time the board will vote to open the position; the first came in December 2009, when the board voted to open all fall sports coaching positions as well as Dalton's old post of athletic director. The vote was rescinded a month later.
Dalton's contract as athletic director was not renewed over the summer.
Depending on the person doing the talking, there's differing opinions about Dalton's status.Link Dalton and some of his supporters at Trinity believe he's coached his final game. At least one board member told a staff writer from the Observer-Reporter earlier today that there will not be enough votes to open the position.
Trinity has qualified for the WPIAL playoffs the past six years - once in Class AAAA, five times since joining Class AAA. Dalton's record since becoming Trinity's coach in 1999 is 57-49 in the regular season and 2-7 in the postseason.
He's also coached at least 75 players who played some college football.

** Thursday's edition of the Observer-Reporter has a story on the coaching situation at Peters Township. For those who would like to read the story, click
A few things in the story raised my eyebrows as I'm getting conflicting information.
"Following the meeting, which drew a large audience, Zetty said she did not receive a recommendation for the varsity football position from Richard Relich, the Peters Township athletic director, or Frank Brettschneider, acting high school principal. She did not speculate if a recommendation would be received before the next board meeting on Feb. 22."
I've had two sources that I trust tell me that Rich Relich, the outgoing athletic director, recommended Nick Milchovich. I have not been able to confirm that.
"McClure said confidential sources told her that there are people involved in the selection process who should not be. Zetty asked to speak privately with McClure Wednesday about where she had obtained some of the information. McClure declined."
Four people with knowledge of the situation have told me that Tom Donahoe – the former general manager of the Pittsburgh Steelers – sat in as an advisor on the final interviews for the football position.

** How does Peters Township expect to keep quality coaches around if the school district decides to publicly open every coaching position every season?
Most school districts open coaching positions at the end of seasons but the process is very informal and when coaches are asked if they want to return (provided they received a satisfactory review), it's done with a signature and handshake.
Opening the job to applicants takes on a completely different meaning.

** Considering all fall sports coaches with the exception of Milchovich were rehired, was this process handled fairly across the board? If we've heard about finalists (like Moon's Jon Miller) for the football job, why didn't potential finalists for the other positions surface?

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Boys basketball, week in review

Team of the Week – Canon-McMillan
Some teams didn't play a game last week, others played just one. Canon-McMillan played three and went 2-1 with a pair of key wins in Section 4-AAAA and a loss to a one-loss Mt. Lebanon.
The Big Macs elevated themselves from last place in the standings with a 55-54 win over Upper St. Clair and a 60-57 win at Bethel Park. Dylan Berger averaged 18.5 points in the two victories, while Brett Haney and Kionte Davis scored double figures in each game as well.
Berger led C-M with 17 points in a 61-41 loss to Mt. Lebanon.
The Big Macs look to continue to make a playoff push tonight against Peters Township.

Runner-up – Bentworth
Non-section play wasn't kind to Bentworth, but the Bearcats are playing better basketball of late and picked up a key 58-56 win at Carmichaels Friday night. Eric Schoedel scored 10 of his 14 points in the fourth quarter.

Starting five
Dylan Berger, Canon-McMillan
Christian Brumbaugh, South Fayette
Brett Haney, Canon-McMillan
Eric Schoedel, Bentworth
Josh Valentic, Trinity (pictured)
Off the bench
Naz Victoria, California

Record-setter – A few blog followers believe Josh Valentic is the best pure jump shooter in the area, a point that is hard to argue. When I watch Valentic play, I'm as equally impressed with how hard he works to get the basketball, whether it is fighting through screens or running the baseline. Valentic is a tireless worker.
He's also Trinity's all-time leading scorer.
With 2:32 remaining in Trinity's win over Waynesburg Friday night, Valentic became the Hillers' leading scorer on – what else? – a jump shot. He finished the game with 30 points and takes 1,297 career points into tonight's game against Washington. Mike Deegan scored 1,296 points for the Hillers.

Washington vs. Trinity – Tonight is a big night for important basketball games and big-time rivalries.
South Fayette at Montour.
Peters Township at Canon-McMillan.
Burgettstown at Chartiers-Houston.
Bentworth at Avella.
Tonight also marks the first time since 1970 that Washington meets Trinity in a section game. Besides the obvious rivalry, this game takes on more importance as the Prexies and Hillers are both 2-2 and tied for fourth place in Section 5-AAA.
The two are scheduled to meet a second time on Friday, Feb. 11 and the last time they met twice in the same season came in 1995-96.

Pitt-Cuse game filled with potential recruits

The stars shined bright during Monday night's Big East Conference basketball game between Pitt and Syracuse, a game won by the Panthers after they squandered a 19-0 lead to the Orange.

Steelers like Ben Roethlisberger (who received a raucous round of applause from the record crowd of 12,925 when shown on the big screen above the court), James Farrior, LaMarr Woodley and Max Starks were on hand. So were former Pitt football players Larry Fitzgerald - who heard repeated 'Larry! Larry!' chants every time he stood up, Tyler Palko, Dorin Dickerson and even former Pitt basketball players Mark McCarroll and Sam Clancy, who is a fixture at the University.

The most important guests were probably seated about 20 feet to my left, where a believed 40 potential football recruits had spots next to press row. While I didn't recognize every recruit, I was able to spot a few targets for new head coach Todd Graham.

Greensburg Central Catholic junior Josh Stepoli, a Monessen resident, was there. So were Clairton standouts Desimon Green and Trenton Coles. (One student in the Oakland Zoo held up a sign that read, "Our favorite color is Green.") Hopewell running back Rushel Shell, possibly the WPIAL's most coveted recruit since Terrelle Pryor, was on hand. Penn-Trafford's Manny Simpson was two seats from me and McKeesport's Delvon Simmons received plenty of attention from Graham and his assistants.

Getting all those recruits to that game was a smart move on Pitt's part. I'm not sure I ever heard Petersen Events Center as loud before and senior forward Gilbert Brown said the same thing in a much more humorous manner after the game.

And, in an unusual change of pace, Graham and his coaches wore Oakland Zoo t-shirts and encouraged the recruits to stand up and cheer on occasion. As someone who has covered Pitt basketball games dating back to Walt Harris, I can't recall that happening before.

Monday, January 17, 2011

Girls basketball, week in review

Team of the Week - Monessen
The undefeated Greyhounds rolled past an overmatched Winchester-Thurston on Monday to set up a game against Serra Catholic for first place in Section 4-A.
Monessen moved to 10-0 overall and 5-0 in section with Thursday's 54-53 victory, one that wasn't sealed until Monessen sophomore Mariah Ward stole the basketball with two seconds remaining.
Chelsea Szakal and Geena Shrader both put together strong weeks for Monessen, the No. 3 team in the Observer-Reporter Class A rankings.

Runner-up - Washington
The Prexies moved into sole possession of first place in Section 4-AA with a 46-38 victory over previously unbeaten Charleroi last Monday.

Starting five
Carolena Gasbarra, Fort Cherry
Aujuwa Moore, Washington
Geena Shrader, Monessen
Chelsea Szakal, Monessen
Amanda Temple, Avella
Off the bench
Jessie Merckle, Fort Cherry

Temple of scoring - Following Washington's win over Charleroi Monday, Prexies senior Aujuwa Moore said one reason Wash High hasn't lost since Christmas Break is that her teammates are no longer waiting for her to make things happen.
Avella coach Jim Matalik, a long-time head coach who always has the Eagles in playoff contention, said the same thing later in the week concerning his team and the play of senior guard Amanda Temple, the WPIAL's leading scorer at 23.0 ppg.
The Eagles, who are 7-6 overall and 3-2 in Section 3-A, experienced a surprising 17-point loss to four-win Cornell last Monday before beating Jefferson-Morgan by 10 points Thursday. After that game, Matalik said he'd like to see his team play more aggressively.

Big game for Big Macs - Canon-McMillan struggled the past two seasons as a youthful roster tried to compete with some of the state's best teams in Section 4-AAAA. The Big Macs are a more veteran bunch these days and leading scorer Emily Hansen is being complemented nicely. The much-improved Big Macs are 1-2 in section play heading into tonight's home game against Peters Township. The Indians are 2-3 in section play. With Baldwin, Mt. Lebanon and Bethel Park likely locks for postseason play, the winner of tonight's game at Canon-McMillan could find itself in good position for fourth place.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Observer-Reporter WPIAL girls basketball rankings

Class AAAA
1. Oakland Catholic 9-3
2. Baldwin 11-2
3. Shaler 10-2
4. Mt. Lebanon 7-5
5. Bethel Park 10-2

Class AAA
1. Indiana 13-0
2. South Park 10-2
3. New Castle 8-2
4. Chartiers Valley 9-3
5. West Mifflin 9-3

Class AA
1. Bishop Canevin 10-1
2. Seton-La Salle 11-2
3. Avonworth 11-1
4. Greensburg C.C. 9-1
5. Beaver Falls 8-4

Class A
1. Vincentian Academy 13-0
2. North Catholic 10-2
3. Monessen 11-0
4. Aliquippa 12-0
5. Fort Cherry 10-2

Observer-Reporter WPIAL boys basketball rankings

Class AAAA
1. Shaler 12-0
2. North Allegheny 10-2
3. Mt. Lebanon 12-1
4. Gateway 11-2
5. Connellsville 11-0

Class AAA
1. South Fayette 10-0
2. West Mifflin 11-1
3. Greensburg-Salem 9-2
4. Montour 9-4
5. Mars 11-1

Class AA
1. Greensburg Central Catholic 12-1
2. Monessen 10-2
3. Jeannette 8-3
4. Sto-Rox 6-3
5. Beaver Falls 8-5

Class A
1. Lincoln Park 9-2
2. Vincentian Academy 11-0
3. Rochester 10-3
4. Serra Catholic 8-4
5. Cornell 10-3

Friday, January 14, 2011

Varsity leftovers

A record-keeping snafu will keep Monessen boys basketball coach Joe Salvino from picking up career victory No. 500 for a little longer than originally thought.

It was believed that Salvino had 498 career wins heading into the Greyhounds' game tonight. After some extensive record checking, Salvino has 489 wins. The way Monessen - the No. 2 team in the Observer-Reporter Class AA rankings - is playing, Salvino should pick up his 500th win sometime in February.

* We've reached the halfway point of the regular season in basketball and candidates for player of the year have certainly emerged.

In boys basketball, it looks like a three-player race between South Fayette teammates Mike Lamberti and Pat Zedreck and Trinity sharpshooter Josh Valentic. Fort Cherry's Nate Bellhy can make a push if the Rangers contend for the postseason. So could Canon-Mac big man Dylan Berger.

Canon-McMillan's Emily Hansen, Monessen's Geena Shrader and Avella's Amanda Temple are in the middle of outstanding seasons.

The boys team at Monessen and the Fort Cherry girls - both teams capable of extended playoff runs - are so balanced it's difficult pinpointing a Player of the Year candidate.

* Finally got a chance to watch the Ringgold boys team this week when the Rams played at South Fayette in a game between two of the top teams in Section 5-AAA.

South Fayette won handily but there were definitely some things I liked about the Rams.

One was the play of forward Zack Smith, who finished with 12 points and nine rebounds. Smith had his hands full trying to guard all of South Fayette's big men as teammate Michael Beveridge was plagued with foul trouble, but he gave it full effort. With about a minute remaining, Smith gasped his way toward the Rams bench, looked at Ringgold coach Pete Logan and said, "I'm so tired." He looked it, but that kind of effort is one of the reasons why Ringgold is 8-2 and 3-1 in section play.

I've seen a few teams already this year that could learn a few things from watching tape of Smith's effort.

I also liked the quick release of shooting guard Andrew Stine. If Stine has a tiny window to get off a jumper, he's taking it. I can't recall seeing a quicker release for a jump shooter at the high school level the past couple years.

* As I sit here typing this, Channel 11 noon news is on and they are doing a live remote from the Steelers pep rally at the courthouse in Pittsburgh. Who are they interviewing? South Fayette's Josh Patterson, who attended the rally with several members of the Lions football team.

Patterson had surgery this week on a broken nose suffered in a basketball game at Wash High.

* According to a source with knowledge of the situation, Nick Milchovich is one of five candidates to make it to the second round of interviews for the Peters Township football coaching position.

Milchovich, the Indians coach the past four years, had his job opened in December. At the time, it appeared to be a move to oust the coach, who guided Peters Township to 10 wins the past two years.

* As for the other four candidates, if I can confirm names, I'll let you know. I can put to rest at least one rumor that I heard multiple times from a few high school football coaches, Thomas Jefferson's Bill Cherpak is not believed to be among the candidates.

Every time I heard his name mentioned with Peters Township, it just seemed hard to believe for obvious reasons. The only one I could come up with was maybe he'd be interested if Peters Township combined the football and athletic director positions.

Peters Township wants to keep those positions separate.

* Another coaching rumor has Washington's Mike Bosnic headed to Connellsville for the vacancy there. Bosnic attended Albert Gallatin, which is not far from Connellsville.

* It's mid-January and the fall sports varsity coaches at Peters Township don't know if they'll be hired back for next season. There is a school board meeting next week.

* Count me among the many who believe that Pitt can not thrive as a football program by concentrating on recruits from Pennsylvania, and Western Pennsylvania in particular.

Sure, it's nice to keep some local products at home but the WPIAL and City League hasn't been fertile recruiting round for years. True, every Super Bowl has had a participant from the Big 33 Football Classic but how many elite NFL players call the WPIAL home?

I can count one, Darrelle Revis.

Pitt's challenge will be keeping the occasional elite recruit from the WPIAL home. Players like Terrelle Pryor haven't thought about playing for Pitt in some time. That's where Todd Graham needs to make a difference.

* One player who'd be willing to listen to Graham and Pitt if it needs to fill out the recruiting class in South Fayette's Christian Brumbaugh.

Brumbaugh committed to Division I-AA William & Mary two days before South Fayette beat Forest Hills in the state semifinals. At one point, Brumbaugh had three Division I offers - Akron, Bowling Green and Buffalo.

After watching Brumbaugh in seven games this season, the only thing I can see that kept him from fielding more offers was foot speed. Funny, I don't recall Dan Marino being a burner, not that I am comparing the two, I'm just pointing out how recruiting is more about shuttle runs, vertical leaps and bench presses these days than it is production on the field and knowing how to win.

I asked Brumbaugh last Friday if he'd be willing to listen to a recruiting pitch from Pitt and he answered yes.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Week in review, boys basketball

Team of the Week -Monessen
The Greyhounds established themselves as prohibitive favorites in Section 3-AA with wins over Wilkinsburg and Steel Valley. Monessen, with a 4-0 section record and a 9-2 overall mark, handed both teams their first section loss.
Monessen's only losses were against Class AAAA schools – Norwin and highly regarded North Allegheny.
With head coach Joe Salvino rapidly approaching career win No. 500, Monessen is getting solid production from a strong rotation. At Wilkinsburg, Cam Johnson and Jaisen Irwin came off the bench to combine for 38 points.
Against Steel Valley, point guards Jalen Madison scored 20 points and the Greyhounds defense limited the Ironmen to 18 points in the first half.

Runner-up - Ringgold
Ringgold continued its strong start with a key Section 5-AAA win against Washington and a non-section victory over South Park.

Starting five
Tanner Huffman, California
Mike Lamberti, South Fayette
Jalen Madison, Monessen
Tyler Pavan, Burgettstown
Andrew Stine, Ringgold
Off the bench
Dylan Berger, Canon-McMillan

Coaching milestone – Trinity coach Joe Dunn picked up career win No. 300 Friday night when the Hillers beat McGuffey in a Section 5-AAA game. Dunn joins an exclusive list of coaches from the area to win that many games.
California's Phil Pergola leads all local coaches with 544 victories.
Monessen's Salvino has 498 career wins. Next is long-time Carmichaels coach Don Williams, who has 419 wins. Canon-Mac's Rick Bell has 320.

Monday, January 10, 2011

Week in review, girls basketball

Team of the Week - Washington
The Christmas break worked wonders for the Prexies, who take a four-game win streak into tonight's game against Charleroi. Washington was 3-4 before Christmas and are 7-4 as of Monday.
Last week, the Prexies made a push to the top of the Section 4-AA standings with wins over Waynesburg and Brownsville. Sure, Wash High should probably beat both, but the convincing manner in which it did earned the Prexies notice.
Washington sat in a zone against the Raiders and allowed one field goal in a 55-5 victory. Then, against preseason favorite Brownsville, Washington came away with a 63-46 victory.

Runner-up – South Fayette
The Lions posted a pair of impressive wins over Trinity and North Hills.

Starting five
Jessica Dorazio, Bentworth
Erika Ford, South Fayette
Emily Hansen, Canon-McMillan
Aujuwa Moore, Washington
Amanda Temple, Avella
Off the bench
Shannon Flament, Charleroi

Scoring outburst? – Temple leads all local scorers with a 24.4 average, while Monessen's Geena Shrader and Hansen are each averaging 20.7 points per games. Last year, Beth-Center graduate Megan Sowers was the local scoring champion with 1 7.5 average.
Add Dorazio with a 18.8 average and four players are scoring at a higher clip than last year's O-R Player of the Year.

Been a long time – Waynesburg is 0-10 this season has lost 40 straight games. The Raiders are averaging 25.6 points per game, which is up significantly from the 14.9 they averaged last year. Waynesburg's last win came against West Greene, 43-42, on Jan. 9, 2009.

Observer-Reporter WPIAL girls basketball rankings

Is there a top team in Class AAAA right now? Figuring it out is almost as tough as deciphering who will be Pitt's next football coach. (The guess here is Teryl Austin or Mario Cristobal.)

Class AAAA
1. Bethel Park 9-1
2. North Allegheny 9-1
3. Oakland Catholic 7-3
4. Baldwin 9-2
5. Shaler 8-2

Class AAA
1. Indiana 11-0
2. South Park 8-2
3. New Castle 6-2
4. South Fayette 5-2
5. Chartiers Valley 7-3

Class AA
1. Bishop Canevin 9-1
2. Seton-La Salle 9-2
3. Deer Lakes 9-0
4. Avonworth 9-1
5. Charleroi 11-0

Class A
1. Vincentian Academy 11-0
2. North Catholic 9-2
3. Monessen 8-0
4. Aliquippa 10-0
5. Fort Cherry 8-2

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Observer-Reporter WPIAL boys basketball rankings

Class AAAA
1. Shaler 10-0
2. North Allegheny 9-2
3. Mt. Lebanon 9-1
4. Gateway 9-2
5. Connellsville 9-0

Class AAA
1. South Fayette 8-0
2. West Mifflin 9-1
3. Greensburg-Salem 8-2
4. Ringgold 8-1
5. Blackhawk 7-3

Class AA
1. Greensburg Central Catholic 10-1
2. Monessen 9-2
3. Jeannette 7-3
4. Sto-Rox 5-3
5. Beaver Falls 6-5

Class A
1. Lincoln Park 8-2
2. Vincentian Academy 9-0
3. St. Joseph 10-1
4. Rochester 9-3
5. Cornell 9-2

Saturday, January 8, 2011

City League's plan to join WPIAL

Mike White of the Post-Gazette has an update detailing a few plans for the City League's move into the WPIAL.

Friday, January 7, 2011


Got a chance to see one of South Fayette's PIAA championship rings from last basketball season. It belongs to Joe DiDonato, who keeps the book for the SF varsity team and is the oldest of the DiDonato brothers. Took a pic. It's not very clear.

High-profile programs hit Wheeling for showcase

A who's-who of basketball powers from the Northeast will be in Wheeling, W.Va. Saturday for a six-game schedule of high-profile matchups at Wheeling Jesuit University.

The Cancer Research Classic at the Alma Grace McDonough Center tips off at 12:30 p.m. with Rice (New York) vs. Northland (Columbus, Ohio).

The rest of the schedule:
DeMatha (Md.) vs. St. Andrew's (R.I.), 2 p.m.
Archbishop John Carroll (Radnor) vs. Wheeling Park, 3:30 p.m.
Gonzaga (Washington, D.C.) vs. Christ the King (N.Y.), 5 p.m.
PIAA Class AAA champion Neumann-Goretti (Philadelphia) vs. Mount Vernon (N.Y.), 6:30 p.m.
St. Joseph's Prep (Philadelphia) vs. Wheeling Central Catholic, 8 p.m.

The CRC is being billed as the "Nation's Premier Catholic High School Basketball Tournament" and it's hard to argue. Some of the seniors in this event will be playing at Cincinnati, Michigan, Syracuse, George Mason, West Virginia and Georgetown next year.

DeMatha is ranked No. 9 nationally by Northland is No. 30, Christ the King is 49th, Rice is No. 98 and Wheeling Park is No. 99.

The fee is $4 for students and $7 for adults. Proceeds support the Urologic Research Institute of Wheeling Hospital's undergraduate cancer research scholarships and medical physics programs.

Varsity leftovers

At 11-0, the Charleroi girls basketball team is tied with Vincentian Academy (Class A) for the best record in the WPIAL.

* According to Trinity football coach Ed Dalton, boys basketball coach Joe Dunn is going for career victory No. 300 tonight against McGuffey. I'll check the totals later today when I get to the office.

Dunn, one of the WPIAL's good guys and one of my favorite coaches to watch in-game, will probably be happier if the Hillers just beat McGuffey to pick up their first section win.

And anyone else notice Josh Valentic is averaging almost 32 points per game?

* Wash High won't be at full strength tonight at home against South Fayette in what I consider the area's premier basketball rivalry. Julien Anderson is out with an ankle injury and the flu bug has hit the team, leaving the status of Eric Ellis uncertain.

* Drew Denham is an occasional contributor here to The Varsity Letters and a former multi-sport standout at Mapletown before moving on to an athletic career at Waynesburg University.

Denham sent an e-mail to myself and Chris Dugan, the Observer-Reporter sports editor, last week that brought life to a wild fact.

Mapletown varsity sports is 0-for the 2010-11 school year.

Football, girls volleyball, boys basketball and girls basketball are all winless.

I immediately thought two things when Denham sent the e-mail: 1. This provides further proof that more school mergers should take place, and 2. It's a credit to the student-athletes and coaches at Mapletown who continue to work hard despite getting no reward in the win total.

* Mapletown isn't the only boys teams struggling in Section 3-A.

Avella, the preseason favorite to win the section, is 4-6 overall. That stands as the best won-loss record in the section.

Carmichaels is 3-6. Bentworth and Jefferson-Morgan are each 1-8. West Greene is 0-9 and Mapletown is 0-10. That's a combined record of 9-47.

Avella, Carmichaels and Bentworth all play challenging non-section schedules and the guess here is those three teams will be the top three teams by the end of the section season. Still, it's difficult to imagine a scenario where any team from the section gets a decent seed in the postseason.

* The surprise of the WPIAL boys basketball season? Ringgold has to be a leading candidate.

The Rams are 7-1 overall and, at 3-0, sit alone atop Section 5-AAA, a half-game ahead of Montour and South Fayette. Clearly, the drop in classification has helped the Rams but Section 5 is no pushover.

With Montour, South Fayette, Washington and Trinity, it could be argues that Section 5 featured four of the top teams in the classification. Ringgold has already beat Trinity and Washington at home, making the Rams a significant factor in the postseason picture.

Ringgold plays three of its next four section games on the road and the lone home game is against Montour. It could prove to be a vital stretch of the season for a team that has struggled for several years prior.

* Speaking of improvement, the Canon-McMillan girls are playing its best basketball since a group of underclassmen that included Natasha Williams, Brittany Taylor and Cameron Jones were all healthy and playing.

The Big Macs are 5-4 overall but lost their section opener at Baldwin Thursday night. The 56-47 loss against a Baldwin team that looks like the best in the classification at this point of the season was impressive for a couple reasons.

First, it's a game where Canon-McMillan would not have been competitive the past couple years. Second, Emily Hansen scored 20 points despite drawing the defense her way. Third, C-M is getting more from its other players, particularly Taylor Petras.

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Football players of the year

The Observer-Reporter ran its annual Football Player of the Year story, along with the Elite 11 and the all-district team just after Christmas. For those who don't know, South Fayette quarterback Christian Brumbaugh was the POY for a second consecutive year.

I didn't get a chance to run the list of former players of the year in the newspaper, so I thought it might be fun to go back and look at the list here. It includes the WPIAL's all-time rushing leader (at least until Rushel Shell gets his chance next year), a MMA headliner, a member of the Chicago White Sox organization, a first-team All-American, a Notre Dame captain and a current member of the South Fayette coaching staff.

2010 – Christian Brumbaugh, South Fayette
2009 – Christian Brumbaugh, South Fayette
2008 – Mike Hull, Canon-McMillan
2007 – Mike Yancich, Trinity
2006 – Jordan Clemons, Fort Cherry
2005 – Ben Jennings, Trinity
2004 – Doug Rheam, Canon-McMillan
(From 1996-2004, the O-R acknowledged offensive and defensive players of the year)
2003 – Jim Gallagher, Peters Township (offense)
Marques Parks, South Fayette (defense)
2002 – Bobby Hathaway, Carmichaels and Travis Thomas, Washington (co-offense)
Mike Harrington, Fort Cherry (defense)
2001 – Perry Ivery, Fort Cherry (offense)
Dan Mozes, Washington (defense)
2000 – Lee Fritz, Waynesburg (offense)
Mike Randolph, Chartiers-Houston (defense)
1999 – Mike Vernillo, Fort Cherry (offense)
Lanfer Simpson, Waynesburg (defense)
1998 – Mike Vernillo, Fort Cherry (offense)
Lee Tornabene, Canon-McMillan (defense)
1997 – Mike Vernillo, Fort Cherry (offense)
Rob Kolaczynski, Canon-McMillan (defense)
1996 – Josh Kosheck, Waynesburg (offense)
Mike Naleppa, Fort Cherry (defense)

Trinity athletic audit

Just came across this brief on the Observer-Reporter website.

Here is the full story, which appeared in Wedesday's edition (gotta love the headline):

Monday, January 3, 2011

Observer-Reporter girls basketball rankings

Class AAAA
1. Mt. Lebanon 2-4
2. North Allegheny 8-0
3. Baldwin 7-1
4. Shaler 6-1
5. Bethel Park 7-1

Class AAA
1. Indiana 8-0
2. Montour 7-1
3. South Park 6-2
4. New Castle 4-2
5. Mt. Pleasant 6-1

Class AA
1. Bishop Canevin 7-1
2. Seton-La Salle 6-2
3. Deer Lakes 7-0
4. Avonworth 7-1
5. Charleroi 9-0

Class A
1. Vincentian Academy 10-0
2. North Catholic 6-2
3. Monessen 6-0
4. Fort Cherry 6-1
5. Aliquippa 8-0

Observer-Reporter boys basketball rankings

Welcome back. Hope everyone had a safe and happy New Year. With the prolonged football season - the area produced a PIAA finalist in South Fayette for the first time since 2001 - the normal attention given to basketball in the preseason wasn't possible. So, rather than slap some meaningless preseason rankings together, the thought here was wait until the holiday tournaments where over.

Class AAAA
1. Gateway 9-0
2. Shaler 8-0
3. North Allegheny 7-2
4. Mt. Lebanon 7-1
5. Connellsville 7-0

Class AAA
1. South Fayette 5-0
2. West Mifflin 7-1
3. Greensburg-Salem 6-2
4. Blackhawk 5-2
5. Ringgold 6-1

Class AA
1. Greensburg Central Catholic 7-1
2. Monessen 6-2
3. Wilkinsburg 5-2
4. Jeannette 4-3
5. Sto-Rox 4-3

Class A
1. Lincoln Park 6-2
2. Rochester 7-2
3. Vincentian Academy 7-0
4. St. Joseph 8-1
5. Cornell 7-2