Monday, February 28, 2011

Observer-Reporter WPIAL boys basketball rankings

Class AAAA
1. Mt. Lebanon 22-2
2. Gateway 20-4
3. Chartiers Valley 19-5
4. Butler 14-9
And one

Class AAA
1. South Fayette 21-1
2. Montour 17-7
3. Blackhawk 17-7
4, New Castle 18-6
And one
West Mifflin

Class AA
1. Greensburg Central Catholic 22-2
2. Monessen 21-2
3. Sto-Rox 21-3
4. Wilkinsburg 17-5
And one
Beaver Falls

Class A
1. North Catholic 18-6
2. Clairton 10-10
3. Vincentian Academy 22-1
4. Lincoln Park 16-6
And one

Observer-Reporter WPIAL girls basketball rankings

Class AAAA
1. Mt. Lebanon 19-5
2. Shaler 22-2
3. Bethel Park 20-4
4. Oakland Catholic 16-8
And one

Class AAA
1. Indiana 23-1
2. Blackhawk 19-5
3. New Castle 21-3
4. Ambridge 19-6
And one
West Mifflin

Class AA
1. Seton-La Salle 22-2
2. Bishop Canevin 20-4
3. Beaver Falls 19-6
4. Jeannette 14-8
And one

Class A
1. Monessen 24-0
2. Fort Cherry 21-3
3. North Catholic 17-7
4. Rochester 17-6
And one
Vincentian Academy

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Burgettstown posts boys basketball position

Burgettstown Area School District has posted the boys varsity basketball coach position on its website. Applications are currently being accepted for the position held the past three years by Brendan Cypher.

A former standout player at Chartiers-Houston, Cypher became the Burgettstown coach in the 2008-09 season and replaced Ed Goetz, who had guided the Blue Devils to six consecutive playoff appearances.

Cypher, who was 24-years-old at the time of the hire, went 15-8, 11-10 and 11-11 in three seasons with an 0-3 mark in the postseason.

Playoff leftovers

Josh Valentic started at Trinity as a skinny, short freshman who often deferred open looks. looking at his evolution into an 6-3 offensive force who averaged 30 points per game in the regular season and scored 66 points in two playoff games.

There's little doubt in my mind that Valentic will become a contributor quickly at Wheeling Jesuit.

* South Fayette Rich Bonnaure told the Observer-Reporter following the Lions' playoff win over South Park Wednesday, "I think Pat's the best point guard in the WPIAL. People who have seen him a lot will tell you that, too. He controls the game. He can do whatever it is we need."


Reading the story got me thinking about an earlier post where I said the Boys Player of the Year honors was a two-player race between Trinity's Josh Valentic and South Fayette's Mike Lamberti, who recently made an oral commitment to Division II power West Liberty.

That's not fair to Zedreck, who, in my opinion, was the best player on the court in last year's PIAA championship game. Zedreck's scoring average isn't as high as Valentic or Lamberti but he's averaging 10 assists. That's crazy at the high school level. He's also as good a defender at the position as I've seen this year.

* The Fort Cherry girls are the lone remaining team from Washington County in the basketball playoffs. From what I saw of the Rangers in their first-round win over Geibel, they have the look of a team that could be around for a while.

Fort Cherry played the best brand of overall team basketball I've seen from an area girls team in several years.

* FC's Nate Bellhy is one of the more athletically gifted players I've seen come through a Washington County school in my time at the O-R. He should be a solid contributor and possibly more by his sophomore year at Division II Seton Hill.

* With Valentic, Lamberti and Bellhy all head two Division II programs on scholarship, that makes this year's senior class one of the better ones in recent memory.

* If Monessen beats Ellwood City tonight in the WPIAL Class AA playoffs, Greyhounds coach Joe Salvino will join the 500-win club.

Got to speak with Salvino for a while following the WPIAL playoff pairings meeting and we hit on a number of subjects. One of them being how difficult it will be for younger coaches to reach the same milestone as Salvino, who has won three WPIAL and two PIAA titles at Monessen.

Salvino said coaches have a few things going against them these days, the main one being the transitory nature of the business. Coaches like Salvino, who have spent their entire coaching careers in one place, are becoming less common.

Teams are also playing fewer games. The PIAA allows a maximum of 22 scheduled games in the regular season.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

PT hires Piccinini

Rich Piccinini was hired as Peters Township varsity football coach by an 8-1 vote during Tuesday's meeting of the Peters Township School Board.

Dr. Mark Buzzatto was the only board member to vote against the hire. No reason was given.

Piccinini's name did not appear on the first version of the agenda. Following a 25-minute executive session, Piccinini's name was the only one presented for approval. No teaching position was offered and Piccinini's salary is estimated to be $9,300.

Piccinini served as head coach at North Catholic from 2003-05 and has served as an assistant at Seneca Valley and Upper St. Clair. He compiled a 7-23 record with North Catholic.

The name may sound familiar to some area football fans. Piccinini was expected to be named Trinity's football coach last week, was even told he had the job, before the school board decided to bring back Ed Dalton.

Piccinini replaces Nick Milchovich, who coached Peters Township for four years after coaching at California and Charleroi.

"We got action"

Any time news broke or the scanner lit up with something intriguing, it wouldn't take long for the night desk at the Observer-Reporter to get a phone call.

On the other end of the phone was Tom Sypula. He needed no introduction, just the words, "We got action."

Sypula covered spot news for various television stations, events as wide ranging as traffic accidents to Steelers training camp. He provided the O-R with countless tips, photographs and assistance. His passion and energy for his job was limitless.

The Observer-Reporter, like so many others, lost a good friend Sunday morning when Sypula died of an apparent heart attack while on assignment. He was 60.

I got to know Tom not long after I started at the O-R. I knew him as the videographer for Wash High football and quickly recognized his passion for his family, his loyalty to his friends on the Prexies coaching staff and his love of high school sports. He didn't care that I was a young guy, only a couple years out of college with little ties to the area where I was employed. He talked to me like I'd been around for decades.

I always admired that about Tom.

Keeping count of how many times Sypula wondered down from the taping platform during halftime, whether at Wash High or Canon-McMillan, and started up a conversation that lasted the duration of the break is impossible. It happened every game. Tom was engaging, but he listened as well as he conversed. He valued an opinion, whether it meshed with his or not. That's rare.

He loved talking about his family. He loved talking high school football. He loved talking about his close friend Guy Montecalvo and the positive impact his friends made on the lives of student-athletes. As mentioned early, he was passionate and loyal.

Sadly, Tom lost his son Tommy Sypula on Nov. 19.

That was the subject of my last conversation with Tom.

A couple weeks ago, a player on the Burgettstown High School boys basketball team was injured during a game against Fort Cherry. The player was life-flighted and, naturally, Sypula was ready for action. Thanks to my connections, I was actually able to assist him with information - 99 times out of 100 it worked the other way. While on the phone with Tom, he made a point to thank me for a piece I posted on this blog shortly after his son's death.

It's the last time I got to speak with him but will be a conversation I won't soon forget.

WPIAL postpones playoff games

The WPIAL has postponed all boys and girls basketball games scheduled for tonight (Tuesday) because of the bad weather. All games scheduled for Tuesday will be played Wednesday, same time and same place.

All playoff games originally scheduled for Wednesday have been moved back to Thursday, same time and place.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Observer-Reporter WPIAL boys basketball rankings

Class AAAA
1. Shaler 21-1
2. North Allegheny 20-3
3. Mt. Lebanon 20-2
4. Gateway 19-4
5. Connellsville 19-2

Class AAA
1. South Fayette 19-1
2. West Mifflin 20-2
3. Greensburg-Salem 18-4
4. New Castle 16-6
5. Montour 15-7

Class AA
1. Greensburg Central Catholic 20-2
2. Monessen 19-2
3. Beaver Falls 17-5
4. Sto-Rox 19-3
5. Quaker Valley 19-3

Class A
1. Rochester 18-3
2. North Catholic 17-6
3. Vincentian Academy 21-1
4. St. Joseph 20-3
5. Lincoln Park 15-6

Observer-Reporter WPIAL girls basketball rankings

Class AAAA
1. Mt. Lebanon 1-5
2. Shaler 21-2
3. North Allegheny 20-3
4. Penn-Trafford 19-3
5. Bethel Park 19-4

Class AAA
1. Indiana 21-1
2. Blackhawk 17-5
3. New Castle 19-3
4. South Park 19-3
5. Ambridge 17-6

Class AA
1. Seton-La Salle 20-2
2. Riverside 19-3
3. Bishop Canevin 18-4
4. Avonworth 19-3
5. Charleroi 20-1

Class A
1. Vincentian Academy 20-1
2. Monessen 23-0
3. Fort Cherry 20-3
4. Aliquippa 21-2
5. North Catholic 16-7

Sites and times for local teams

Class AAA
No. 1 South Fayette (19-1) vs. No. 16 South Park (13-10) Tuesday, 8 p.m. at Canon-McMillan
No. 3 Blackhawk (15-7) vs. No. 14 Ringgold (16-7) Tuesday, 8 Moon
No. 4 New Castle (16-6) vs. No. 13 Trinity (15-8) Tuesday, 8 p.m. at North Allegheny
Class AA
No. 2 Beaver Falls (17-6) vs. No 15 California (15-8) Wednesday, 8 p.m. at Chartiers Valley
No. 3 Monessen (19-2) vs. No. 14 Ellwood City (12-10) Wednesday, 8 p.m. at Canon-McMillan

Class AAA
No. 7 West Mifflin (16-6) vs. No. 10 South Fayette (15-6) Wednesday, 6:30 p.m. at Baldwin
Class AA
No. 7 Charleroi (20-1) vs. No. 10 Beaver Falls (17-6) Tuesday, 6:30 p.m. at Keystone Oaks
No. 8 Washington (15-7) vs. No. 9 Greensburg Central Catholic (17-6) Tuesday, 6:30 p.m. at Canon-McMillan
Class A
No. 4 Fort Cherry (20-3) vs. No. 5 Serra Catholic (17-6) Saturday, site and time to be detemined
No. 2 Monessen (23-0) vs. No. 7 St. Joseph (15-7) Saturday, site and time to be determined

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Varsity playoff leftovers

Seeding the WPIAL boys and girls basketball tournaments must be a difficult, arduous task. With 161 teams in the postseason, the sheer number of qualifiers makes it an unenviable place to be, and a spot where it's impossible to please everyone.
Washington High School girls basketball coach Mike Maltony sure didn't mind getting the No. 8 seed in the WPIAL Class AA pairings. That's about where Maltony projected his Prexies to land.
"It's about what I figured. I have no problem with it," Maltony said.
What Maltony finds weird is whom Washington (15-7) might face in its first-round game. The Prexies draw the winner of Friday night's preliminary-round game between Greensburg Central Catholic (16-6) and Bentworth (12-9).
Bentworth plays in Section 4-AA with Washington. The WPIAL frowns upon section opponents in first-round games and this is the only instance in any of the brackets where the possibility could happen.
"I feel like the Steelers playing the Ravens," Maltony said. "It's disappointing to an extent but, then again, what do you do? There's only so many slots."
Washington swept the season series against Bentworth.
The question is, what message is this sending? Since the WPIAL does everything possible to avoid section opponents playing in the first round and this is the only occurrence - boys or girls - where it can happen, did the committee say Bentworth has no chance of winning?
* Avella, Carmichaels, Bentworth and Jefferson-Morgan – the four qualifiers from Section 3-A boys – got little love from the committee.
Avella and Carmichaels were co-champs. The Eagles (12-9) and the Mikes (12-10) received the No. 11 and 12 seeds, an extremely low number for a section champ.
But Section 3 struggled this season, winning just 11 non-section games compared to 58 losses. It's tough to put either team higher even if it put Avella and Carmichaels against opponents who also split a section title.
Avella plays St. Joseph and Carmichaels plays Serra Catholic. They were co-champs of Section 4.
* If I could go to any first round game, I might pick Chartiers Valley vs. Norwin in Class AAAA boys. I think the Colts advance but it would be interesting to see if they'd be willing to run up-and-down with the high-scoring Knights or slow the game's pace.

Trinity hires … Dalton

The Trinity Area School Board has hired Ed Dalton as its new football coach assuming issues such as outstanding grievances can be resolved. Dalton was fired by the same school board in January, at the time ending a 12-year coaching tenure.

For more, read

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

WPIAL girls basketball playoff capsules

Class AAAA
Top seeds - 1. Mt. Lebanon (17-5), 2. Shaler (20-2), 3. Bethel Park (18-4), 4. Oakland Catholic (14-8)
Defending champion - Mt. Lebanon
Leading scorers - Belma Nurkic (Baldwin) 19.5, Madison Cable (Mt. Lebanon) 17.4, Kelly Brennan (North Allegheny) 16.0, Val McQuade (Shaler), Candace Martino (Bethel Park) 15.0
Bits and pieces - Mt. Lebanon is trying to become the first three-time champion since Oakland Catholic won four consecutive titles from 1999-2002. ... Last year, Section 4 produced all four semifinalists in Mt. Lebanon, Baldwin, Bethel Park and Peters Township. ... Cable is the WPIAL's top recruit this year. She is headed to Notre Dame.
Sleeper - Baldwin
Championship - Mt. Lebanon over Bethel Park

Class AAA
Top seeds
- 1. Indiana (21-1), 2. New Castle (19-3), 3. South Park (19-3), 4. Chartiers Valley (17-5)
Defending champion - New Castle
Leading scorers - Shatori Walker-Kimbrough (Hopewell) 20.7, Ashley Stoner (Thomas Jefferson) 20.6, Kelsey Sleighter (Uniontown) 19.5, Nicole Malara (Mt. Pleasant) 18.7, Christina Talbert (New Castle) 18.1
Bits and pieces - All six teams from Section 1 and Section 4 qualified for the playoffs. Ringgold was among three teams that tied for fourth place in Section 4 with 2-8 records. ... South Fayette reached the PIAA Class AA playoffs in each of the past two seasons and head coach Matt Bacco has the Lions in this tournament as the third place team from battle-tested Section 5. ... Chartiers Valley beat Bethel Park in its regular season finale.
Sleeper - South Fayette and Uniontown could both find ways to the quarterfinals.
Championship - New Castle over Chartiers Valley

Class AA
Top seeds - 1. Seton-La Salle (20-2), 2. Riverside (19-3), 3. Deer lakes (20-2), 4. Bishop Canevin (18-4)
Defending champion - Jeannette
Leading scorers - Ciara Gregory (Jeannette) 20.3, Lauren Mayerik (Avonworth) 19.3, Erin Waskowiak (Bishop Canevin) 19.3, Catherine Costa (Avonworth) 18.2, Jessica Dorazio (Bentworth) 16.7
Bits and pieces - Top-seed Seton-La Salle is coached by former Peters Township girls coach Dennis Squeglia, who guided PT to one WPIAL championship game appearance. ... If Bentworth can beat Greensburg Central Catholic in the preliminary round, the Bearcats play Section 4 foe Washington in the first round. ... Charleroi is 20-1 and its lone loss came when leading scorer Shannon Flament was not playing. ... Washington will go as far as senior Aujuwa Moore can take it.
Sleeper - Beaver Falls
Championship - Seton-La Salle over Deer Lakes

Class A
Top seeds - 1. Vincentian Academy (20-1), 2. Monessen (22-0), 3. North Catholic (15-7), 4. Fort Cherry (19-3)
Defending champion - Vincentian Academy
Leading scorers - Amanda Temple (Avella) 22.0, Mary Andrejko (Riverview) 18.7, Drew Meeker (Quigley Catholic) 16.4, Hayden Kimbrough (Rochester) 16.1
Bits and pieces - Since Courtnee McMasters left the team at California, the Trojans have received increased production inside from Felicity Macosta. ... Fort Cherry may be the most balanced offensive team in the field, capable of scoring outside and inside. ... Avella is led by Temple, who led the WPIAL in scoring. ... Monessen is the lone undefeated team in the WPIAL and the Greyhounds beat Carmichaels, 61-19, at the end of January. The two meet in the first round. ... Chartiers-Houston is one of the younger teams in the tournament but should give two-loss Aliquippa a stern test.
Sleeper - Aliquippa
Championship - Monessen over Fort Cherry

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

WPIAL boys basketball playoff capsules

Class AAAA
Top seeds – 1. Shaler (21-1), 2. Mt. Lebanon (20-2), 3. North Allegheny (19-3), 4. Gateway (18-4)
Defending champion – Mt. Lebanon
Leading scorers – Matt Palo (Norwin) 30.1, Nolan Cressler (Plum) 26.8, Anthony Dallier (North Allegheny), Andy Carter (Norwin) 24.0, Aaron Johnson (Moon) 23.6, Tyler Scott (Gateway) 21.8
Bits and pieces – One of the more intriguing first-round games is Connellsville vs. Pine-Richland. The Falcons won Section 1 and are seeded seventh but Pine-Richland has won five straight and are the lone team to beat Shaler. … Norwin leads the WPIAL in offense at 78.6 points per game. The Knights also allow a WPIAL-worst 76.2 per game. … Before the season, people believed Section4 might be down but Mt. Lebanon has played well. Chartiers Valley beat South Fayette Monday night without a couple top players and Upper St. Clair is always a tough out.
Sleeper – Moon
Championship – Gateway over Chartiers Valley

Class AAA
Top seeds
– 1. South Fayette (19-1), 2. West Mifflin (20-2), 3. Blackhawk (15-7), 4. New Castle (16-6)
Defending champion - Chartiers Valley
Leading scorers - Micah Mason (Highlands) 33.8, Josh Valentic (Trinity) 30.1, Geoff Fuquay (Valley) 24.7, Christian Locher (Mars) 21.7, Tom Bigley (South Park) 20.8, Mike Lamberti (South Fayette) 19.7
Bits and pieces - South Fayette gained valuable experience in winning the PIAA Class AA championship last year and are the prohibitive favorite in this tournament after moving up in classification. ... Trinity posted some quality wins, including one over No. 5 seed Highlands, but only received the 13th seed. The Hillers play Mt. Pleasant, coached by Joe Dunn's friend Tom Traynor, who was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer the day before Thanksgiving. ... Ringgold has lost four of five with all four losses coming against playoff teams in South Fayette, West Mifflin, Montour and Trinity.
Sleeper - Greensburg-Salem
Championship - South Fayette over West Mifflin

Class AA
Top seeds - 1. Greensburg Central Catholic (20-2), 2. Beaver Falls (17-5), 3. Monessen (19-2), 4. Quaker Valley (19-3)
Defending champion - North Catholic
Leading scorers - Nate Bellhy (Fort Cherry) 27.1, Tyler Pavan (Burgettstown) 23.6, Sheldon Jeter (Beaver Falls) 22.0, Shawn Smith (Sto-Rox) 21.2, Brandon Marinelli (Neshannock) 21.1
Bits and pieces - Charleroi lost five of its final six but one the one game that mattered - the regular season final against California - to get into the playoffs. ... This from international music sensation Troy Elich (who also happens to be Burgettstown's scorekeeper when not on tour), the last time Shady Side Academy and Burgettstown played was in the 1995 PIAA Class AA playoffs. Shady Side, led by future Stanford standout Pete Sauer, went on to win the state title. ... California looked like a possible high seed before a dreadful stretch to end the season. The Trojans ended the season with losses to Frazier, Brownsville and Charleroi. ... Fort Cherry also has struggled, losing five of six including its final three. ... Monessen is the most overlooked team in the bracket. The Greyhounds don't have any splashy scoring leaders but played a difficult schedule and get scoring from seven to nine players on most nights. A first-round win for Monessen would be the 500th of Joe Salvino's coaching career.
Sleeper - Sto-Rox
Championship - Greensburg Central Catholic over Monessen

Class A
Top seeds - 1. Rochester (18-3), 2. North Catholic (16-6), 3. Lincoln Park (14-6), 4. Vincentian Academy (20-1)
Defending champion - Sewickley Academy
Leading scorers - Brian Heinle (St. Joseph) 25.3, Chaquille Pratt (Lincoln Park) 23.4, E.J. Blackwell (Rochester) 20.8, Carrington Motley (Sewickley Academy) 19.6, John Bray (Vincentian Academy) 17.3, Chris Koryak (Vincentian Academy) 16.8
Bits and pieces - Jefferson-Morgan is in the postseason for the first time since 2002. That year, the Rockets were the No. 3 seed. ... Bentworth, fielding one of its smaller lineups in recent memory, is 8-5 after starting the season 1-8. ... Carmichaels is one of the few area teams entering postseason play on a high note. Led by identical twins Jon and Seth Krall, the Mikes have won five straight. ... Avella shared the Section 3 title with Carmichaels but received the No. 11 seed - Carmichaels is seeded 12th. The Eagles play St. Joseph, which tied Serra for the Section 4 title. Serra is Carmichaels' opponent.
Sleeper - OLSH
Championship - Rochester over Lincoln Park

Boys basketball, week in review

Team of the Week - Trinity
Trinity solidified its postseason status with three consecutive wins in Section 5-AAA in a week where the Hillers were playing for postseason seeding.
Trinity started last week with a win over Waynesburg and, one day later, beat slumping Ringgold (also a playoff qualifier) by 20 points. That win eliminated Washington from playoff contention but it did litle to take away from a playoff-like atmosphere Friday night at Wash High Gymnasium in this area's high school version of the City Game.
In a tightly contested game throughout, the Hillers got 34 points from Josh Valentic and went 10-for-10 from the free-throw line in the final minutes to secure a 59-52 win.
Trinity, which takes a 14-8 record into the playoffs, played without Valentic (flu) - the WPIAL's second leading scorer - Monday night against Class AA power Sto-Rox and lost a close one, 48-47.

Runner-up - Chartiers-Houston
The Bucs brought a 10-game losing streak into last week and started the final stretch of their schedule with a 66-48 loss to Burgettstown. Chartiers-Houston, which lost its top nine players from the 2009-10 season, gave head coach Eugene Briggs a few reasons to be optimistic about next season with their performance in the final two games.
C-H beat South Allegheny in a non-section game before knocking the Section 5-AA standings for a loop with a 59-56 win over playoff-bound Fort Cherry. The loss dropped the Rangers into fourth place and all but assured them of playing a preliminary round playoff game.

Starting five
Nate Bellhy, Fort Cherry
Seth Krall, Carmichaels
Josh Patterson, South Fayette
Tyler Pavan, Burgettstown
Josh Valentic, Trinity
First sub
Josh Counihan, Chartiers-Houston

Broken records - Nate Bellhy became the second local boys player to establish a school scoring record this season when he became Fort Cherry's all-time scoring leader with 21 points in a non-section loss at Monessen Saturday. Bellhy had 1,488 points. Trinity's Josh Valentic previously accomplished the feat. ... Burgettstown's Tyler Pavan reached 1,000 career points last week in a game when teammate Chris McNamara set a single-game Blue Devils record with seven three-pointers.

Playoff clinchings - Class AAA, South Fayette (19-1), Ringgold (15-7), Trinity (14-8); Class AA, Monessen (19-2), California (15-7), Charleroi (7-14), Burgettstown (11-10), Fort Cherry (11-11); Class A, Avella (12-9), Carmichaels (12-10), Bentworth (9-13), Jefferson-Morgan (6-16).

Monday, February 14, 2011

Nation's top recruit signs with South Carolina

ROCK HILL, S.C. (AP) — Jadeveon Clowney’s new coordinator at South Carolina was most impressed by what he didn’t hear from his signee as the two spoke Monday.
When Clowney called Ellis Johnson after picking South Carolina there was no self-important, look-at-me style comments like, “Did you watch?” or “I told you,” the Gamecocks defensive leader said.
“It was, ’Coach, I’m going to be ready,”’ Johnson said.
Clowney ended an extra 12 days of signing suspense when he picked the Gamecocks’ hat off a table that also had caps from finalists Alabama and Clemson. South Carolina coach Steve Spurrier had known for a while Clowney would take additional time before deciding. But it became even a bit more nerve-racking as the 6-foot-6, 250-pound senior waited for the go-ahead from ESPN, which carried his announcement live to a national audience.
When given the signal, Clowney spoke: “I’m going to the University of ...” he said, then reached for the Gamecocks’ cap to the cheers of friends, family, South Pointe High students and teammates.
Clowney’s choice capped a wild signing period. On Feb. 2, the first day players could sign a letter of intent — and when most did — a Georgia recruit announced his decision with the help of a bulldog puppy and another prospect’s mother faxed in a letter to the school she wanted her son to attend instead of his selection.

Legendary football coach retires

FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. (AP) — George Smith, who coached St. Thomas Aquinas High to six Florida state championships and two mythical national titles in the last three years, has announced his retirement.
Smith won 361 games and led his teams to 13 Florida state-title games in 34 seasons — only one of which ended with his team having a losing record. His teams were recognized as the national champions by many scholastic rankings services in 2008 and 2010.
He’s one of four coaches in Florida history with six state championships.
Smith had more than 580 players go on to play college football, 30 of them reaching the NFL, including Pro Football Hall of Famer Michael Irvin.

Girls basketball, week in review

Team of the Week – Monessen
The Greyhounds enter the WPIAL Class A playoffs with an unbeaten record following an impressive final week of the regular season.
Monessen (22-0), a probable top three seed for the postseason, defeated Serra Catholic and Geibel to wrap up its play in Section 4 and followed with an impressive home win over a good Fort Cherry team in a non-section game Saturday.
Monessen, coached by former Greyhounds legend Gina Naccarato, holds the No. 2 Class A ranking by the Observer-Reporter.
In a 56-22 rout of Serra (a team that gave Monessen one of its closest games earlier in the season), Geena Shrader scored 20 points and Serra scored one point in the first quarter. Thursday's 56-17 win at Geibel saw four players hit double figures points.
Shrader came up big again with 18 points against Fort Cherry, which hadn't lost to a Class A team all season.

Runner-up – Charleroi
The Cougars are 20-1 and, thanks to three blowout wins last week, tied with Washington for the Section 4-AA championship. It's Charleroi's first section title since 2000.

Starting five
Shannon Flament, Charleroi
Aujuwa Moore, Washington
Geena Shrader, Monessen
Amanda Temple, Avella
Carley Weiss, Trinity
First sub
Morgan Iacovino, Charleroi

Preparing for the postseason – The following teams have qualified for the WPIAL playoffs: Class AAA, South Fayette (13-6), Ringgold (7-14); Class AA, Charleroi (20-1), Washington (15-7), Bentworth (12-9); Class A, Fort Cherry (18-3), Chartiers-Houston (15-7), Avella (14-8), Carmichaels (13-9), Monessen (22-0), California (11-9).

Observer-Reporter WPIAL boys basketball rankings

Class AAAA
1. Shaler 21-1
2. North Allegheny 18-3
3. Mt. Lebanon 20-2
4. Connellsville 19-2
5. Gateway 18-4

Class AAA
1. South Fayette 19-0
2. West Mifflin 19-2
3. Greensburg-Salem 17-4
4. Blackhawk 15-6
5. New Castle 15-6

Class AA
1. Greensburg Central Catholic 20-2
2. Monessen 19-2
3. Beaver Falls 17-5
4. Sto-Rox 18-3
5. Quaker Valley 18-3

Class A
1. Rochester 18-3
2. North Catholic 15-6
3. Vincentian Academy 19-1
4. St. Joseph 18-3
5. OLSH 13-7

Observer-Reporter WPIAL girls basketball rankings

Class AAAA
1. Mt. Lebanon 16-5
2. Shaler 20-2
3. North Allegheny 19-3
4. Bethel Park 18-3
5. Penn-Trafford 18-3

Class AAA
1. Indiana 21-1
2. Blackhawk 17-5
3. New Castle 18-3
4. South Park 18-3
5. Ambridge 16-6

Class AA
1. Seton-La Salle 19-2
2. Deer Lakes 20-1
3. Avonworth 19-2
4. Riverside 19-3
5. Bishop Canevin 17-4

Class A
1. Vincentian Academy 19-1
2. Monessen 22-0
3. Aliquippa 20-2
4. North Catholic 15-6
5. Fort Cherry 18-3

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Varsity leftovers

With Trinity senior Josh Valentic accepting an offer to play basketball at Division II Wheeling Jesuit after the Hillers' win against Wash High Friday night, it brings to mind a recent conversation.

Spoke with a few coaches last week and the subject steered toward Valentic and the consensus was the Hillers' all-time scoring leader was underrecruited.

At 6-3, Valentic has decent size for a shooting guard and he's a tireless worker. His range is the best I've seen since Dan Davis played at Fort Cherry, he needs little space to get his shot released and the release is quick.

Now, I'm not saying Valentic should be recruited by major college powers but I could see a player with his talents, shot and work ethic eventually making an impact at a lower-level Division I program. One of the coaches in the conversation likened Valentic to former Notre Dame guard Chris Quinn, whom the coach knew from his high school playing days.

Valentic isn't as strong as Quinn, who plays for the San Antonio Spurs, and not quite as quick, but some similarities exist.

* Speaking of Valentic, he's part of what I see as a two-player race for Observer-Reporter Player of the Year honors with reigning POY Mike Lamberti of South Fayette.

If I were to pick an all-district first team today my choices would be Valentic, Lamberti, South Fayette's Pat Zedreck, Burgettstown's Tyler Pavan and Fort Cherry's Nate Bellhy.

* Back to recruiting, it still amazes me that there has been one Division I boys player (Monessen's A.J. Jackson played at Robert Morris) from the area since I started working at the O-R.

* When Trinity Area School District canceled its special meeting scheduled for last Thursday and the lone item on the agenda was the hire of a football coach, did anyone else wonder if the board felt it didn't have enough votes to make a hire or another strong candidate emerged?

I'm raising my hand.

From what I've heard since, that's not the case and that former Hillers quarterback Mike Wall remains the most likely hire.

* The WPIAL basketball playoff pairings meeting takes place Tuesday and it's hard to imagine South Fayette not being the No. 1 boys seed in Class AAA no matter what happens Monday against Chartiers Valley.

It should also be interested in seeing where the Monessen boys and girls get seeded. Both had exceptional regular seasons but play in sections that aren't viewed as strong. If I did the seeding, I put both teams at No. 2 in their respective classes.

* A total of seven players from Trinity's senior football class have chosen a college program. Matt Friewald will play at Grove City and Chris Piatt will play for Westminster; both schools are members of the Division III Presidents' Athletic Conference.

* My favorite moment of the high school basketball season happened during halftime of the Trinity at Washington game Friday night when Prexies softball coach Courtney Grubich, a kindergarten teacher in the Washington School District, introduced the crowd to student Winnie Barfield.

Barfield is a 6-year-old student who wants to be a police officer and Wash High athlete. He's also battling leukemia. When Barfield briefly spoke to the crowd, smiled, waved and thanked everyone for attending, it was one awesome moment.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

The last time …

Washington boys basketball failed to qualify for the WPIAL playoffs came during the 1994-95 season when the Prexies finished fifth in Section 5-AA/SA with a 6-8 section record. Wash High, coached by legendary Ron Faust, was 8-14 overall.

Burgettstown won the second, while Bentworth and Chartiers-Houston were the postseason qualifiers.

With Trinity's 67-47 win over Ringgold Wednesday night in Section 5-AAA, Washington was eliminated from playoff contention. The Prexies are 10-10 overall and 4-7 in section play with games remaining Friday against Trinity and Monday against north Catholic. Both games are at Wash High.

Washington had made the playoffs 15 consecutive seasons. The Prexies, who had competed at Class AA for years, moved up to Class AAA this season.

No meeting at Trinity tonight

The special meeting of the Trinity Area School Board scheduled for tonight has been canceled. As of Wednesday, the only item mentioned on the agenda for the meeting was the hiring of a head varsity football coach.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Boys basketball, Week in Review

Team of the Week - Carmichaels
No team did more for itself last week than Carmichaels, which avenged previous losses to Avella and Bentworth and climbed into a three-way tie for first place in Section 3-A in the process.
The Mikes (6-2 section, 9-10 overall) beat Avella, 50-45, at home - Carmichaels is one tough place to play for visitors - and followed that with a 56-53 win at Bentworth last Friday.
Twin brothers Jonathan and Seth Krall, both seniors, are scoring at a high rate. The duo combined for 35 points against Bentworth in a game the Mikes led by as many as 15. Against Avella, a team Carmichaels lost to in overtime only three days prior, the Krall bothers once again combined for 35 points.
Carmichaels has games remaining against West Greene and Mapletown. The Mikes should finish no less than tied for first in the section. Bentworth plays at Avella tonight.

Runner-up - South Fayette
The Lions went 3-0 last week by gutting out a win over Washington, then beating Ringgold and Trinity by 20-plus points apiece.

Starting five
Jaisen Irwin, Monessen
Seth Krall, Carmichaels
Mike Lamberti, South Fayette
Tyler Pavan, Burgettstown
Justin Robinson, Canon-McMillan
First sub
Josh Valentic, Trinity

Bombs away - Injuries to leading scorer Gabe Pritz, Ross Wickstrom and other ailments forced Peters Township to start four freshmen and a sophomore against playoff-bound Moon Saturday - the second consecutive day the two Section 4-AAAA teams played. Peters Township, never shy to shoot from outside, finished with one of the more interesting statistical games I've seen in a while. The Indians lost 71-19 a night after dropping a 100-96 overtime game. PT made 18 shots in the second game, 17 were three-pointers.

Bowling for wins - South Fayette, the No. 3 Class AAA team in Pennsylvania according to the Patriot-News of Harrisburg, didn't play up to its standards in wins against Seneca Valley and Washington. So, before the Lions played at Ringgold, the team went bowling. They did the same thing before winning the Class AA state title last year and it looks like the move worked again. South Fayette has won three games since by an average margin of 32.3 points per game.

Monday, February 7, 2011

Girls basketball, week in review

Team of the Week – South Fayette
With a pair of wins by a combined three points, South Fayette helped create a four-way tie atop Section 5-AAA.
The Lions edged Chartiers Valley, 36-34, Monday and followed with a one-point win (32-31) over Montour Thursday. South Fayette capped a 3-0 week with a win over McGuffey.
The balanced Lions did not have a player score in double figures in more than two of the three games, but Erika Ford led the offense with 12 points and 14 points in the first two wins.
The four-way tie was broken over the weekend when West Allegheny lost. Heading into the final week of section play, South Fayette, Montour and Chartiers Valley are all 6-2 in Section 5.

Runner-up – Charleroi
Barring a loss to a non-playoff qualifier this week, Charleroi likely clinched at least a share of the Section 4-AA championship with a 47-40 win over Washington, which was previously unbeaten in section play. The Cougars also beat McGuffey in a non-section game.

Starting five
Beka Bellhy, Fort Cherry
Morgan Iacovino, Charleroi
Anna Lombardo, Canon-McMillan
Chianti Sivek, Ringgold
Amanda Temple, Avella
First sub
Geena Shrader, Monessen

999 and counting – Canon-McMillan senior Emily Hansen enters tonight's game home game against Bethel Park in need of one point to reach 1,000 for her varsity career. Hansen averages 16.4 points per game so chances are the 5-7 forward (as she is listed on the C-M roster) will get there sometime in the first quarter. What makes Hansen's scoring so impressive is that, until the emergence of Anna Lombardo, Hansen provided the majority of C-M's offense for a couple seasons in what may be the toughest girls section in Pennsylvania.

Style points don't matter – That's a favorite saying of Steelers coach Mike Tomlin. California could have adopted it last week. The Trojans clinched a playoff berth in Section 4-A with close wins over Winchester Thurston and Geibel Catholic without sophomore guard Courtnee McMasters, a two-year starter. McMasters left the team but plans to return next year.

Pavan's buzzer beater

Burgettstown senior Tyler Pavan beats Fort Cherry Friday night with a three-pointer off the glass at the buzzer.

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Observer-Reporter WPIAL boys basketball rankings

Class AAAA
1. Shaler 19-0
2. North Allegheny 16-3
3. Mt. Lebanon 18-2
4. Chartiers Valley 14-4
5. Connellsville 16-2

Class AAA
1. South Fayette 17-0
2. New Castle 14-5
3. Montour 14-6
4. Greensburg-Salem 14-4
5. West Mifflin 17-2

Class AA
1. Greensburg Central Catholic 18-2
2. Monessen 17-2
3. Beaver Falls 15-5
4. Sto-Rox 15-3
5. Jeannette 14-5

Class A
1. Vincentian Academy 18-0
2. Rochester 16-3
3. Serra Catholic 14-4
4. North Catholic 13-5
5. Lincoln Park 13-5

Observer-Reporter WPIAL girls basketball rankings

Class AAAA
1. Shaler 17-2
2. Mt. Lebanon 13-5
3. North Allegheny 17-3
4. Bethel Park 16-3
5. Baldwin 15-4

Class AAA
1. Indiana 17-1
2. Blackhawk 14-5
3. New Castle 15-3
4. South Park 15-3
5. South Fayette 12-5

Class AA
1. Seton-La Salle 17-2
2. Deer Lakes 18-1
3. Riverside 18-2
4. Bishop Canevin 15-3
5. Avonworth 16-2

Class A
1. Vincentian Academy 17-1
2. Monessen 19-0
3. North Catholic 14-5
4. Fort Cherry 16-2
5. Serra Catholic 14-5

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Ringgold's Rands to Cal

High-level Division II schools like California University often hold off on adding high school players on Signing Day as they wait to see which, if any, players from Division I programs want to transfer.

Cal U decided it couldn't wait on Ringgold senior Neal Rands, a tough, unsung two-way player who signed Wednesday with the Vulcans and head coach John Luckhardt.

Rands, who also wrestles at Ringgold, was a starting middle linebacker and got the occasional carry in the Rams' wide-open offense. His play warranted all-conference consideration in his junior and senior seasons.

According to Ringgold coach Matt Humbert (who played at Cal), standout tailback Derrick Fiore is close to a decision and several other players will likely end up at Division III schools.

Recruiting rankings

Pitt, West Virginia and Penn State failed to land highly regarded recuriting classes. Will that matter next year? Probably not. For one, not many freshmen make an immediate impact and schools like West Virginia has proven recruiting class rankings mean little.

Here a few national listings:





Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Signing Day roundup - Parisse to Pitt, Hilton to Ohio State

It's Signing Day and there are some happenings locally. I still have a few calls out there, so check back for updates.

Canon-McMillan wasn't as busy this year as the last couple years but senior Taylor Parisse signed with the Pitt women's soccer team and faxed her National Letter of Intent around 9:30 a.m.

Parisse's skills enabled Big Macs head coach Dave Derrico to play her at a variety of positions. Parisse played forward, defense and even midfield during her varsity career and did all three exceptionally well. Her play was a key factor in Canon-McMillan's 14-5-1 record in 2010. The Big Macs lost to eventual state champion Peters Township in the WPIAL quarterfinals.

A member of Beadling Soccer Club, Parisse is the second Big Macs girls player in as many years to land with a Division I program. Last year, high school All-American Taylor Schram signed with Penn State, where she started as a freshman.

* C-M wrestler Nick Catalano plans to wrestle for North Carolina but has not signed.

* South Fayette was busy today as five athletes signed papers.

Nicole Hilton, a multi-sport standout, signed with Ohio State to participate on the track and cross country teams. Hilton's story is an interesting one as she didn't compete as a runner until her junior year.

Hilton won the WPIAL Class AA cross country title in the fall. As a junior, she won two medals in distance events at the state track meet, including a second-place finish.

Nick Carr, a defending PIAA Class AA wrestling champion and the first from South Fayette to do as a member of its own wrestling team, signed with Kent State.

Nick Faraci, an all-state selection in football and a dominating two-way lineman for the WPIAL Class AA champions, has signed with Robert Morris. Faraci fielded offers from various Division I-AA, II and III schools.

As expected, Christian Brumbaugh signed with William & Mary and Nolan Spicer signed with Liberty.

According to South Fayette athletic director Joe Farkas, football players Jeff Davis, Eric Myers and Tyler Challingsworth could be making decisions soon.

* Got off the phone with Wash High football coach Mike Bosnic around 2:40 p.m. and he filled me in on a few seniors from his team.

Julien Anderson has committed to Robert Morris and will be part of the Colonials' incoming class as soon as he is accepted into the school. Anderson said before the start of the 2010 football season that he hoped to land with a local school, and the three-sport athlete accomplished his goal. Anderson was a prime target for Robert Morris and he projects as a defensive back, most likely at corner.

Anderson will join Trinity's Kyle McWreath at Robert Morris, which is coached by Joe Walton. Anderson and McWreath played on several all-star baseball teams together growing up.

With Anderson, McWreath and Faraci, it's evident that Robert Morris is hitting this area hard.

Austin Phillips, a big two-way lineman, has committed to Division II West Liberty State. Phillips, much like Anderson, will be part of its incoming class upon his acceptance into the school.

Zach Barnes will visit West Liberty State Saturday. Bosnic said Barnes has several options, including Valley Forge Military Academy, a prep school that was attended by Larry Fitzgerald before he went to Pitt.

* Peters Township senior Nevin Hagman, a starting offensive tackle for the Indians, signed with Bucknell. Hagman was one of the area's more heavily recruited players this year with interest from Patriot League, Ivy League, Division II and some of the premier academic Division III schools in the region.

Hagman (6-4, 270) has a 4.4 GPA and plans to major in chemical or biomedical engineering before attending medical school.

* Hagman was one of five Peters Township athletes to sign at 12:30 p.m. this afternoon.

Soccer players Shelli Spamer (North Carolina State), Christina O'Connor (Long Island) and Hagman's teammate Austin Hancock (Fordham) also signed.

So did soccer player Karen Jackson, who moved from defender to forward this season for the state champs. Jackson signed with Slippery Rock.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Girls basketball, week in review

Team of the Week – Chartiers-Houston
The Bucs went 3-0 last week and all but ensured themselves of finishing in the top two teams from Section 3-A.
Chartiers-Houston opened the week with a 15-point win over Avella. Four players scored in double figures, led by Rachel Burgess and Tori Foster with 13 points apiece. Defensively, C-H limited Amanda Temple to 18 points, nearly five below her WPIAL-leading average.
The Bucs went on to beat Bentworth, a probable playoff team from Section 4-AA, and section foe Jefferson-Morgan.
A playoff team last year, Chartiers-Houston is 7-2 in section play and 13-5 overall with key games remaining against Carmichaels and section leader Fort Cherry.

Runner-up – Fort Cherry
The Rangers, unbeaten in Section play and against Class A competition, defeated Carmichaels and Avella.

Starting five
Beka Bellhy, Fort Cherry
Shannon Flament, Charleroi
Tori Foster, Chartiers-Houston
Morgan Kurtz, Trinity
Jocelyn Lucsko, McGuffey
Off the bench
Anna Shashura, Beth-Center

Streak snapped – Not sure what the scene was like following Waynesburg's win over Mapletown was like, but if the Raiders celebrated some, who could blame them? Waynesburg snapped a 43-game losing streak with last Tuesday's 59-31 win over Mapletown. Danielle Jacobs led Waynesburg with 15 points.

Five Trinity players to sign Wednesday

Wednesday will be a busy day for high school athletic departments and at the colleges as well as it's National Letter of Intent Day. While ESPN plans unprecedented 10 hours of coverage on ESPNU (or is it ESPN8 the Ocho?) complete with Urban Meyer and company, future college athletes will be signing away their impending futures.

While there are a few Division I athletes from this area - Peters Township girls soccer players Shelli Spamer (North Carolina State) and Shannon O'Connor (Long Island) to name two - are headed to Division I programs, the majority will sign with Division I-AA or Division II teams.

Trinity will be one of the busier places Wednesday as five football players plan to sign.

* Kyle McWreath, an Observer-Reporter Elite 11 and all-state selection, will sign with Robert Morris. McWreath was a disruptive defensive force, finishing with 106 tackles and 13 tackles for loss. He was also an effective special teams player and fullback.

* A broken leg forced Ty Billie to miss the first month of the season but he returned to solidify the Hillers' secondary and special teams. Billie is headed to Division I-AA Liberty, where South Fayette lineman Nolan Spicer committed during the summer. Billie was recruited as a wide receiver, where he made 13 plays of 45 yards or more this season.

* At 6-0, 275, J.D. George was probably two inches away from fielding major offers. The two-time all-conference offensive lineman, who led Trinity with 24 pancake blocks in 2010, is headed to St. Francis (Pa.).

* Bob Steinstraw made the most of his increased playing time as a senior and the defensive end will play in the PSAC at Clarion. Steinstraw (6-3, 235) led Trinity with 7.5 sacks.

* Mike Cleveland received Division I interest as a kicker but the multi-talented senior, who was selected all-conference at kicker, wide receiver and defensive back, will play at Slippery Rock, also a member of the PSAC. Cleveland joins former Trinity standout Cody Endres, who transferred from Connecticut to Slippery Rock. Cleveland kicked eight field goals and tied a school record with seven interceptions.

In other recruiting news:
* South Fayette quarterback Christian Brumbaugh will sign with Division I-AA William & Mary. Brumbaugh helped the Lions to the 2010 PIAA Class AA championship game.

* Peters Township's Austin Hancock, who shared the cover of the Observer-Reporter's preseason football publication with Brumbaugh, will play at Fordham - a member of the Patriot League. Hancock was an Elite 11 selection as a junior. As a senior, he rushed for 500 yards and passed for 1,300. He was recruited to play linebacker.