Thursday, March 31, 2011

Roundball rosters released

The Roundball Classic, a collection of Western Pennsylvania's top high school senior basketball players, takes place April 16 at Geneva College in Beaver Falls and this year's game carries a little more local talent than usual.

The games start at 2 p.m. with Class A vs. AA girls, followed by Class AAA vs. AAAA girls at 4 p.m., Class A vs. Class AA boys at 6 p.m. and Class AAA vs. Class AAAA boys at 8 p.m. Players from the Pittsburgh City League will play for the Class A all-stars.

Among the players on the Class A girls team is Avella's Amanda Temple, who led the WPIAL in scoring. Washington's Aujuwa Moore and Charleroi's Morgan Iacovino are part of the Class AA team. South Fayette's Lizzy King is on the Class AAA roster, while Canon-McMillan's Emily Hansen will play on the Quad-A team.

Fort Cherry's Nate Bellhy and Monessen's Cam Johnson are part of a solid Class AA team. Trinity's Josh Valentic and the South Fayette duo of Pat Zedreck and Mike Lamberti are on the Class AAA roster and go against a Class AAAA team that includes Canon-McMillan's Dylan Berger.

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Follow me … on Twitter

Signed up for a Twitter account today (still staying away from Facebook).

For anyone who thinks I might be interesting, funny or dumb enough to follow:!/TheMikeKovak

I will talk high school sports some times, break the occasional news story or provide an up-to-date sports score. I also plan on waxing philosophic on topics such as fatherhood, music, Pitt sports, marriage, dogs, etc.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

A pretty pic and a few other notes

According to at least one area softball coach, Geibel has dropped its team, which, if true, creates a couple openings in schedules for other members of Section 2-A.
A Section 2 preview in the Herald-Standard of Uniontown, which ran March 27, included Geibel.
Beth-Center, Carmichaels, Jefferson-Morgan, West Greene, California and Mapletown also compete in Section 2.
*Morgan Meadows, one of the top pitchers in the area last year, moved from Peters Township to Tennessee.
* Former O-R staff writer Mark Lazerus, who moved to the scenic world of Gary, Ind. and the Post-Tribune, informed us that former Canon-McMillan standout Jeravin Matthews has earned a starting spot at cornerback for Northwestern.
Matthews, one of the fastest football players to hail from Washington County, has played running back and receiver in his first two years with the Wildcats.
* Thanks to Mike White of the Post-Gazette. He informed me that the last time a player from Washington or Greene counties led the WPIAL in scoring came in 1998 when Bentworth's Bryant Thomas averaged 32.5. Thomas went to Cal U, where he got into some trouble and his collegiate basketball career never materialized.
In 1996, Carmichaels' Justin Voithofer paced the WPIAL at 29.0.
This year, Avella's Amanda Temple led all WPIAL girls players with a 22.0 scoring average.
The last time a girl from a school other than Monessen led the WPIAL in scoring came in 1988 when Burgettstown's Jamie O'Donnell averaged 27.0
* A few months ago, The Varsity Letters ran a picture of South Fayette's 2010 PIAA Class AA championship ring. Some of this blog's faithful readers from the Clairton area asked if I would post a picture of the Bears' title rings from football.
As promised.

Monday, March 28, 2011

Trinity's Robertson, Ringgold's Louis shine at combine

Trinity junior Brandon Robertson was the big winner at Sunday's Nike Combine in Pittsburgh, an event with more than 800 athletes from the Northeast at the UPMC Sports Complex.
Robertson, a defensive end/outside linebacker who also plays fullback, had the top SPARQ rating with a score of 103.29. SPARQ is an acronym that stands for Speed Power Agility Reaction and Quickness. It consists of a series of sport-specific athletic tests such as jumps, sprints, shuttle runs, throws and bench press.
Dalton referred to Robertson as an "athletic marvel" and a "real sleeper" in this year's recruiting class. Sunday's performance will certainly raise Robertson's profile, as he became the second Trinity player to post a top SPARQ rating at a Nike Combine. The first was Mike Yancich in 2007. He is at Penn State.
Ringgold sophomore Demetrius Louis ran the fastest 40-yard dash, a time of 4.51. His 38-inch vertical leap ranked second at the combine, just two-tenths of an inch behind Malik Blakeman of Penn Hills.
Louis finished eighth overall.
Beth-Center's Sal Faieta finished 13th. Ringgold's Quad Law and Alfon Cook, and Trinity's Pat Frey and Corey Hunsberger were among the top 100. Frey was ranked second in the Class of 2014.

For complete results, check out

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Putting a bowtie on basketball season

One great run came to an end in the PIAA basketball playoffs, while two other teams leave their respective followings wondering about potential greatness next season.
South Fayette, coming of a Class AA state title, dominated Class AAA competition throughout the regular season and entered the postseason as a prohibitive favorite to win a WPIAL title, the school's first.
The Lions, led by eight seniors and a defensive-minded attitude, cruised into the championship game before Montour - a team that lost to South Fayette twice during the regular season - dominated the pace of the title game and won by 11 points.
South Fayette bumped into Montour once again in the PIAA semifinals. This time, the Lions got off to a strong start before Montour exerted its will, got hot from three-point range and pulled away in the second half.
It was a bitter end for South Fayette, a competitive and talented group that wanted to add more hardware to its collection.
Still, the Lions go down as one great team.
South Fayette played in one WPIAL championship game and reached the semifinals two other times, in year's where the Class AA bracket was absolutely loaded. The Lions won a state title, reached the semifinals the following year in a higher classification. They won more than 90 games in a four-year stretch, including eight WPIAL playoff games and nine state playoff games, including eight consecutive before the loss to Montour.
It's the type of run that schools like Washington and Monessen know about.
Speaking of Monessen, the Greyhounds provided one great story in winning the WPIAL Class AA championship - their fourth under head coach Joe Salvino.
After a 20-point win over Greensburg Central Catholic in the championship, Salvino said this title was the sweetest.
Part of that reasoning had to do with Monessen winning with an outstanding team work ethic. The Greyhounds got through the bracket without leading scorer Jaisen Irwin, who returned for the state playoffs and helped the Greyhounds reach the semifinals before GCC gained a measure of revenge.
Monessen returns several key figures, including Irwin and Jalen Madison. The Greyhounds could factor into the championship picture again next year.
So could the Fort Cherry girls.
The Rangers, with four junior starters and a freshman as the first player off the bench, dominated Section 3-A before reaching their first WPIAL championship game.
The most encouraging sign for Fort Cherry is it played its best basketball during the postseason and reached the PIAA quarterfinals before it lost to perennial power Bishop Guilfoyle - the state runner-up.
Fort Cherry had that game tied in the fourth quarter.
* Trinity's Josh Valentic became the first player from a Washington County school to average 30-plus points in 13 years. One reason why was Valentic's ability to get to the basket.
Anyone who thinks Valentic is strictly a jump shooter must not have watched him play his senior season.
* Avella's Amanda Temple led the WPIAL in girls scoring with a 22.0 average.
Does anyone remember the last time a player from Washington or Greene led the district in scoring?
If so, let us know.
* The Monessen girls didn't reach the WPIAL or PIAA Class A championship games but, like Fort Cherry, the Greyhounds return so many top players that winning both titles will be goals set before next season starts.
* The Chartiers-Houston girls could be very good in 2011-12.
* So could the Wash High boys, especially if the highly hyped freshman class lives up to the billing when they join the varsity as sophomores.
* One player that looks intriguing as a possible college prospect is Fort Cherry junior Carolena Gasbarro.
Her game isn't as polished as teammate Beka Bellhy and she's not as explosive quick as Jessie Merckle, but Gasbarro has some qualities college coaches like. At 5-10, she has the length to play at the next level and her defense is top-notch. Gasbarro is also an effective interior offensive player.
Wouldn't be surprised if Gasbarro ends up being the most heavily recruited girls player from the area next year.
* After watching South Fayette lose to Montour in the PIAA Class AAA semifinals and Washington lose to North Catholic two years ago in the Class AA semis, the thought here is that losing that game may be the toughest one to drop.
Losing a WPIAL championship is tough, but unless it's football, the season continues. Losing a PIAA championship stinks, but the experience is amazing.
* Early predictions for 2012 players of the year - Fort Cherry's Beka Bellhy and Washington's Josh Wise.
* Canon-McMillan senior Dylan Berger said his three finalists are Millersville, Lycoming and Bethany. If Berger, a 6-8 forward who can play outside, chooses Millersville that would give this area four Division II players.
That's almost unheard of and certainly has not happened in my time at this newspaper.
* The Tri-County Athletic Directors Association selects boys and girls basketball coaches of the year. Every coach in the Tri-CADA area, which runs from South Fayette to Fayette County, votes for the top three choices (not including himself/herself). The Observer-Reporter sports staff also gets one vote and the winner is honored at the annual Coach of the Year Banquet.
The guess here is the boys winner will be Monessen's Joe Salvino, who led the Greyhounds to the WPIAL Class AA championship and PIAA semifinals in addition to picking up his 500th career victory.
The girls winner could be Fort Cherry's Bob Miles.
* If the selection process were limited to Washington and Greene counties, a strong candidate for boys coach would be Ringgold's Pete Logan.
The Rams won two games last year in Class AAAA, but finished tied for third with Trinity in Section 5-AAA, which should be considered the best in the state considering South Fayette and Montour played in the state semifinals and for the WPIAL championship.
Ringgold also won its first playoff game since the 1990s.
* I'm in the process of compiling the boys and girls all-district teams.
The boys team has a heavy senior flavor. Real heavy.
Makes me wonder if 2011-12 will be a rebuilding process for many of the area's more competitive teams.
* Speaking of next year, will someone please play some semblance of defense in next year's Washington-Greene all-star game?

Thursday, March 24, 2011

The boys of spring

Boys tennis started Monday. The rest of the WPIAL spring sports season (baseball, softball, track & field, boys volleyball, boys & girls lacrosse) gets going today. Traditionally speaking, this area excels during this time of year.

The 2010 season was no different.

Chartiers-Houston, appearing in its sixth PIAA softball championship game, won its first title with a convincing win over Montgomery. The Bucs return several key players and could contend again. Canon-McMillan won its second WPIAL Class AAA boys team track championship and the talent-rich Big Macs can never be counted out of the district championship picture. California was the only local baseball team to reach the PIAA playoffs last season and the Trojans should once again be among the best in Class A.

What other story lines will be followed this spring? What athletes will lead teams to championships or find themselves atop the medals stand at the PIAA track and field championships like McGuffey graduate J.T. Deschamps did last year?

Here are a few boys athletes whose previous accomplishments this time of year merit following over the next few months.

Austin Hancock, Peters Township
Before Hancock (pictured signing his Letter of Intent with his parents and former PT football coach Nick Milchovich) heads to Fordham to play football, he'll be a key figure in Peters Township's hopes of winning a third WPIAL Class AAAA baseball championship. A starter since his freshman year, Hancock is one of the area's premier sluggers and first basemen.

Justin Bianco, Peters Township
If hard to imagine an outfielder in the WPIAL with a stronger arm than Bianco, a Pitt recruit who threw out six runners attempting to get from second to third from his right field position. Bianco is the rare five-tool player at the high school level.

Brady Sheetz, Peters Township
An all-section infielder last year, Sheetz was not only outstanding in the field for the WPIAL semifinalists, he led all local hitters in extra base hits. Sheetz, who misses Februany Footlongs at Subway according to his Twitter account, is headed to Division I Hartford.

Nick Riotto, Trinity
Riotto was the area's top freshman baseball player last year and a key cog for the Hillers, on the mound and at the plate. The lefty batted well above .500 and his pitching helped Trinity reach the playoffs in a year that many thought would be a rebuilding one.

T.D. Conway, California
Conway holds the distinction of having a win and a save in a WPIAL playoff game and, as a sophomore, was undefeated until his final start of the season. He ranked among leaders in wins and strikeouts in addition to being a middle-of-the lineup hitter.

Tyler Delval, Bentworth
A second-team all-district selection last year, Delval was one of the area's top underclassmen. Delval was one of three Bentworth players to batted above .500 last season and his eight home runs ranked near the top of the WPIAL leaders.

Mike McClelland, Trinity
McClelland is a two-time PIAA qualifier in the Class AAA high jump. He finished ninth his sophomore year and fourth as a junior. Expectations are high for McClelland, the reigning WPIAL champion who plans on joining the Penn State track team. He won the state indoor championship this winter.

Darius Spinks, Washington
There's a promising group of jumpers at the High and the majority of them are sophomores. Included in that group is Spinks, who finished fifth in the WPIAL in the Class AA long jump and was the lone freshman competing in the event at last year's state meet.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Player of the Year ... the floor is yours

It's time to focus on all-district boys and girls basketball teams along with Player of the Year selections before spring sports hits high gear.

The all-district teams are taking shape, where there remains some doubt is selecting the respective POYs. Why? Well, there are several worthy candidates.

In addition to my observations, I've spoken with several coaches (as I normally do) for their input. This year, I've asked more coaches than usual because the selections are that tough.

So, with that in mind, I'd like to hear from readers. From the following list of candidates, tell me whose the pick and why.

Nate Bellhy, Fort Cherry
Seton Hill recruit and, from what I watched, area's most athletic and explosive player. Bellhy averaged 25.7 points and double-digit rebounds.

Michael Lamberti, South Fayette
West Liberty State recruit and reigning Player of the Year. Lamberti helped SF reach WPIAL championship game and PIAA semifinals. Probably area's most complete player, averaged 18.7 points, 9.0 rebounds.

Josh Valentic, Trinity
Wheeling Jesuit recruit with unlimited shooting range. Valentic, an improved rebounder and accurate free throw shooter, averaged 30.3 points (second in WPIAL) and at times looked like he single-handedly carried the Hillers in critical games.

Pat Zedreck, South Fayette
Considered by many to be WPIAL's premier point guard this season. Zedreck is receiving Division II and III interest and often plays better than more heavily recruited players at the position. Zedreck averaged 18 points per game in the postseason, 15 in the regular season with 9 assists.

Beka Bellhy, Fort Cherry
A junior, Bellhy entered the area's elite this year and evolved into one of the WPIAL's better talents. A heady player, Bellhy averaged 16 points and led the Rangers in rebounding during the best season in team history.

Emily Hansen, Canon-McMillan
Playing in possibly the state's toughest section, Hansen continued to get it done and topped 1,000 career points near the end of her senior season. She averaged 16.9 points per game to third in the section behind Division I recruits Belma Nurkic (Baldwin) and Madison Cable (Mt. Lebanon).

Geena Shrader, Monessen
Monessen lost only two games. One was to eventual WPIAL champion North Catholic, the other to Bishop Guilfoyle, which may win a third consecutive PIAA title. Shrader led the way with a scoring average of 18.0.

Amanda Temple, Avella
Temple led the WPIAL in scoring with a 22.0 average, more than 1 point per game better than any other player.

Local all-star game tips Friday

Fort Cherry senior Nate Bellhy, already slated to play in the Roundball Classic at Geneva College, has dropped out of the annual Washington-Greene Senior All-Star Basketball Games, which take place Friday night at Trinity High School.

The games are normally played at Washington High School but the venue was moved this year because of construction at Wash High.

Bellhy was definitely the headline player slated for the local game. The future member of the Division II Seton Hill men's basketball team is FC's career scoring leader with nearly 1,600 career points. He's a 6-6 forward who can run the point and owns excellent range on his jumper. He's averaged over 27 ppg combined the past two seasons.

Bellhy was slated to be part of the West Team, which will be coached by Trinity head coach Joe Dunn and assistants Stan Noszka and Steve Polansky. (Anyone else remember that the Hillers and Ringgold finished tied for third in Section 5-AAA to Montour and South Fayette? Not too shabby.)

Rosters are being redrawn but players committed to the game are Trinity's Matt Friewald, Brad Martin and Michael Cleveland, Avella's Cameron Geresti and Neil Gossett, Washington's Zach Barnes and Julien Anderson, Ringgold's Colin McCormick and California's Jalen Holder and John Tyler. Barnes, who will play football at West Liberty State, was a three-year starter for the Prexies, while McCormick evolved into one of the area's top players this season.

Beth-Center's Lucas Deithorn, Fort Cherry's Rich Williamson and Bentworth's John Barker are also part of the all-star festivities.

A pair of Canon-McMillan seniors - Dylan Berger and Justin Robinson - were originally part of the East Team, which is coached by Bentworth head coach Bob Kennedy and assistant Bill Minerd. Berger is a 6-8 center who averaged 18 ppg as a senior, and Robinson played the best basketball of his lengthy varsity career the second half of this season.

Would have been nice to see Bellhy, Trinity's Josh Valentic and Burgettstown's Tyler Pavan included, but I imagine Valentic is being invited to the majority of all-star games in Western Pennsylvania and Pavan is a dedicated baseball player.

Still, this looks like one of the deeper fields for this game I've seen in recent years and it's nice to see more representation from the Mon Valley. Tyler, Diethorn and Barker were all big-time scorers for their respective teams.

Monday, March 21, 2011

South Fayette getting timely contributions

Reaching a PIAA championship basketball game is a difficult task. South Fayette, which won a Class AA title last year, is one win from getting there a second consecutive season.

The Lions (25-2) play rival Montour (22-7) in Tuesday's PIAA Class AAA semifinal at Chartiers Valley. Tip-off is scheduled for 7:30 p.m. and it marks the fourth meeting between the two teams, both members of Section 5.

South Fayette is 2-1 in those meetings, but Montour won the big one - a 45-34 victory in the WPIAL championship game.

South Fayette played its worst game of the season in that one, but the Lions have corrected things in the state tournament and posted impressive wins over District 3's Eastern York, District 6 champion Johnstown and District 10's General McLane.

"Sometimes, I think people focus on the two we lost instead of the 25 we've won," South Fayette coach Rich Bonnaure said. "These guys enjoy what they're doing."

Point guard Pat Zedreck and forward Mike Lamberti are the Lions' top two players and will be focal points of Montour's defensive efforts. What makes South Fayette so tough to beat this time of the year is the contributions it gets from other players.

Guys like Christian Brumbaugh and Josh Patterson (both pictured), guard Nick Elder and sophomore Zach Challingsworth among others.

Brumbaugh rebounds and defends the post well. Patterson is an absolute menace on defense, but he helped South Fayette salt a 67-59 win over Eastern York at the free throw line, where he made 8 of 10 and finished with 12 points. Elder scored eight crucial points in the second half and Challingsworth blocked an Andrew Nicholas shot as the Lions made things as difficult as possible for the Monmouth recruit.

"A lot of good teams have that aspect where everyone chips in," Bonnaure said. "The guys do what they need to do to get the win. They have a knack for making plays. I can't always figure it out but they do it."

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Fort Cherry exceeds expectations, raises them for next year

"Who would have thought a few months ago that Fort Cherry would hang with the two-time defending state champs and give them a ball game?" - Fort Cherry head coach Bob Miles

The best season in the history of Fort Cherry girls basketball ended Saturday with a 57-48 loss to powerhouse Bishop Guilfoyle in the PIAA Class A quarterfinals. Yes, it's the same Bishop Guilfoyle that has won two straight state championships and three out of the last four.

And, yes, the game was far more competitive than the final score might indicate.

Against the state's top-ranked team, Fort Cherry was tied 44-44 in the fourth quarter following a furious rally from a 14-point deficit in the third quarter. The Rangers proved with that performance, along with a phenomenal postseason run that they belong along the state's elite in the classification. Possibly beyond.

Fort Cherry, which finished 24-5, bested WPIAL Class AAA finalist Ambridge on the Bridgers' home court. The Rangers beat WPIAL Class AA finalist Jeannette on a neutral court. They beat higher classification playoff teams in Ringgold and Washington. They won the Section 3-A title with a perfect 12-0 record. The only losses came against strong competition - teams like Canon-McMillan, Monessen, North Catholic, Mt. Pleasant and, finally, Bishop Guilfoyle.

Maybe a couple months ago, this run didn't seem possible.

Fort Cherry returned a strong group, which included Beka Bellhy. What made the Rangers better was the progression of players like point guard Jessie Merckle and defensive stopper Carolena Gasbarro.

All three will be back next year, along with Victoria McGivern, Rachel Bellhy and Kelly Slates. Starting forward Danielle Spinden is the lone senior in the regular rotation.

So, a season that started with some promise turned into "one incredible run" as Miles put it following the Bishop Guilfoyle game.

More will be expected from Fort Cherry, which played for the WPIAL Class A championship, the first time a Fort Cherry basketball team reached that game in 50 years.

The improvement shown by the players, the unselfish play, swarming defense and ball movement will be needed next year as things won't be easy. Monessen returns all its talent. Bishop Guilfoyle loses just one starter. North Catholic is always strong. So is Vincentian Academy.

In section play, Chartiers-Houston will be a difficult opponent.

All those teams cold be future postseason opponents for Fort Cherry, which proved the past month it belongs amongst the PIAA elite. Remaining there will be the next step,

WPIAL championship rematch week

PIAA Class AAA semifinalists South Fayette and Montour meet for the fourth time this season. This time, a place in the state championship game goes to the winner.

South Fayette (25-2) faces Montour (22-7) Tuesday night at Chartiers Valley High School. Tipoff is scheduled for 7:30 p.m.

The Lions and Spartans met twice during the regular season. South Fayette won both games, 65-58 at Montour and 58-38 in the final Section 5 game for both teams. The third meeting took place for the WPIAL championship and Montour's slowdown game worked to near perfection as the Spartans won their first title with a 45-34 win.

In a rematch of the WPIAL Class AA championship, Monessen plays Greensburg Central Catholic Wednesday at Gateway High School in Monroeville. Tipoff is scheduled for 7 p.m.

The balanced Greyhounds (26-2), bolstered by the return of Jaisen Irwin and spurred by the strong play of Cam Johnson, have won 21 consecutive games. Among that streak was an outstanding 20-point win over Greensburg Central Catholic (26-3) in the WPIAL championship game.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Monessen boys site, time set

The bottom half of the bracket in the PIAA Class AA boys basketball playoffs consists entirely of WPIAL team, with WPIAL champion Monessen among the final four.

The Greyhounds (25-2), winners of 20 straight, play Sto-Rox (23-4) Saturday afternoon, 1:30 p.m. at North Allegheny High School. The game follows another Class AA quarterfinal between Beaver Falls (21-6) and Greensburg Central Catholic (25-3), which is scheduled for noon.

Monessen has yet to face a WPIAL team in the state playoffs, beating Mercyhurst Prep and North Star through two rounds. Sto-Rox defeated Sharpsville and Jeannette to get to this point.

Fort Cherry site, time set

Fort Cherry, making its first PIAA quarterfinal appearance, play two-time defending Class A champion Bishop Guilfoyle of District 6 Saturday, 2:30 p.m. at Hempfield High School in Greensburg.

The Rangers (24-4) have defeated Farrell and, most recently, Coudersport by double digits in the first rounds of the state playoffs.

Located in Altoona, Bishop Guilfoyle (27-1) impressively beat a good Monessen team 62-38 in the second round and Elk County Catholic in the first round.

The game follows another Class A quarterfinal between WPIAL champion North Catholic and District 6 runner-up Homer-Center. That game starts at 1 p.m.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

South Fayette site, time set

South Fayette plays Eastern York in the PIAA Class AAA quarterfinals Friday, 7 p.m. at Hollidaysburg High School.

The Lions (24-2) are coming off an impressive 67-47 win over Johnstown. Eastern York (26-4) got past Holy Ghost Prep, 45-42, in the second round. Eastern York was the runner-up in District 3 to Lancaster Catholic, which remains in the state bracket.

Eastern York has two players - 6-1 guard Austin Tillotson and 6-6 forward Andrew Nicholas – who have signed with Division I Monmouth. Nicholas scored 23 points in the second round.

Varsity leftovers

Funny what a couple easy baskets created from turnovers can do for a team.

South Fayette, mired in a shooting slump since its WPIAL Class AAA championship game loss to Montour, got going offensively during the first quarter of a 20-point rout of Johnstown Tuesday night in the second round of the state playoffs.

Josh Patterson created several of the early opportunities with steals at the top of the key and South Fayette responded by shooting 50 percent in the first quarter. It was a far cry from the 3-for-18 performance that started the Lions' opening round win over General McLane.

Simply put, South Fayette is too good to be in a shooting slump for an extended period.

* Turnovers and excessive fouls can make girls basketball tough to watch, even in the PIAA playoffs.

Fort Cherry isn't absolved from the occasional sloppy play of bad foul, but the Rangers are fun to watch play. As stated earlier, when the Rangers are on, they play the best team basketball I've seen this year - boys or girls.

That's no guarantee that Fort Cherry will get past its second round game later today against Coudersport at Clarion University. Coudersport has one loss, but Fort Cherry is a confident group.

* As good as Fort Cherry is, TVL wonders what the Rangers will be capable of next year assuming the players continue to improve.

* Ringgold senior Derrick Fiore will join teammate Neal Rands this fall at California University, where the pair will be part of the Vulcans' highly successful football team.

Rands plays with intensity and a hard-hitting style.

Fiore enjoyed a terrific senior season and was selected to the Observer-Reporter Elite 11 as he averaged nearly 10 yards per carry. There's been some discussion on this board concerning Fiore, Rands and their prospective futures at Cal U. Not sure how people can forecast the future of these young men.

From what I've seen of both, there's no reason either can't become productive players at Cal. Sure, the Vulcans take on a lot of Division I retreads, but remember, the vast majority of those players weren't good enough to make an impact before transferring to Division II.

In Fiore, I see a player similar in size, stature and speed to former Ringgold standout Robert Heller, who set an all-division freshman rushing record in his one year at Waynesburg University. Yes, Waynesburg is a Division III program but had Heller been willing to play defense coming out of high school, he had Division I schools interested.

* The spring sports season is rapidly approaching and The Varsity Letters will take a closer look at baseball, softball and track next week with teams to follow and players to watch.

* South Fayette coach Rich Bonnaure calls senior forward Mile Lamberti the consummate team player and the West Liberty State recruit continues to back up that with his play in the postseason.

Lamberti called himself out following the Lions' loss in the PIAL championship. Rather than force his offense through two rounds of the state playoffs, Lamberti is letting opposing defenses worry about him and looking for other options.

He had four assists in the first quarter against Johnstown as his play on the defensive end led to several fast-break baskets. His biggest display of emotion came in the fourth quarter when one of his seven assists led to an easy basket for Tanner Courtad.

*In the fall, TVL called out Charleroi football for not calling in results for the past several seasons. Some readers were upset and wanted to know other programs that fall into the same category.

Here's one from winter sports: Peters Township girls basketball.

The Indians provided results from their first two games. After that, the only results we received from PT came when they played other local teams. As a result, it makes it awfully tough placing a player from Peters Township on the all-district basketball team.

* South Fayette has won seven consecutive games in the PIAA playoffs - five in winning the Class AA title last year and two this season. The seniors are 8-2 in the state playoffs the past four years with the lone losses against Farrell in the second round of the 2008 playoffs and Mercyhurst Prep in the first round of 2009.

* In each of South Fayette's last three PIAA playoffs games, Pat Zedreck has been the best basketball player on the court.

Thanks to his outstanding play in big games, Zedreck is firmly established in the thought process for Player of the Year.

* No matter what happens to South Fayette Friday night against Eastern York, the Lions are nearing the conclusion of one of the great runs this area has witnessed.

When I get an opportunity to sit down and research some other great runs from past schools, we'll look further into what's been accomplished and the difficulties of winning at a high level.

Alumni games is bring back a heated rivalry sure to ignite some old feelings within Washington. The organization will host a Trinity vs. Wash High alumni football game Friday, July 8 with a site and time to be determined.

Games are full-contact and both teams are in the process of organizing rosters, cheerleaders and possibly pep bands. Last year, alumni teams from Burgettstown, Chartiers-Houston, Fort Cherry and South Fayette took part in the series with an alumni doubleheader and it drew considerable interest and participation from all four communities. Ringgold's Joe Montana Stadium also hosted games last summer and were played in front of a near-capacity crowd.

Washington is believed to field some of its top players from teams that won a 2001 PIAA Class AA championship in addition to playing for several WPIAL titles in the 1990s.

* Chartiers-Houston softball, one of the area's more tradition-rich teams, will host an alumni softball game on Saturday, April 16 at Allison Elementary Field. The game will be played following the varsity game, which starts at 1 p.m.

There will be a cookout and get-together following the alumni game.

Those interested in playing or attending should call Colleen Smith at 724-554-0068.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

PIAA releases sites, times for second round

South Fayette (23-2) will attempt to win its seventh consecutive PIAA playoff game Friday night when it plays District 6 champion Johnstown (23-1) at Hempfield High School outside Greensburg. Tipoff for the Class AAA second-round game is scheduled for 8 p.m.

The Lions beat General McLane in the opening round, while Johnstown, which reached the PIAA Class AAA in championship in 2005, dispatched West Mifflin.

* Monessen will play a boys/girls doubleheader Wednesday at IUP.

The Monessen girls (25-1) face a stern test in defending PIAA Class A champion Bishop Guilfoyle (26-1) of District 6. Tipoff is scheduled for 6 p.m.

The Greyhounds easily beat Berlin-Brothersvalley (home of the world's best barbeque potato chips) in the first round. BG allowed just 19 points in beating Elk County Catholic.

The Monessen boys (24-2) started slow in its first game since winning the WPIAL Class AA championship but the Greyhounds got past Mercyhurst Prep. They draw District 5 champion North Star (22-4) with a 7:30 p.m. tip-off.

Considering Monessen, which travels in bunches to playoff basketball games, this site does not make a ton of sense. Monessen fans have a 140-mile roundtrip drive to watch two teams. Bishop Guilfoyle is just over 50 miles from IUP and North Star, located outside Somerset, is approximately 60 miles away.

It's not a terribly unfair site, but it would make sense to have the school with two teams playing at a site to have the shortest drive. Just sayin'.

* The Fort Cherry girls, fresh off an impressive win against Farrell in the first round of the PIAA Class A playoffs, plays District 9 Coudersport (25-1) Wednesday at Clarion University. Tipoff is 6 p.m.

The Rangers (23-4) can establish a team record for single-season victories but it won't come easy against a Coudersport team that beat Aliquippa by 15 in the first round.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Football coaches release top propsects list

Football recruiting lists are too numerous to track, which is why this blog tries to only post ones from web sites/media sources with a solid reputation.

An interesting list arrived in my inbox this morning, and it came from the Pennsylvania Scholastic Football Coaches Association. The group released its first list of top high school senior prospects from Pennsylvania for 2012. There's no players from Washington or Greene counties but Josh Stepoli (who is listed as a player for Greensburg Central Catholic) recently transfered back to Monessen.

"CLASS OF 2012"
Compiled by: Pennsylvania Scholastic Football Coaches
Association (PSFCA) in conjunction with the Big 33 Football Classic
Player First Name Player Last Name School Position
Josh Barzdo Bishop Carroll High School QB
Tom Bodolus Daniel Boone High School QB
Wayne Capers, Jr. Chartiers Valley High School Athlete
Dakota Conwell Upper St. Clair High School Athlete
Ryan Egloff Bishop Shanahan High School QB
Steve Franco Tyrone Area High School QB
Curtis Frye Clearfield Area High School QB
Dan Harding Nazareth Area High School QB
Brad Hengst Chestnut Ridge High School QB/Athlete
Chad Hoffman Hazleton Area High School QB
Matt Johns Central Bucks South High School QB
John Matarrazzo New Castle High School QB
Skyler Mornhinweg St. Joseph Prep QB
Brendan Nosovitch Allentown Central Catholic High School QB
Blake Rankin Bloomsburg High School QB
Brennan Scott Manheim Township High School QB
Gervon Simon Greater Johnstown High School QB/Athlete
Manny Stocker Coatesville Area High School QB

Running Backs
Julian Durden Montour High School RB
Greg Garmon Erie McDowell High School RB
Drew Harris Downingtown East High School RB
Luke Hagy Mt. Lebanon High School RB
Damian Jones-Moore Pittsburgh Central Catholic High School RB
James Middleton Easton Area High School RB
De'Andre Moon Rochester High School RB
Brandon Peoples Archbishop Wood High School RB
Desmond Peoples Archbishop Wood High School RB
Wesley Phipps Grove City High School RB
Jalen Randolph Ridley High School RB
John Rizzo Richland High School RB
Rushell Shell Hopewell High School RB
Manny Simpson Penn Trafford High School RB
Javon White Souderton Area High School RB/DB

Wide Receivers
Shakim Alonzo Woodland Hills High School WR
Adam Bridgeforth Nazareth High School WR
Marcus Carter New Castle High School WR
Trenton Coles Clairton High School WR
Kevin Gulyas Allentown Central Catholic High School WR
Kyle Kerrick Coatesville Area High School WR
Eugene Lewis Wyoming Valley West High School WR
Anthony Nash West Chester Rustin High School WR
Anthony Nixon Pittsburgh Central Catholic High School WR
Nick Patton Tyrone Area High School WR
Kamani Smith Cathedral Prep High School WR
Chaz Whittaker Penn Hills High School WR

Tight Ends/Defensive Ends
Jesse James South Allegheny High School T
P.J. Gallo Council Rock South High School TE/DE
Bruno Natter Thomas Jefferson High School TE
Colin Thompson Archbishop Wood High School TE/DE
Tristin Freeman West Catholic High School DE
Bryan Osei Abington High School DE
Evan Schwan Central Dauphin High School TE/DE
Noah Spence Bishop McDevitt High School DE
Kiser Terry Neshaminy High School DE

Micah Anderson Susquehanna Township High School OL/DL
Brandon Arcidiacono Archbishop Wood High School OL
J.J. Denman Pennsbury High School OL
Adam DePietro Lancaster Catholic High School OL
Jason Emerich Blue Mountain High School OL/DL
Kyle Friend Cumberland Valley High School OL
Treyvon Hester Penn Hills High School OL
Tyrique Jarret Allerdice High School DL
Bryn Kaufman Wilmington Area High School OL
Connor Mahoney Malvern Prep High School OL
Niko Mamula Chartiers Valley High School OL
Bob Mandish Penn Trafford High School OL
Brendan McGowan Marion Catholic High School OL/DL
Tony Morgante Crestwood High School OL
Fahel Muhammad Valley View High School DL
Chris Muller Boyertown High School OL/DL
Shakyil Murphy Williamsport Area High School DL
Bret Neiderreither Red Land High School OL
Ian Park Upper St. Clair High School OL
Max Perisse West Chester Henderson High School DL
Chad Reed Dover Area High School OL
Averee' Robinson Susquehanna Township High School DL
Zach Smith Lower Dauphin High School OL/DL
Josh Stepoli Greensburg Central Catholic High School DL
Frank Taylor Archbishop Wood High School OL
Zach Wilk Central Dauphin High School Ol/DL

Bryan Barr Mechanicsburg Area High School LB
Mike Capara Woodland Hills High School LB
Jalen Coleman Peabody High School LB
Keith Corliss Germantown Academy LB
Brock Dean Bishop McDevitt High School LB
Luke Dehart Erie McDowell High School LB/TE
Rob Devoracek Parkland High School LB
Andrew Harris Whitehall High School LB
Jon Hicks Palmyra High School LB/TE
J.P. Holtz Shaler Area High School LB
Mike Kinney Loyalsock High School LB
Eric Laytos Lackawanna Trail High School LB
Chad Phillips Central Valley High School LB
Erik Record Grove City High School LB
Ralph Reeves North Penn High School LB/TE
Devon Shalet West Scranton High School LB
Nick Sharga Northampton High School LB
Mike Shinkus North Schuylkill High School LB
T.J. Walters West Catholic High School LB
Nyeem Wartman Valley View High School LB
T.J. White West Chester Henderson High School LB
Alkwon Williams Greater Johnstown High School LB

Defensive Backs
Demetrius Cox Jeannette High School DB
Dustin Creel Western Beaver High School DB
Durell Crawford GAR Memorial High School DB
Mikal Hall Aliquippa High School DB
Corey Jones Penn Hills High School DB
Anthony Jordan Cathedral Prep High School DB
Reggie Mitchell Shadyside Academy DB
Deaysean Rippy Sto Rox High School DB
Noah Raub Allentown Central Catholic High School DB
Damire Shaw Cardinal O'Hara High School DB
Nate Smith Archbishop Wood High School DB
Jay Watkins Cardinal O'Hara High School DB
Logan Weaver Punxsutawney High School DB

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Gray resigns as Avella football coach

It might be hard to believe but Avella football was once a WPIAL small-school powerhouse. The Eagles tradition pre-1980 ranked right up there with any from the area. There were multiple WPIAL championships, several other championship game appearances, NFL players and Division I talent.

Things changed drastically.

If Avella isn't the graveyard of WPIAL football these days, it's awfully close. Avella's football plight is well-documented in recent years as the Observer-Reporter, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette and even the New York Times did multiple stories on the Eagles.

A couple years ago, it seemed the only logical solution was to drop football. Frank Gray changed that opinion.

Gray worked hard to restore numbers and some sense of competitiveness to Avella football, and Gray also did his best to keep the Eagles in the news. He pushed for players to earn all-district, and even all-state mention.

In three years, Gray went 3-24 but he and Avella earned the respect of playoff regulars like Clairton and Fort Cherry along the way.

Gray recently resigned from his position as Avella's football coach, stating that certain people in the community who were close to the football program were making the situation too difficult to handle. For a coach who once dressed a female cheerleader to put 11 player on the field in hopes of not forfeiting a season and the likely end of Avella football, those people must have been awfully overbearing.

For more on Gray's resignation, read today's story in the O-R by clicking

Gray's resignation leaves Avella as the lone local school without a football coach heading toward the spring. The story states Avella hopes to fill the vacancy next month. That leads to this question, who wants the job?

Monday, March 7, 2011

Michigan school wins first game after player death

HOLLAND, Mich. (AP) — A west Michigan high school basketball team has won its first game since a star player collapsed after scoring the winning basket to give his team a perfect regular-season record.
Nearly 3,500 fans observed a moment of silence before the tipoff of Monday night’s state tournament game between the teams from Fennville and Lawrence high schools.
Monday’s game was the first for Fennville since 16-year-old junior Wes Leonard died of a heart ailment after scoring the winning basket in its regular-season finale Thursday.
Fennville won Monday’s district game 65-54. The Blackhawks move to the second round with a 21-0 record.
Players from both high school teams wore warm-up shirts paying tribute to Leonard.
The game was moved to the Hope College arena in Holland to accommodate a much larger crowd.

Sunday, March 6, 2011

PIAA basketball sites and times

Fort Cherry makes its second trip to the state playoffs and first in Class A when it the WPIAL runner-up plays Farrell (District 10) Saturday, 4:30 p.m. at Gateway High School.

Monessen is also in the Class A girls bracket and plays Berlin (District 5) Saturday at Norwin also at 4:30 p.m.

The South Fayette boys make a fourth consecutive PIAA playoff appearance and first in Class AAA Friday against General McLane (District 10) at Moon High School. Tipoff is scheduled for 7:30 p.m.

WPIAL Class AA champion Monessen plays Mercyhurst Prep (District 10) before the Monessen girls game at 3 p.m. at Norwin.

Varsity leftovers from championship weekend

In covering three WPIAL basketball championship games this weekend – Boys Class AAA, Girls Class A and Boys Class AA – it's amazing the varying spectrum in how teams deal with defeat.
The Fort Cherry girls trailed North Catholic by double figures for the vast majority of its championship loss. A late, wild and almost unbelievable rally by Fort Cherry in a game where both teams had to put starters back into the game with under 15 seconds remaining certainly added some excitement to what had been a lackluster contest.
Following the game, the Fort Cherry players headed back to the locker room and it was easy to see the pride on their faces. The Rangers came this close to erasing a 20-point second-half deficit and were one missed open three-pointer from making it a one-possession game with six seconds remaining.
Fort Cherry already had the talent to make a respectable run in the PIAA playoffs. The comeback should only add to the team's collective confidence.
South Fayette, meanwhile, took it's loss to Montour hard. In talking with the team throughout the season, I thought the players put a little too much emphasis on winning the WPIAL, but, then again, there's absolutely nothing wrong with establishing championship goals and embracing them.
That said, the Lions played surprisingly poorly and clearly showed their frustration on the court. They forced way too many shots and rather than run a highly productive offense that can tear up a defense with mid-range jumpers, players looked to draw fouls. The calls didn't come maybe, in part, because it became obvious that's what they were trying to draw.
It was odd to watch South Fayette play like that but, credit Montour. The Spartans executed their game plan well and deserved to win.
The question remains, can South Fayette refocus from a humbling loss to dedicate itself to winning another state championship or at least making another memorable run?
* Here's one word for Monessen's run to the WPIAL Class AA championship – amazing. Here's another – team.
The Greyhounds' thorough 63-43 win over top-seed Greensburg Central Catholic was proof positive that team basketball works at the WPIAL level. Monessen played the entire tournament without its leading scorer but big man Cam Johnson played big throughout the WPIAL playoffs. Nick Bolias, who has rapidly evolved as a player over the past year, was excellent on both ends of the court. Jalen Madison made big shots in the championship and handled GCC's pressure. Earl Pinkney did a lot of the dirty work but, unlike a lot of glue guys, Pinkney can score.
When Monessen needed a three-pointer, it was guys like Jeff Francia or backup Trae Cook providing them.
Monessen embodies team basketball. Credit coach Joe Salvino with getting his players to believe in the system and the players with making it work.
*Fort Cherry started four juniors in the WPIAL championship game. The first player off the bench is a freshman. Something to think about.
* Very impressed with the play of Rangers junior Carolena Gasbarra against North Catholic. With her height and ability to run the point if needed, Gasbarra must be a matchup nightmare for opposing coaches.
* Spoke with South Fayette senior Mike Lamberti following the Lions loss and though Lamberti was obviously upset with the way he played – he made four of 19 shots – he shouldered the blame for the loss. Haven't come across many players at that level who have done that.
* Some readers are likely familiar with the name Tom Drakeley. He's a former head coach at Trinity, a current assistant coach for the men's team at Washington & Jefferson College and an occasional analyst on broadcasts for WJPA. Drakeley is also one of my favorite guys to talk local basketball with because he studies the area closely and always has a strong opinion backed up with facts.
We got a chance to chat a few minutes before Fort Cherry tipped off Saturday and Drakeley praised Rangers head coach Bob Miles for some of the pregame drills he has players run. It was an interesting perspective.
* Speaking of Miles, following the conclusion of our post-game interview, as Miles headed inside the locker room, he stopped and said, "Beka Bellhy has certainly distinguished herself this postseason."
Yep, she sure has.
* How about this? Not one No. 1 seed in the boys tournaments won a WPIAL title. South Fayette and Greensburg Central Catholic lost in the title game. Shaler and Rochester didn't make it that far and won't participate in the state playoffs.
* With Ed Dalton officially accepting the Trinity football position and the recent hire of Rich Piccinini at Peters Township, that leaves one local opening.
Frank Gray recently resigned at Avella. Word is Gray got heat from parents who said he didn't win enough.
If true, that's - as Dusty Rhodes used to say - shameful daddy.
* I can't recall the last time a position was opened as quickly as the one for Burgettstown boys basketball. The Blue Devils season ended on a Saturday and the position was opened two days later.

Saturday, March 5, 2011

Stepoli brothers back at Monessen

This just in from the WPIAL basketball championships, brothers Terrence and Josh Stepoli have left Greensburg Central Catholic and will return to Monessen this Monday.

The Stepolis played football and basketball at both schools but both left the basketball team at GCC during this season. GCC and Monessen are playing for the WPIAL Class AA title at the Palumbo Center.

They both transferred to GCC last year.

Terrence Stepoli is a senior, while Josh Stepoli is a junior. The younger brother could return to the Greyhounds' football and basketball teams next year. He is also a Division I football prospect.

Friday, March 4, 2011

A rare double for South Fayette?

Donora ruled the WPIAL during the 1944-45 school year as the Dragons became the district's first athletic program to win WPIAL football and basketball titles in the same year. Legends like Bimbo Cecconi, Arnie Galiffa, and "Deacon" Dan Towler were part of the success.

South Fayette can become the first team from this newspaper's coverage area to accomplish the rare double championship since if the Lions beat Montour tonight in the WPIAL Class AAA championship at the Palumbo Center.

Schools that have won WPIAL football and basketball titles in the same school year since 1984 – the year the PIAA adopted four classifications in basketball.
1984-85 – Beaver Falls
1987-88 – Aliquippa
1989-90 – Clairton
1991-92 – Blackhawk
1993-94 – Duquesne
1994-95 – McKeesport
1998-99 – New Castle, Shady Side Academy
2007-08 – Pittsburgh Central Catholic, Jeannette, Serra Catholic

Michigan high school player dies after hitting game-winning layup

Terrible news out of Michigan.

A few notes heading into the WPIAL championships

Lots of interesting matchup in tonight's WPIAL Class AAA final between South Fayette and Montour but I'm not sure if the Spartans will have an answer for Mike Lamberti.
Following the Lions' semifinal win over New Castle, Lamberti credited fellow senior Josh Patterson as the main reason for South Fayette's state championship run last year.
True, Patterson was a key cog but Lamberti put together the type of postseason run that a state champion needs and he's doing it again in these WPIAL playoffs.
In short, Lamberti is a big-time player who plays his best in the big games.
I expect the 6-6 forward to have another one tonight at the Palumbo Center. He knows how to use his size on both ends of the court but it's his basketball smarts that makes him such a tough matchup. If Montour collapses its defense tonight, Lamberti will gladly take the mid-range jumper.
* Fort Cherry junior Beka Bellhy certainly jumped into the conversation for Observer-Reporter Girls Player of the Year with her efforts this postseason.
Rochester had no answer for Bellhy in the second half of Wednesday's semifinal and her play lifted the Rangers to their first WPIAL championship game appearance and the first for Fort Cherry since 1961, when the boys won PIAA and WPIAL titles.
* Monessen continues to impress with its depth and balance.
Coaches like to say they can play eight, nine or 10 guys and have little to no dropoff. For Joe Salvino at Monessen, it's the truth. Salvino has stated this group might be the deepest he's coached.
Heck, I think it's the deepest team I've seen.
Can anyone else a Class A team playing up in Class AA ran 11 quality players into a game like Monessen does?
That said, balanced teams often need a go-to guy in tightly contested postseason games. Monessen has several candidates but it's been center Cam Johnson, a potentially dominant 6-7 senior, the past two rounds.
* South Fayette may be without starting guard Nick Elder, who suffered an ankle injury against New Castle in the semifinals.
Elder returned to that game after the injury. He's a key contributor to South Fayette's tough man defense and is capable of putting up 10-15 points when the Lions need him to score. If Elder does not start against Montour, he likely won't play until the PIAA playoffs.
* Fort Cherry junior point guarrd Jessie Merckle was sent home from Thursday's practice. Merckle has a cold but played Wednesday. Fort Cherry coach Bob Miles thought some extra rest would be good and he said Thursday night that he can't imagine Merckle missing the game.
* Following Monessen's win over Wilkinsburg, Salvino told reporters that he does not expect leading scorer Jaisen Irwin back before the PIAA playoffs. Irwin has missed Monessen's three WPIAL playoff games for disciplinary reasons.
Again, it's a credit to Monessen's depth that the Greyhounds advanced to the WPIAL championship for the first time since 2002.
* Who would have guessed that little McDonald, Pa. would become such a basketball hotbed?
Not only is Fort Cherry in the WPIAL finals, but South Fayette's mailing address is also McDonald.
Here's an idea if both win the WPIAL: a fire truck parade starting in Cuddy and ending in Hickory with a quick stop in Cecil for ice cream.
* Boys basketball attracts a larger following at most locales in the WPIAL but The Varsity Letters has come away impressed with the student section at Fort Cherry, a group of vocal followers of the girls basketball team.
It's not common to see a unified student section at a girls basketball game. Not sure if the guys have much affect on the game, but it adds an element to watching and makes it feel more like a playoff game.
* It's time to take a look back at my championship game predictions made when the WPIAL released the pairings. Feel free to check the February archive for validation.
In boys TVL went with Gateway over Chartiers Valley, South Fayette over West Mifflin, Greensburg Central Catholic over Monessen and Rochester over Lincoln Park. That's six of the eight finalists - with the right finalists picked in Class AAAA and AA - picked before a game was played.
As Deuce Skurcenski would say, "Not too shabby."
The TVL girls picks were Mt. Lebanon over Bethel Park, New Castle over Chartiers Valley, Seton-La Salle over Deer Lakes and Monessen over Fort Cherry. That's only three finalists out of eight though TVL believes props are deserved for picking Fort Cherry.
* Time for championship game predictions.
Gateway over Chartiers Valley (Got to stick with the original pick though gut feeling says go with CV.)
South Fayette over Montour
GCC over Monessen (Again, sticking with the original pick.)
Vincentian Academy over Lincoln Park
Mt. Lebanon over Shaler
Blackhawk over Ambridge
Seton-La Salle over Jeannette
North Catholic over Fort Cherry

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Dalton officially back as Trinity's football coach

From Observer-Reporter staff writer Dawn Goodman …

Ed Dalton has accepted the job as Trinity Area School District’s varsity football coach and weightlifting coach, Superintendent Paul Kasunich said after Thursday’s school board meeting.
After more than a year of contentious board meetings about whether to keep Dalton as football coach and athletic director, the board voted two weeks ago to hire him back as coach as long as outstanding issues were resolved.
Kasunich said the grievance filed by the teachers union about Dalton’s ouster as football coach resolved itself because he was offered the coaching position again. The board chose not to stipulate that Dalton drop his lawsuit against the district over the decision not to renew his contract as athletic director, Kasunich said.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

APB, Where are they now?

Monessen is no stranger to deep postseason runs in boys and girls basketball. The 2010-11 season is no exception for both.

The Monessen girls are undefeated and the top remaining seed in the WPIAL Class A girls playoffs. The last public school to win a WPIAL Class A title, Monessen plays North Catholic tonight at 6 p.m. at Canon-McMillan High School with the winner advancing to Saturday's championship game.

The Monessen boys once again find themselves in the WPIAL Class AA playoffs after beating Jeannette by one point in the quarterfinals. The Greyhounds play Section 3 foe Wilkinsburg for a third time. This time, the winner advances to the WPIAL championship game. Monessen swept the regular season series.

For many schools, this type of success would be a once-in-a-generation experience. At Monessen, it's happens frequently and The Varsity Letters is issuing a pair of All Points Bulletins for former standouts.

A.J. Jackson was a dominant big man on back-to-back WPIAL Class A championship teams at Monessen in 2001 and 2002. He eventually became the all-time leading scorer in Monessen boys history, quite an accomplishment considering all the program's success. Jackson originally went to East Tennessee State on scholarship and eventually transferred to Robert Morris, where he played a key role in the Colonials' resurgence in the Northeast Conference.

Nychole Whitlock played at Monessen during the same period as Charel Allen, who scored 3,000-plus points before heading to Notre Dame. Whitlock was a strong player in her own right and also topped 1,000 points during her playing days. TVL believes Whitlock went on to play soccer at California.

Anyone with information regarding Jackson or Whitlock is urged to contact The Varsity Letters.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

APB, Where are they Now?

When it comes to point guards in the WPIAL, South Fayette's Pat Zedreck is as good as they come. Zedreck can score in bunches, operate the fast-break or half-court offense and is a ferocious defender.

His abilities and leadership make Zedreck a legitimate candidate for the Observer-Reporter Boys Player of the Year. Should Zedreck be chosen, he won't be the first Lions point guard designated for the honor.

In 2003, Paul Ruhmann was the O-R POY (more proof that the newspaper just didn't decide to start covering South Fayette last year). Ruhmann started at the point in 2002, when South Fayette upset heavily favored Aliquippa in the WPIAL Class AA playoffs and went on to the PIAA quarterfinals. As a senior, he became the Lions primary scorer.

Ruhmann averaged 18.5 points, 7.0 assists and 4.5 steals as a senior. He scored 1,150 points and The Varsity Letters has issued an All Points Bulletin for Ruhmann.

Anyone with information regarding Ruhmann is urged to contact The Varsity Letters.

APB, Where are they Now?

That last time Fort Cherry girls basketball was this good, a group of seniors led the Rangers into the 2005 PIAA Class AA playoffs. Fort Cherry finished 23-6 that year and advanced to the second round of the PIAA tournament before losing to North East (District 10).

Much like the current Fort Cherry team, the state qualifier had size, skill and strong play from the point. The Varsity Letters is issuing an All Points Bulletin for former Fort Cherry point guard Maggie Mucha.

In her final scholastic game, Mucha scored 16 points and earned All-District honors as a senior. She went on to major in pre-med at Allegheny College.

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