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?


mike_kovak said...

Sorry readers, I'm not sure why this post is one giant paragraph. After I posted, I went in and separated paragraphs but to no avail.

My apologies.

Anonymous said...

watch out for pt next year they are young