Saturday, December 31, 2011
Top five moments of 2011
1. Matt Venanzi's last-second goal
A Neil Harrison throw-in with 10 seconds remaining bounced in front of the Pittsburgh central Catholic goal. Somehow, the ball squirted to All-State midfielder and Pitt recruit Matt Venanzi.
One touch later, upstart Peters Township tied top-seed PCC, 1-1, with 1.1 seconds remaining in regulation.
Following the goal, Venanzi raced toward the corner flag, looked into the sky as he raised his arms to hip level and was mobbed by teammates.
Peters Township went on to win the WPIAL Class AAA semifinals in a shootout. Naturally, Venanzi scored in that as well. Peters Township, which lost its final three games of the regular season, reached the WPIAL championship game once again with the win and qualified for the state tournament.
"We weren't as good as last year, but we still had some good players," Venanzi said. "We had a lot of new players but the team knew we could be good. I think it was people outside the program who didn't expect us to get this far."
2. Veronica Latsko fights off Pennridge
While the moment can't top Venanzi's for sheer drama, Peters Township sophomore Veronica Latsko scored a goal in the 2011 PIAA Class AAA championship match that illustrates why she's considered one of the top players around.
A pair of Pennridge defenders tugged and pulled at Latsko for nearly 25 yards and just as the All-State striker looked ready to hit the turf at Hersheypark Stadium, she managed to put a shot early in the first half on net for the game's lone goal.
Peters Township won its second consecutive PIAA Class AAA championship with a 1-0 victory.
"I don't know how she stayed on her feet for that long," Peters Township coach Pat Vereb said. "It was an amazing effort."
3. Briggs has grand time for C-H softball
Chartiers-Houston took a 20-0 record and a 24-game win streak into the WPIAL Class A championship game against section rival Fort Cherry, the bracket's 15th seed.
An ideas that the Rangers would pull off an upset and beat the 2010 state champs were quickly quelled in the second inning when sophomore rightfielder Kayla Briggs smacked a Nicolette McHugh pitch toward centerfield and over the wall at California University's Lilly Field.
"I didn't really think it was gone. I was just trying to get one run in," Briggs said.
Briggs finished the championship game with five RBI, or just another average day for a two-time All-State selection who batted over .600 during her sophomore season.
4. Monessen extracts revenge
Rarely do teams admit a victory is sweeter because of the opponent. That wasn't the case for the Monessen boys basketball team following the 2011 WPIAL Class AA title game.
The balanced Greyhounds beat top-seed Greensburg Central Catholic with surprising ease, burying three-pointers, playing air-tight defense and even throwing down an alley-oop.
"I would say it is. They get sweeter the older you get," Moneseen coach Joe Salvino said. "But that's a school that's allowed to get anybody. And here we are at Monessen, a small Class A school playing up and winning a championship. I'm proud of these kids."
Beating the Centurions was particularly pleasing that year given the strange circumstances involving the transfers of Terrence and Josh Stepoli. The brothers started at Monessen, went to GCC separately, went back to Monessen and, well, you get the idea.
And during Monessen's postseason run, which ended in the state semifinals with a loss to GCC, the legendary Salvino picked up his 500th career victory.
5. Peters Township's lumber company
On one magical night during the WPIAL Class AAAA baseball playoffs, Peters Township put together what might be the best hitting performance the district postseason has seen.
During a 17-1 win over Latrobe, Peters Township's bash brothers bashed a grand slam, home runs, triples and doubles.
By the time the game ended because of the 15-run mercy rule, Peters Township – led by Justin Bianco, Brady Sheetz, Austin Hancock and Andrew Erenberg – smacked 10 extra base hits. None were cheap.
"We have a lot of guys that can hit the ball. We go up there looking to do our job," said rightfielder Justin Bianco.
The hitting performance continually drew "oohs" and "aahs" from spectators and even prompted a couple college coaches in attendance to say they've never witnessed a better hitting performance.
No doubt the playoff-issued baseballs were glad to see the Indians leave Washington & Jefferson's baseball field that night.