Monday, January 30, 2012

WPIAL football schedules released

The WPIAL released its schedule grid for the 2012 football season.

Check out the first four games for Canon-McMillan, which was cross-scheduled with Pittsburgh Central Catholic. Also of note, there will be no Washington-McGuffey non-section game.

And the Tri-County South teams each received an open date, with Avella having an open date in Week 1 and Beth-Center in Week 9. TCS is the lone WPIAL conference with open dates. It begs the question, who are the schools supposed to schedule?

For the schedule grid, click here.

Saturday, January 28, 2012

Observer-Reporter WPIAL girls basketball rankings

Class AAAA
1. Oakland Catholic    17-0
2. Mt. Lebanon    15-2
3. Pine-Richland    12-4
4. Gateway    14-2
5. Hempfield    14-2

Class AAA
1. South Park    15-1
2. Blackhawk    16-1
3. Hopewell    15-2
4. Chartiers Valley    13-2
5. New Castle    11-5

Class AA
1. Seton-La Salle    15-0
2. Bishop Canevin    14-3
3. Avonworth    13-3
4. Riverside    14-3
5. Greensburg Central Catholic    12-3

Class A
1. Vincentian Academy    16-0
2. North Catholic    14-4
3. Fort Cherry    17-1
4. Monessen    13-3
5. Chartiers-Houston    14-4

Observer-Reporter WPIAL boys basketball rankings

Class AAAA
1. Shaler 16-2
2. Chartiers Valley 15-2
3. Woodland Hills 14-3
4. Mt. Lebanon 13-4
5. Hempfield 15-2

Class AAA
1. New Castle 17-0
2. Montour 12-1
3. Hampton 15-3
4. Keystone Oaks 14-2
5. South Fayette 12-4

Class AA
1. Monessen 17-1
2. Sto-Rox 13-1
3. Beaver Falls 14-2
4. Greensburg Central Catholic 12-4
5. Quaker Valley 15-2

Class A
1. Lincoln Park 14-2
2. North Catholic 13-4
3. Vincentian Academy 13-3
4. OLSH 14-2
5. Serra Catholic 12-5

Friday, January 27, 2012

Statement from Piccinini's lawyer

In case you haven't read the Observer-Reporter, Post-Gazette, watched the local news or CNN Friday afternoon, the Peters Townsip football program is being investigated by police for allegations of knowingly playing injured players against the advice of athletic trainers. Click here.

PT football coach Rich Piccinini released a statement through his lawyer Friday night.

For 22 years,  Rich Piccinini has coached football without even a
whisper of impropriety. The excellent reputation that he has earned
over 2 decades should speak volumes as to the absurdity of the
"Mortland report."  The investigated and unfounded witch hunt in
August has reared its ugly head in January, this time in a meritless
CYS complaint, presumably made by an  anonymous source. Playing time
in high school football in Western Pennsylvania , a currency that has
become more valuable than gold to the obsessed and disgruntled, has
undoubted motivated yet another round of baseless allegations.
Considerable resources have already been dedicated by a "real"
superintendent, athletic director and principal to investigate the
accusations and the result was that there is no truth to Mr Mortland's
conclusion. While no one welcomes a police investigation, hopefully
this second  inquiry will yet  again expose the allegations as
scurrilous attacks on Mr. Piccinini and, importantly,put them to  rest
again and forever.
Robert G. Del Greco, Jr., Esq.
Dickie, McCamey & Chilcote, P.C.

Friday notebook

Pitt basketball fans can see heralded recruit Steven Adams, a 7-0 center from New Zealand, in person Sunday when Notre Dame Prep (Mass.) plays Massanutten Academy (Va.) at the PBC Legends Classic at Ambridge.The game is at 2 p.m.
Adams is considered one of the top senior prospects and Pitt's biggest recruit since, well, Khem Birch, who has transferred to UNLV.
* Never heard of a police investigation into a high school football program. It's happening at Peters Township.
This has the potential to be a big story depending on the results of the investigation.
* If the Fort Cherry girls basketball team beats North Catholic Saturday and finishes the regular season with an undefeated record, the Rangers deserve the top seed in the WPIAL Class A playoffs.
* After covering the Montour at South Fayette boys basketball game last week, the guess here is that the Spartans will be very difficult to beat once Ryan Lewis gets into basketball shape.
* Fort Cherry senior Corey Garry will decide between Robert Morris and Clarion over the next few days.
Garry, an all-conference linebacker on three occasions, has offers from both schools. He's also the top-ranked WPIAL Class AA heavyweight wrestler.
Tanner Garry, his cousin, recently accepted an offer to be a preferred walk-on at Bowling Green. He tried to get Falcons coaches to taker a close look at Corey.
"I had as much drive to get Corey to come to school with me as I had to get into school," Tanner Garry said. "I showed the coached Corey's highlight film and pictures of Corey just so they could see how big he was."
* Monessen junior Chavas Rawlins was visited by Penn State Friday and received an offer from Pitt Wednesday. The quarterback figures to be one of the WPIAL's most coveted football prospects.
Just don't expect the 6-3 Rawlins to solely concentrate on football.
Rawlins plays football and is also part of the boys soccer team during the fall. He plays basketball in the winter and has played baseball at Monessen. This spring, Rawlins will play baseball and add track to his of athletic duties.
That makes Rawlins, who sports a 3.3 GPA, a five-sport athlete.
* Chartiers-Houston boys basketball has steadily improved during the two years that Eugene Briggs has been the head coach.
Briggs believe his team took a significant step with Tuesday's home win against Bentworth.
"I think it validates that we're a decent team," Briggs said. "We're three possessions away from being 13-3. There's a big difference between 10-6 and 13-3, especially when people look at your record. To beat a team that had one loss coming in, that was big."

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Twitter Thursday

Twitter Thursday started as a lark. Reading tweets from local athletes was amusing enough that the thought was, "Why not share these with readers of The Varsity Letters?"

At first, the feature met with some criticism, which probably came from people not familiar with Twitter or people who just want to visit this board and attempt to bash athletes, coaches and the writer anonymously.

With time, Twitter Thursday has become a popular feature, at least with many of the local athletes I follow or you follow me on Twitter (@TheMikeKovak). Some specifically ask to make Twitter Thursday. Others pine for Twitter Thursday love. And at least two Canon-Mac student-athletes are competing to see who makes Twitter Thursday the most. (For the sake of competition, both will make it this week to start the tally at 1-1).

Either way, I appreciate the response and enjoy giving student athletes a platform on this blog.

Doug Wilson, C-M basketball
Jan. 26
"Shows how desperate the NHL is that they have to draft for the all star game"

Joe Graziani, C-M football
Jan. 26
"Nothin better than jams in environmental science on "

Jordan Drew, Washington basketball
Jan. 25
"Wash High has to be one of the ugliest schools in the area"

Pat Zedreck, reigning O-R Boys Basketball Player of the Year/freshman guard at Clarion U
Jan. 25
"Damn losing sucks"

Josh Wise, Wash High athletics
Jan. 25
"The more I watch these D1 games the more I believe I can play in them and I know my and will take me!"

Chavas Rawlins, Monessen athletics
Jan. 25
"Got offered from Pitt today baby!!!! If only big Joe was here to spend the happy time right now. "

Justice Rawlins, Monessen athletics
Jan. 25
"The awkward moment when pitt coaches come to see you and your wearing all penn state gear.. "

Ty Negley, Waynesburg basketball
Jan. 25
"Observer-Reporter athlete of the week! Could(n't) do it with out my teammates! "

Zach Challingsworth, South Fayette athletics
Jan. 19
"Can't wait for spring "

Amelia Wolf, Wash High volleyball (and rifle)
Jan. 25
"ear hair, why are you so static-y?!"

Michael Yancich, Penn State football and Trinity grad
Jan. 22
"So proud to say I played for Joe Paterno. Not only a great football coach, but a wonderful person. RIP Coach. "

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Girls basketball, week in review

Team of the Week
West Greene
If the regular season ended today, West Greene would enter the WPIAL Class A playoffs as the third-place team in Section 3 behind top-ranked Fort Cherry and fifth-ranked Chartiers-Houston.
Last week, the Pioneers picked up a key section win over Avella and followed with another against Jefferson-Morgan Thursday night.
First-year coach Jordan Watson is getting solid play from sophomore Cheyenne Miller, and West Greene (10-6, 5-3) takes a four-game win streak into Thursday's game at Mapletown.
The last time West Greene qualified for the WPIAL playoffs came in the 1999-2000 season, when they were in Class AA.

Fort Cherry
The Rangers are 16-0, and they picked up a pair of wins against quality opponents last week in Chartiers-Houston and Beaver Falls, both on the road.
Rangers senior Carolena Gasbarro has scored in double figures in all 16 games for Fort Cherry. Gasbarro is one of three local players – Bentworth's Jessica Dorazio and Monessen's Mariah Ward are the others – to accomplish that feat for their respective teams this season.

Starting five
Amanda Brown, Carmichaels
Carolena Gasbarro, Fort Cherry
Morgan Kurtz, Trinity
Cheyenne Miller, West Greene
Mariah Ward, Monessen
First sub
Anna Shashura, Beth-Center

Game of the Week
Washington 58, Bentworth 57
At 14-1, Bentworth is off to its best start in team history, but free-throw shooting has been a problem spot for the Bearcats. A 10-for-23 performance at Washington did them no favors in a key Section 4-AA game last Thursday.
The Prexies knocked the Bearcats from unbeaten status with the victory, and they took the lead for good in overtime on an old-fashioned three-point play from Angelica Rivera. Washington had four players score in double figures, led by Shyahian Rutter's 12 points.

Monday, January 23, 2012

Boys basketball, week in review

Team of the Week
Three losses in four games, including back-to-back double-digit setbacks against Montour and McGuffey, had some Prexies faithful question what was going on with the boys basketball team. Wash High appeared headed to a second consecutive season with no postseason.
Thanks to the past week, the Prexies are firmly in the playoff hunt.
Washington needed triple overtime, but overcame some horrendous free-throw shooting to beat Trinity, 57-54. It followed with a win over Waynesburg.
Now, Washington is 4-3 in Section 5-AAA, which is good enough for fourth place, and 10-6 overall. Josh Wise ranks second among local players in scoring at 19.4 ppg.

Peters Township
The Indians lost six of eight after beating Class AAA power Hampton, and were fading in Section 4-AAAA. Wins over Canon-McMillan and Baldwin pushed Peters Township into fourth place heading into this week's game.
Both section games are on the road – at Bethel Park Tuesday and at Upper St. Clair Friday.

Starting five
Tony Bristol, Charleroi
Jaisen Irwin, Monessen
Trent McPherson, Peters Township
Ty Negley, Waynesburg
Josh Wise, Washington
First sub
David Williams, Canon-McMillan

Game of the Week
Imani Christian 63, Monessen 62
From Washington's triple-overtime win over Trinity to Burgettstown's last-second victory over Chartiers-Houston, there were several outstanding candidates in this category.
But I'm not even sure if the Montour at South Fayette game fielded the type of talent that was on the floor for Imani Christian's one-point win at Monessen Tuesday night.
Monessen's loss snapped a 28-game regular-season win streak. The Greyhounds last loss during the regular season came Dec. 28, 2010 to North Allegheny.
Monessen led with six seconds left before Niehemiah Fisher grabbed a missed free throw and scored on a putback for Imani Christian, a charter school located in the East Hills of Pittsburgh.

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Observer-Reporter WPIAL girls basketball rankings

Class AAAA
1. Oakland Catholic 15-0
2. Gateway 11-1
3. Mt. Lebanon 13-2
4. Pine-Richland 10-4
5. North Allegheny 12-3

Class AAA
1. South Park 12-1
2. New Castle 10-3
3. Blackhawk 13-1
4. Hopewell 12-2
5. Chartiers Valley 11-2

Class AA
1. Seton-La Salle 13-0
2. Bishop Canevin 12-3
3. Ford City 13-2
4. Avonworth 11-3
5. Riverside 12-3

Class A
1. Fort Cherry 15-0
2. Vincentian Academy 14-0
3. North Catholic 11-4
4. Monessen 12-3
5. Chartiers-Houston 11-4

Observer-Reporter WPIAL boys basketball rankings

Class AAAA
1. Chartiers Valley 14-1
2. Shaler 14-2
3. Woodland Hills 12-3
4. Hempfield 11-2
5. Mt. Lebanon 11-4

Class AAA
1. New Castle 14-0
2. Montour 9-1
3. Hampton 13-3
4. Keystone Oaks 12-2
5. Beaver 12-3

Class AA
1. Beaver Falls 13-1
2. Monessen 15-1
3. Sto-Rox 12-1
4. Greensburg Central Catholic 10-4
5. Quaker Valley 13-2

Class A
1. Lincoln Park 12-2
2. North Catholic 11-4
3. Vincentian Academy 10-3
4. Bentworth 11-1
5. OLSH 12-2

Friday, January 20, 2012

Recruit could lose scholarship offers because of Twitter posts

Something to think about ...

From news services

Yuri Wright, the 40th-ranked player on the ESPNU 150 who is being sought by schools in the Big Ten, Pac-12, ACC, SEC and Big East, has put his scholarship hopes in up in the air after being expelled from school for sexually graphic and racial Twitter posts.

Wright was expelled from Don Bosco Prep High School in Ramsey, N.J., on Wednesday, his high school coach, Greg Toal, confirmed to numerous media outlets.

"He was expelled from the school for the things he had written on Twitter," Toal told "It was pretty simple really, what he wrote were some graphic sex things. This is a Catholic school, things like that cannot happen. It was totally inappropriate."

The reason, his coach said, was because of a series of tweets that began last July. Among the schools he is considering are Michigan, Rutgers, Notre Dame and Colorado. A number of outlets reported that Michigan has stopped recruiting him.

National signing day is Feb. 1.

Wright, a senior cornerback, was warned about social media consequences, according to Toal. Wright's account, which had more than 1,600 followers, has been deleted.

"We told them about 10 or 15 times to get off (Twitter) and not to be involved in it, but there is always somebody who thinks he knows better." Toal told "What he wrote was pretty bad, to be honest with you, I can't even say what he wrote.

"He was told on numerous occasions not to be Twittering and there are consequences for his actions."

Wright played in the U.S. Army All-American Bowl in San Antonio earlier this month. Toal said that he has received calls from a few coaches regarding the situation, and believes Wright ultimately will weather the situation.

"There have been schools that have called asking about it, but he'll be fine as far as colleges go." Toal told "Some don't like it, but mostly people are just calling to make sure his head is straight."

Information from's Robert Abruzzese is included in this report.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Twitter Thursday

Lot of venow spewed on Twitter the past couple weeks between rival schools (#Youknowyourefrom(insertrivalschoolhere)) which, for some reason, Trinity believes it originated on social media.

Right ...

Anyway, it's made for some entertaining reading if not too much information from too many.

Graham Lescallette
Jan. 19
"I can't stand how kids my age talk. "

Chavas Rawlins
Jan. 19
"I always thought of myself as the Kid that took extra steps when those extra steps aren't needed!!"

Graham Cowieson
Jan. 18
"It would be nice if the city of Washington would tell you before they block a road not just let you turn down the road then be screwed"

Charles Murphy
Jan. 18
"I hate losing man it makes me sick to my stomach...but atleast I'm not on the pitt womens coaching staff. 76 pts? ?"

Steven Funaki Adams
Jan. 14
Thats awesome that Pitt Played well.. Well done PITT! Keep Hulking! "

Tevan McDowell
Jan. 14
"I'm a yellow-jacket #WaynesburgUniversity#college#football"

Alfon Cook
Jan. 18
"Long day at track "

Michael Beveridge
Jan. 14
"Way to much heart to quit. When times get hard just gotta keep grinding."

Tanner Garry
Jan. 15
"Visiting Bowling Green on the 20th. "

Jordan Thomas
Jan. 13
"Jordan "StateChamp" Thomas "

Stephen McCaw
Jan. 17
"If you say on twitter and facebook more than once a week then burn your computer and any other thing that gets you on the internet."

Doug Wilson
Jan. 19
"Just watched the game tape of when I dropped 30 against CV "
The Tweek of the Week
"Jursday? No no,it's "

Thoughts on WPIAL football alignment

"Man, what we're they thinking."

"I'm surprised, but when it comes to (the WPIAL) you know to expect the unexpected."

"I can't believe what they did to the Tri-County South."

"You just can't keep any rivalries any more."

Those were a small sampling of comments from the eight football coaches I had the chance to speak with since the WPIAL released its football alignment for the 2012 and 2013 seasons. Judging from reaction, it's not well-received.

Let's recap the major changes.

1. Class AAAA and Class AAA went from four conferences to three.
2. The vast majority of conferences have nine teams. There are eight-team and 10-team conferences.
3. The larger conferences means teams will not have to schedule their open date. Ten-team conferences will play nothing but conference games during the regular season. The WPIAL will schedule the open dates for nine-team leagues. Those schedules should be released in two weeks.
4. In Class AAAA and AAA, five teams per conference will qualify for the playoffs. The 16th team will be determined via a wild-card system.

For a look at the alignment, please read the post below.

Now for some thoughts on the alignment, by classification.

Class AAAA
  1. Section 3 looks weaker on paper than the other two conferences with Gateway and McKeesport being the only consistent programs.
  2. Being grouped with Penn Hills and Woodland Hills does not mean the end of football for Canon-McMillan or Peters Township. It's Quad-A. To be good, it means beating Penn Hills and Woodland Hills, whether it's during the regular season or the postseason.
  3. One reason I like the alignment is it eliminates the unbalanced non-conference schedules for Class AAAA schools. Some play mostly Class AAA competition, while others face a steady diet of Quad-A powers from other conferences.
  4. One reason I don't like the alignment is it likely eliminates the chances for schools like Pittsburgh Central Catholic, Gateway and North Allegheny to schedule intriguing out-of-state matchups.
Class AAA
  1. Trinity looks like a big winner. The Hillers return a bulk of talent from 2011, and the mashup of the Big Eight and Keystone Conference looks manageable. FYI, Trinity has defeated West Mifflin six consecutive seasons.
  2. Ringgold might have wanted to stay with more Keystone Conference teams, but adding Belle Vernon and Elizabeth Forward to the schedule should bring more fans out.
  3. Gotta feel bad for Chartiers Valley.
  4. Section 1 and Section 2 look even on paper. Of course, nothing can compare with the powerful Parkway Conferece and it's nice to see that powerhouse league intact.
Class AA
  1. Washington can't seem to stay in a conference for very long. The Century Conference was a nice fit for the Prexies and some in the conference don't like them being shipped off to the Interstate Conference.
  2. Washington and Waynesburg once had an intense rivalry. Can it be recaptured? Ehhhh.
  3. Not sure why McGuffey and Washington are in different conferences. Hopefully the WPIAL recognizes these two should at least be scheduled for non-conference games the next two years. Last time they played, there was an overflow crowd at McGuffey.
  4. If I ruled the WPIAL, Washington would stay in the Century Conference and South Allegheny would be in the Interstate. Makes sense geographically, and Washington could maintain rivalries with South Fayette and McGuffey.
Class A
  1. Wow. Just wow.
  2. Section 4, which I will call the Black Hills Conference until told otherwise, has an unfair glut of high-caliber teams. Clairton won its third straight PIAA title and owns the WPIAL record for consecutive wins. Bishop Canevin reached the semifinals. Brentwood and Fort Cherry won playoff games. All told, seven of the 10 teams reached the postseason.
  3. Given the strength of the new-look Black Hills, California and Monessen won't be annual locks for postseason play like the teams were in the Tri-County South.
  4. Beth-Center has wanted out of the TCS for a couple years. Not only did B-C not get its wish, the Bulldogs are the top dog in the WPIAL's weakest conference. Winning postseason games after playing lesser competition is a difficult task.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

WPIAL football alignment for 2012-13

Class AAAA (26 teams)
Section 1:
Butler, Central Catholic, Fox Chapel, North Allegheny, North Hills, Pine-Richland, Seneca Valley, Shaler
Section 2: Baldwin, Bethel Park, Canon-McMillan, Mt. Lebanon, Penn Hills, Peters Township, Plum, Upper St. Clair, Woodland Hills
Section 3: Altoona, Connellsville, Gateway, Greater Latrobe, Hempfield, Kiski Area, McKeesport, Norwin, Penn-Trafford

Class AAA (27 teams)
Section 1:
Albert Gallatin, Belle Vernon, Elizabeth Forward, Laurel Highlands, Ringgold, Thomas Jefferson, Trinity, Uniontown, West Mifflin
Section 2: Ambridge, Blackhawk, Central Valley, Chartiers Valley, Hopewell, Montour, Moon, New Castle, West Allegheny
Section 3: Derry, Franklin Regional, Greensburg Salem, Hampton, Highlands, Hollidaysburg, Indiana, Knoch, Mars

Class AA (35 teams)
Section 1:
Burgettstown, Keystone Oaks, Quaker Valley, McGuffey, Seton-La Salle, South Allegheny, South Fayette, South Park, Steel Valley
Section 2: Burrell, Deer Lakes, East Allegheny, Ford City, Freeport, Kittanning, Shady Side Academy, Summit Academy, Valley
Section 3: Aliquippa, Beaver, Beaver Falls, Ellwood City, Freedom, Mohawk, New Brighton, Riverside
Section 4: Brownsville, Charleroi, Greensburg Central Catholic, Jeannette, Mt. Pleasant, Southmoreland, Washington, Waynesburg, Yough

Class A (37 teams)
Section 1:
Apollo-Ridge, Avonworth, Leechburg, North Catholic, Northgate, Riverview, Springdale, West Shamokin, Wilkinsburg
Section 2: Laurel, Neshannock, Our Lady of the Sacred Heart, Rochester, Shenango, South Side Beaver, Sto-Rox, Union, Western Beaver
Section 3: Avella, Bentworth, Beth-Center, Carmichaels, Frazier, Geibel, Jefferson-Morgan, Mapletown, West Greene
Section 4: Brentwood, Bishop Canevin, California, Carylnton, Chartiers-Houston, Clairton, Fort Cherry, Imani Christian, Monessen, Serra Catholic

One, two, three, four I declare a Twitter war

Quite an interesting Twitter battle going on today between students at Chartiers-Houston and Fort Cherry high schools, whose rival girls basketball teams play tonight in a key Section 3 contest between a pair of top-five Class A teams.

Some of the tweets are humorous. Some factual. Some mind-blowing incorrect. Some mean-spirited.

Time for TVL to offer some thoughts.

You know you're from Chartiers-Houston when:

1. Your softball team has won seven WPIAL championships, one state title and ranks with any program in terms of sustained success over a 25-year period.
2. You fielded the first 4,000-yard rusher in WPIAL history.
3. Your wrestling team was so good in the early 1980s that it won the PIAA Class AAA team championship against teams up to six times larger.
4. Your athletic facilities are as nice as any school competing primarily at the Class A level.
5. Your baseball team regularly competes for WPIAL championships.

You know you're from Fort Cherry when:

1. Your small community is considered a cradle of NFL coaches, including Marvin Lewis and Marty Schottenheimer.
2. A hard-worker named Perry Kemp took the hard road to the NFL ... from Fort Cherry to Cal U to the USFL to Green Bay, where he became immortalized in Techmo Bowl.
3. That Schottenheimer fella led a group to a PIAA basketball championship.
4. You know where you were when Mike Vernillo broke the WPIAL rushing record in 1999.
5. A school known as a wrestling community has fielded one of the better small public school girls basketball teams in recent memory and two of the most exciting players (Dan Davis, Nate Bellhy) of the last 15 years.

Monday, January 16, 2012

Boys basketball, week in review

Team of the Week
Since Montour made 16 three-pointers in a rout of McGuffey on Dec. 20, the Highlanders have not lost.
Last week, McGuffey - playing its best basketball in a decade – ran its win streak to five games with wins over Waynesburg and Washington. Suddenly, the Highlanders are a playoff contender in Section 5-AAA.
McGuffey (8-4, 3-2) caught a break at Waynesburg last Tuesday as the Raiders played without leading scorer Ty Negley (flu). The Highlanders escaped with a 49-46 win as Waynesburg attempt to force overtime with a last-second three-pointer rimmed out.
McG followed that emotional win with a 14-point victory over Washington. The Highlanders led early and never trailed after that.

With all five starters averaging double figures in points, Bentworth boasts one of the premier offenses in Class A. That balanced led to wins over Mapletown and, most importantly, Section 2-A rival Carmichaels last week.
Bentworth is 3-0 in section play and 10-1 overall. The Bearcats can solidify themselves as the section favorites with a win Tuesday at Avella.

Starting five
Jaisen Irwin, Monessen
Kyle Rose, McGuffey
Naz Victoria, California
Josh Wise, Washington
Joe Yamber, Avella
First sub
Jalen Madison, Monessen

Game of the Week
Avella 45, Carmichaels 44
Avella raced to a 13-2 lead at Carmichaels, a gym where most visitors leave reflecting on a loss during a long bus ride home.
Things looked good early for the Eagles, but the Mikes went on a second-quarter run and trailed just 19-18 at halftime.
The second half went back-and-forth before Avella scored the winning point on a Ray Bertovich free throw with 12 seconds remaining to stay unbeaten in section play.

Girls basketball, week in review

Team of the Week
The Bearcats didn't play a winning team last week, but they did roll through the competition by beating Waynesburg, Yough and Brownsville by a combined 84 points.
Bentworth entered Monday night with a 12-0 record and a 5-0 mark in Section 4-AA. It's the best start in program history and Bentworth is in position to win its first section championship since 1991.Senior Jessica Dorazio lead a potent offensive mix with a 22.3 scoring average, and she made four of a school-record 14 three-pointers during a 61-36 win against Yough.
That came one night after Bentworth made 11 three-pointers against Waynesburg.

The Bulldogs (3-2, 8-4) picked up wins over Jefferson-Morgan and Waynesburg, the latter moving B-C into a third-place tie with Charleroi in Section 4-AA.
Beth-Center opened its section season with a win over the Cougars in mid-December.
Anna Shashura averaged 21.0 ppg last week.

Starting five
Morgan Berardi, Carmichaels
Jessica Dorazio, Bentworth
Anna Shashura, Beth-Center
Chianti Sivek, Ringgold
Mariah Ward, Monessen
First sub
Beka Bellhy, Fort Cherry

Game of the Week
Chartiers-Houston 41, Sewickley Academy 38
Chartiers-Houston slowly worked its way into the Observer-Reporter Class A rankings this week, claiming the No. 5 spot one day before a Section 3 game against undefeated, top-ranked Fort Cherry.
The Bucs needed a last-minute win over Sewickley Academy to earn the ranking.
Tori Foster made a basket for two of her 12 points with 28 seconds remaining to put C-H (10-3) ahead by two points. Foster missed a free throw after being fouled on the basket but Ashley Balzer grabbed the rebound, was fouled and made one free throw for a three-point lead.

Observer-Reporter WPIAL girls basketball rankings

Class AAAA
1. Oakland Catholic 13-0
2. Gateway 9-1
3. Mt. Lebanon 11-2
4. Pine-Richand 8-4
5. North Allegheny 10-3

Class AAA
1. South Park 10-1
2. New Castle 8-3
3. Blackhawk 10-1
4. Hopewell 10-2
5. Chartiers Valley 9-2

Class AA
1. Seton-La Salle 11-0
2. Bishop Canevin 10-2
3. Riverside 11-1
4. Ford City 11-2
5. Greensburg Central Catholic 9-1

Class A
1. Fort Cherry 13-0
2. Vincentian Academy 12-0
3. North Catholic 9-3
4. Monessen 10-3
5. Chartiers-Houston 10-3

Observer-Reporter WPIAL boys basketball rankings

Class AAAA
1. Chartiers Valley 12-0
2. Gateway 9-3
3. Shaler 11-2
4. North Allegheny 9-2
5. Hempfield 9-1

Class AAA
1. New Castle 12-0
2. Montour 7-0
3. Uniontown 10-2
4. South Fayette 10-2
5. Hampton 10-3

Class AA
1. Monessen 14-0
2. Beaver Falls 10-1
3. Sto-Rox 9-1
4. Quaker Valley 11-1
5. Greensburg Central Catholic 7-4

Class A
1. Lincoln Park 9-2
2. North Catholic 8-4
3. OLSH 11-1
4. Vincentian Academy 9-2
5. Bentworth 10-1

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Twitter Thursday

Earlier in the week, I asked my Twitters followers (@TheMikeKovak) for some music tips. As a dad and full-time worked, I've totally lost touch with recent music and was looking for some new hip-hop to sample. I got plenty of responses, and checked out Childish Gambino, Kid Cudi and Drake. Much appreciated.

Also had some fun on Twitter with this "Kovak Curse", plus enjoyed some NBA conversation this week.

In compiling this week's Twitter Thursday, I thought it would be different to only take tweets from Thursday as opposed to the entire week.

Troy Elich, @Troy3775
Dec. 12
"Langeloth legend Barry Alvarez at our show tonight in Naples FL."

Ben Maxin, @ActionMaxin
Dec. 12
"Lady Rangers hoops dump Mapletown 81-11. I guess this is what it feels like to be on the other side of a Clairton football game. #ouch"

Luke Brumbaugh, @L_Brums7
Dec. 12
"Robert fosters highlight film is disgusting wish I could throw to that kid he's a freak"

Mark Dugan, @duganonthenews
Dec. 12
"Beka Bellhy 7th girl in the last 25 years making 1000 point club "

Corey Garry, @coreygarry
Dec. 12
" entering a new realm of swag today. Let's go Rangers! "

Josh Wise, @jlwise_whs11
Dec. 12
"Big section game tomorrow coming off big section win over trinity gota do my thing and ball hard ain't lettin NO ONE STOP ME"

Michael Beveridge, @MikeBeveridge44
Dec. 12
"Senior year needs to be over "

Dakota Norton, @kooooooooaaaaa
Dec. 12
"Kobe is better than lebron "

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

The Kovak curse?

Since joining the Observer-Reporter in 1999, I've been called a lot of things anonymously and via email. Many of those things are unsuitable for print.

Coaches, fortunately, don't hide behind a computer when expressing opinions.

And, lately, coaches have called me one thing – a curse.

Earlier this week, I spoke with a coach for an upcoming story. The coach – a person whose work I greatly respect – asked toward the end of the interview if it would be possible to hold the story for a day or two. Considering it was a feature, didn't seem like a big deal.

When I asked why, I was told, "At Bentworth, we have something we call 'The Mike Kovak Observer-Reporter curse.' All the coaches laugh about it. Anytime you write a story, that teams goes out and loses its next game. Happens every time."

Only a few days earlier, I was interviewing a coach in a hallway following a game. As the coach walked back toward the locker room, he turned back to me and said, "Thanks for coming. We like you and all, but maybe you can start sending other guys to our games." When I asked why, I was told, "We always lose when you show up."

That's a line I've heard from numerous coaches, including Trinity football coach Ed Dalton. I can recall one occasion when I walked on to the football field at Trinity before a game and Dalton spotted me. He asked me to leave, jokingly I think.

It's all good-natured fun, but is there truth to the Kovak Curse?

Consider this evidence:

  • Peters Township basketball player Gabe Pritz was a recent Athlete of the Week selection. In Pritz's first game after the story ran, he suffered a finger injury and missed the Indians' next game.
  • Wash High's Josh Wise was also a pick for Athlete of the Week this basketball season. The day that story ran, Wise scored 10 points below his average and the Prexies lost to Cornell.
  • Chartiers-Houston volleyball was in the midst of a promising season. Shortly after a story ran, the Bucs lost junior Lacey Levers – a Division I – prospect to a knee injury and did not qualify for the postseason.
  • Ringgold quarterback Quad Law was injured against Derry Area, but doctors cleared him just before the Rams played a big game at Franklin Regional. A pregame feature ran on Law, who lasted one play before aggravating the injury and leaving.
  • Waynesburg's baseball team had its best season in a decade and took an 18-game win streak into the WPIAL Class AA championship. The Raiders lost by one run to eventual state champ Riverside on a fly ball that got lost in the sun. Covered Waynesburg's PIAA first round game days later, another one-run loss.
  • Washington's Dustin Fuller put together a memorable performance during the WPIAL Class AA championship meet, winning two golds and qualifying for states in three events. For his accomplishments, Fuller was the Athlete of the Week. A day after the story ran, he tumbled near the end of the 300 hurdle finals. He was in second place at the time.

Monday, January 9, 2012

Week in review, girls basketball

Team of the Week

A youthful roster and difficult schedule wasn't a great mix for Wash High early, and started the season with five losses in its first seven games.
With the Section 4-AA schedule underway, the Prexies are moving in the right direction. Last week, a pair of wins over Waynesburg and Brownsville gave them a 3-1 section mark. Washington (6-6, 4-1) isn't scoring a lot of points, but wins are wins.
And the win streak ran to three games with a victory Monday night at Charleroi.

Fort Cherry

Rangers coach Bob Miles isn't thrilled his team holds the top spot in the Observer-Reporter's Class A rankings, but it's difficult to argue that Fort Cherry doesn't deserve the distinction.
Undefeated Fort Cherry (11-0) won three games last week, including a double-digit victory over Class AAAA Canon-McMillan. The Rangers also secured wins over Avella and Jefferson-Morgan.

Starting five
Beka Bellhy, Fort Cherry
Tori Foster, Chartiers-Houston
Caitlin McLuckie South Fayette
Melissa Phillis, Burgettstown
Mya Williams, Washington
First sub
Morgan Berardi, Carmichaels

Game of the Week
Mapletown 44, Geibel Catholic 40
There's a lot to be said for toughing things out, and sticking with a team, no matter the results.
For Mapletown, a positive result was finally posted last Thursday when the Maples beat Geibel, 44-40, in a non-section game.
It snapped a 38-game losing streak, which dated back to Jan. 19, 2010 – a 57-40 win at West Greene.
Kristi Guritza and Sarah Taylor scored 15 points apiece for the Maples, who were without head coach Autumn Willis. The former Carmichaels standout received two technical fouls in the Maples' previous game and was suspended for the Geibel game.

Week in review, boys basketball

Team of the Week
The Highlanders put together their best week since Ed Goetz coached there in the late 1990s.
McGuffey knocked off Trinity, 47-41, to pick up its biggest section win in years and followed one day later with a one-point win (42-41) over Chartiers-Houston Saturday at the Chuckie Mahoney Classic.
Highlanders coach Greg Papson, who has logged countless hours trying to get McGuffey to respectability, called the win over Trinity, "Our biggest in years. Who knows how long it's been since we had a better one?"
McGuffey is 1-2 in Section 5-AAA with the losses coming to the top two teams - Montour and South Fayette. The Highlanders are 6-4 overall.

The Big Macs started last week with a loss, but there's little shame in a 73-58 setback to top-ranked Chartiers Valley, which may have its most talented team in recent years.
The Big Macs followed with a 60-59 win at Baldwin in a Section 4-AAAA game, and won on Kenyadda Brown's buzzer-beater. On Saturday, Canon-McMillan beat Hopewell by 20 at the Chuckie Mahoney Classic.

Starting five
Zach Challingsworth, South Fayette
Gabe Pritz, Peters Township
Gannon Walls-Mitchell, Bentworth
Doug Wilson, Canon-McMillan
Josh Wise, Washington
First sub
Shayne Murphy, Chartiers-Houston

Game of the Week
Can't remember a week with more one-point games or buzzer beaters, but none of those are the top choice.
Peters Township 55, Upper St. Clair 52
Peters Township looked like it losing streak was nearing five games - with a game at Chartiers Valley looming - when it trailed Upper St. Clair at home by 11 points entering the fourth quarter.
The up-and-down Indians opened the fourth on a 6-0 run. By the end of the fourth quarter, PT outscored USC 25-11 for its first section victory.
Pritz scored 24 points, with 13 coming in the fourth. Dakota Norton finished with 14.

Observer-Reporter WPIAL girls basketball rankings

Class AAAA
1. Oakland Catholic 11-0
2. Mt. Lebanon 9-1
3. Gateway 6-1
4. North Allegheny 9-2
5. Bethel Park 7-3

Class AAA
1. South Park 8-1
2. New Castle 6-3
3. Hopewell 9-1
4. Blackhawk 8-1
5. Elizabeth Forward 10-1

Class AA
1. Seton-La Salle 9-0
2. Greensburg Central Catholic 7-0
3. Bishop Canevin 7-2
4. Burrell 9-0
5. Riverside 9-1

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

Observer-Reporter WPIAL boys basketball rankings

Class AAAA
1. Chartiers Valley 10-0
2. Gateway 7-3
3. Shaler 8-2
4. North Allegheny 7-2
5. Hempfield 8-1

Class AAA
1. New Castle 10-0
2. Montour 5-0
3. Greensburg-Salem 8-2
4. Uniontown 8-2
5. South Fayette 8-2

Class AA
1. Monessen 11-0
2. Beaver Falls 8-1
3. Sto-Rox 7-1
4. Quaker Valley 9-1
5. Greensburg Centra Catholic 4-4

Class A
1. Lincoln Park 7-2
2. Cornell 9-1
3. OLSH 10-0
4. North Catholic 7-2
5. Bentworth 8-1

Saturday, January 7, 2012

Son of Barry Sanders commits to Stanford

SAN ANTONIO (AP) — Barry J. Sanders’ performance Saturday in the All-American Bowl was a bit like father Barry Sanders’ NFL career. He could have done more before he left.
The younger Sanders will get his chance to show more next season at Stanford. He announced he would sign with the Cardinal — and not his father’s alma mater of Oklahoma State — following the game Saturday.
He had only three carries in the game, including a 10-yard touchdown run late in the first quarter, and his West teammates beat the East 24-12.
His father, the 1988 Heisman Trophy winner at Oklahoma State, stood near his son and other family members when Barry J. announced his decision to go to Stanford on national television in the fourth quarter of the game.
“I think everyone understood my position (about the college choice),” Barry J. Sanders said, wearing a black hat with the block Cardinal “S” on the front. “That program (Oklahoma State) made my family, and I thank them for it. I’ll always have orange in my blood.”
The Cardinal might have won the recruiting, but they lost the game. Oklahoma State beat Stanford this week in the Fiesta Bowl.
Sanders put Stanford on the top of his list weeks back. But he couldn’t commit until he met the school’s eligibility standards. Sanders said he was told Friday that he would be admitted after taking the college entrance exams more than once.
“I believe I’ll be playing with the greatest student athletes in the world,” he said.
Sanders, 5-foot-11 and 190 pounds, rushed for 1,324 yards (9.5 yards per carry) and 27 touchdowns this season at Oklahoma City Heritage Hall. The team won two state championships while he was there.
It wouldn’t bother Sanders if Stanford developed another efficient passer such as Andrew Luck, who finished second in the Heisman voting the past two seasons.
“I have faith in the program, that they’ll find a quality quarterback,” he said. “The bowl game showed that with a Heisman Trophy candidate they still ran the ball 30 times. It’s definitely not going to take away from me, whatever quarterback they have.”
Sanders’ final decision also came down to Florida State and Alabama. All commitments are nonbinding. It won’t become official until Feb. 1 at the earliest, the first day letters of intent can be signed.
The other touchdowns from the West came from quarterback Cyler Miles, who starred this year at Mullen High School in Denver and has committed to Washington. Miles was 7 of 8 (the incompletion was a drop), including a game-record 79-yard TD pass to Dorial Green-Beckham and had the game’s first score with a 4-yard run.
Miles also was sacked three times, including once by Shelby (Crest High School), N.C., lineman Johnathan Bullard, who plans to head to Florida after a strong defensive game that also included another tackle behind the line for 12 yards in losses.

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Twitter Thursday

After several months on Twitter (you can follow me @TheMikeKovak), I'm still amazed at some of the tweets from high school students.

Seriously, anyone (coaches, teaches, etc.) can read these things.

Think before you tweet.

Dan Conley, Burgettstown legend/PIAA wrestling champ/former Observer-Reporter Athlete of the Year
Jan. 5
"Starting to think about the real world a lot lately ... I don't know if I'll ever be ready to grow up..."

Fake Todd Graham
Jan. 3
"I am in Pittsburgh today to talk to my boys and set things right. Where is everyone?"

Billy Edwards, Washington football
Dec. 30
"My goal is not to make it to the pro's but to be known as the greatest to ever play the game #Period"

Ben DuCarme, Canon-Mac golf
Jan. 1
"The steelers, pens, and panthers have lost it in the last month...looks like im gonna start watching the WNBA"

Nick Riotto, Trinity baseball
Jan. 4
"Shoutout to the janitors once again for a great job in the parking lot for the second straight day....You guys really do too much."

Michael Yancich, Penn State linebacker/disgruntled airline customer
Jan. 3
"When you fly US Air, the flight that you originally booked is the flight you will have no chance of actually being on."

Later that day ...

"Broken luggage?? US Air haha you are really a pathetic excuse for an airline.."

Tanner Garry, Fort Cherry wrestling (during the winter sports season)
Jan. 5
"I was talking to a teacher in the hall when a 7th grade girl poked me in the back with a pen, giggled, then ran away. #highschoolromance."

Corey Garry, same as Tanner Garry
Dec. 29
"Haven't made twitter Thursdays in forever. Gotta step my twitter game up."

Tweet of the Week
Andrew Sweat, Ohio State linebacker
Jan. 1
"What lies behind us and what lies before us means nothing compared to what lies within us"

Monday, January 2, 2012

Observer-Reporter WPIAL girls basketball rankings

Class AAAA
1. Oakland Catholic 9-0
2. Mt. Lebanon 8-1
3. Gateway 5-1
4. Pine-Richland 6-3
5. North Allegheny 8-2

Class AAA
1. Hopewell 9-0
2. South Park 7-1
3. New Castle 5-3
4. Blackhawk 6-1
5. Elizabeth Forward 9-1

Class AA
1. Seton-La Salle 8-0
2. Greensburg Central Catholic 6-0
3. Bishop Canevin 5-2
4. Burrell 8-0
5. Riverside 7-1

Class A
1. Fort Cherry 9-0
2. Vincentian Academy 9-0
3. North Catholic 6-3
4. Monessen 7-2
5. St. Joseph 5-3

Observer-Reporter WPIAL boys basketball rankings

Class AAAA
1. Chartiers Valley 8-0
2. North Allegheny 7-1
3. Gateway 6-3
4. Shaler 6-2
5. Woodland Hills 6-1

Class AAA
1. New Castle 8-0
2. Montour 3-0
3. Greensburg-Salem 6-2
4. Uniontown 6-2
5. South Fayette 6-2

Class AA
1. Monessen 8-0
2. Beaver Falls 7-1
3. Sto-Rox 6-1
4. Quaker Valley 7-1
5. Jeannette 7-1

Class A
1. Lincoln Park 6-2
2. Cornell 7-1
3. OLSH 9-0
4. North Catholic 5-1
5. Vincentian Academy 7-1

Sunday, January 1, 2012

Top 5 teams of 2011

1. Peters Township girls soccer
As Indians head coach Pat Vereb said before his team played one game, "We're replacing roughly 80 percent of the roster with girls who have little or no varsity experience."
The previous group won PIAA and WPIAL Class AAA titles in 2010 with a physical yet skilled style of play. Peters Township in 2011 would rely more on speed and other skill sets in defense of the program's first state championship.
After two games, the Indians were 0-1-1.
Peters Township eventually meshed and earned the top seed in the WPIAL playoffs, where the Indians needed a two-goal rally in the quarterfinals to remain in competition. A loss to Upper St. Clair in the WPIAL championship, did little to affect PT's play in the state tournament.
Only an honorable mention team in the state's Class AAA rankings, Peters Township (20-3-1) rolled through the competition and beat Pennridge, 1-0, for its second consecutive state championship.

2. Peters Township girls tennis
For WPIAL girls tennis coaches as the Class AAA level, the key is navigating the district bracket.
Every time Peters Township has won a WPIAL girls team title, it has followed with a state championship. It happened in 2006, 2009 and once again in 2011.
The top seed in the WPIAL playoffs, Peters Township dominated the pairings like never before. The Indians beat Fox Chapel, Upper St. Clair and old nemesis Shady Side Academy in the finals. Along the way, Peters Township lost one match.
Peters Township played Shady Side Academy once again for the PIAA team title, and a 4-1 victory clinched the Indians' third title in six years. The Indians lost just one match in the state playoffs.

3. Chartiers-Houston softball
In 2010, Chartiers-Houston finally broke the curse. Not only did the Bucs score a run in a state championship game after previously being blanked in all previous appearances, C-H won the Class A title.
The Bucs entered the 2011 season as the prohibitive favorite to win a seventh WPIAL championship and they delivered, making things look easier than they were with an undefeated record, and a 9-3 win over section rival Fort Cherry in the final.
C-H (22-1) reached the state semifinals, where a 24-game win streak was snapped with a 3-2 loss to Clairion.

4. Monessen boys basketball
Losses to Norwin and North Allegheny - a pair of Class AAAA programs - were all that kept Monessen completing the regular season with an undefeated record. The Greyhounds were that good, yet not good enough to receive the top seed in the WPIAL Class AA playoffs.
No matter.
A blowout win over Ellwood City - the 500th coaching victory for Joe Salvino - led to close ones against Jeannette and Wilkinsburg. Monessen found itself playing Greensburg Central Catholic for the championship at Duquesne University's A.J. Palumbo Center. For those who don't know the interesting subplots of that contest, well, you must have been far, far away from Western Pennsylvania.
Monessen (26-3) won by 20 points and reached the PIAA semifinals, where GCC ended the Greyhounds' outstanding season.

5. Washington boys 4x400 relay team
The restoration of Wash High athletics was underway during the spring, and the boys track and field team played the key role.
Washington reached the WPIAL Class AA team championship, where it finished second. There were multiple WPIAL and PIAA medalists, but the shining moment came during the final event of the WPIAL championship meet at Baldwin.
That's when the Washington 1,600 relay team of XXXX entered the WPIAL record books.
Mykhael Kelley, Jordan Thomas, Darius Spinks and anchor leg Dustin Fuller ran a scorching 3:26.41, not only good enough for WPIAL gold but the time broke a 10-year meet record, which was held by ... Washington.