Sunday, March 4, 2012

One out of 256

Once Tuesday's play-in games are completed, a total of 256 boys and girls basketball teams will play in the first round of the PIAA basketball playoffs.

Of those 256 teams, a grand total of one hails from Washington County or Greene County.

Fort Cherry enters the PIAA Class A girls playoffs as the No. 3 seed from the WPIAL. The Rangers (23-2), whose only losses are to powers Vincentian Academy and North Catholic (both in tightly contested games), play Berlin (23-3) Saturday at Gateway High School. Tipoff is scheduled for 4:30 p.m and will be followed by the Monessen boys against Westmont Hilltop at 6 p.m.

With a senior-dominated lineup and all-state caliber players in Beka Bellhy and Carolena Gasbarro plus a Division I track recruit in Jessie Merckle (Wake Forest), Fort Cherry is capable of making a considerable PIAA run.

Of course, if the Rangers get by Berlin, they'll likely draw perennial power Bishop Guilfoyle in the second round. Guilfoyle beat FC in the quarterfinals a year ago.

While Fort Cherry may be good, it's safe to say the 2011-12 basketball season is in a down cycle in most other area locations.

There were some good stories ... the Peters Township boys playing some of its best basketball under difficult circumstances, the West Greene girls winning a playoff game for the first time, the McGuffey boys making the playoffs for only the second time and the Trinity boys coming within a few points of qualifying fot the PIAA Class AAA playoffs to name a few.

Will next season be better? Perhaps. At least it should on the boys side.

Players like Gabe Pritz (Peters Township), Josh Wise (Washington), Zach Challingsworth (South Fayette) and Christian Koroly (Trinity) had strong junior seasons. Peters Township and Trinity return the vast majority of experience from solid teams. Washington drops to Class AA.

On the girls side, Fort Cherry will still be good, but the loss of all those seniors coupled with a move to a Class AA section with Seton-La Salle and Bishop Canevin will be a challenge. Chartiers-Houston brings back most of its players, but is joining FC in the same section. Wash High will be improved but need a scorer.

The number should be higher. It better be as the only way to put fewer teams into the state playoffs is qualifying no teams.

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