By Mike White | Wednesday, Feb. 24, 2010, 7:15 a.m.
The score of Mt. Lebanon's WPIAL Class AAAA first-round playoff game opened eyes. The prevailing thought is a No. 1 seed is supposed to breeze past a No. 16 seed. Mt. Lebanon defeated Shaler by only 33-31 Tuesday.
But when it comes to Mt. Lebanon and a big game, a score in the 30s shouldn't be all that surprising. At least not when you look at Mt. Lebanon's past.
Earlier this year, Mt. Lebanon played a big game against Hampton. It was a highly-anticipated contest, but the game was in the 30s - AND IT WENT INTO OVERTIME. Mt. Lebanon won, 38-32. (The picture to the left is of Deion Turman against Hampton's Bill Luther in the December game).
Want more evidence of Mt. Lebanon's 30-something big-game parties? A year ago, Mt. Lebanon played North Hills in the WPIAL semifinals. Mt. Lebanon won, 36-35. In 2006, Mt. Lebanon won the WPIAL title. In the first round of the playoffs, Mt. Lebanon beat Hempfield, 38-35. I remember covering Moon and Mt. Lebanon in a big game three years ago. Moon had standout guard Brian Walsh at the time. Mt. Lebanon lost, 34-33.
I'm not sure Mt. Lebanon is one of the top 25 teams in the country this year, as suggested by some national polls at various points of the season. So what do these 30-something scores suggest? A few things. First off, Mt. Lebanon teams always play good defense under Coach Joe David. Secondly, sometimes Mt. Lebanon's opponent is able to control tempo and wants a low-scoring game. Thirdly, Shaler is a pretty decent team, despite its record. And lastly, sometimes Mt. Lebanon's offense just isn't clicking.
That being said, Mt. Lebanon has enough athletes and size to try and dictate the tempo. I think Joe David is a terrific coach, but maybe the Blue Devils sometimes let teams control the pace of the game too much. Try more of a pressure, all-out defense a little more if a team is controlling the pace of the game. I think the same thing happens with Gateway. The Gators are bigger, more talented and more athletic than just about everyone they play, but they sometimes sit back too much and let teams control the pace and tempo of the game.
I'm just sayin'.
Don't get me wrong. Mt. Lebanon still has a good team, despite the score against Shaler. Mt. Lebanon does not have an unbeatable team. It is not a great team, like Schenley had a few years ago with DeJuan Blair and D.J. Kennedy. How good Mt. Lebanon is will be determined in the next few weeks in the WPIAL and PIAA playoffs.
Top five for McConnell
T.J. McConnell's 44-point game against Indiana Tuesday night was the fifth-best scoring game in the history of the WPIAL playoffs. The record is 50, set last year by Serra's T.J. Heatherington. McConnell was only one point away from the fourth-best scoring game. Cam Totedo had 45 points for Belle Vernon in 2000.
McConnell had a pretty impressive stat line: 15 of 17 from two-point range, 3 of 7 on 3-pointers and 5 of 5 from the free-throw line.
Just in case you wanted to know, the record for most points in a WPIAL girls' playoff game is 56, by East Allegheny's Brooke Stewart in 1997.
Section 4 strength
For the sixth year in a row, Section 4 of WPIAL Class AAAA boys went 3-1 in first-round games. No other Class AAAA section can boast of such an impressive record in six years.
Hard to figure
I'm still trying to figure out what happened to the Hopewell boys? The Vikings seemed to come on the last part of the season, winning seven of eight games. OK, so maybe we shouldn't be surprised that Hopewell lost to Belle Vernon in a first-round game Tuesday. But 40-25?
Mike Bires of the Beaver County Times has an interesting story on the Hopewell game. And Hopewell coach Ron Rowan had some interesting comments on the "skill" of his team. To read the story, click here.
And on the same night, Greensburg Salem also scored only 25 points in a 42-25 loss to Montour. I'm going to the record books to see the last time a team scored 25 points or fewer in a Class AAA or AAAA playoff game. I've checked through 1999 and it's at least the lowest-scoring game since then. I'll have to check more records later.
I'm just sayin'
* Trinity's Joe Dunn is considered one of the good guys in WPIAL coaching and he gave Trinity a monumental win Tuesday. The Hillers beat Center, 59-56, for the school's first playoff win since 1984. This is only the second year in Trinity history that the Hillers have won a playoff game. In 1984, they went 2-1 in the playoffs, but that was the year of the open playoffs. Trinity lost that year in the second round. So, this is the first time in school history that the Hillers will be in the quarterfinals.
Maybe we should starting considering Trinity's Josh Valentic one of the top players in Class AAA. He was among the WPIAL's top 20 scorers in the regular season, averaging more than 20 points a game. Valentic, pictured to the left, scored 28 against Center.
* Section 2 of Class AAA is thought to play some pretty good basketball. But all four teams are out of the playoffs - Hopewell, Blackhawk, Center and New Castle.
* Think of this: Either Latrobe or Upper St. Clair will be in the WPIAL Class AAAA semifinals. After upset wins in the first round, they meet in the quarterfinals. Latrobe hasn't been to the semifinals since 1990.