By Mike White | Wednesday, March 23, 2010, 7 a.m.
Notes and thoughts after the PIAA basketball semifinals. (Later today, we'll have some comments from some coaches in the championship games).
You might not see a WPIAL boys' team make it to the state Class AAAA championship for a while, unless the PIAA goes back to its old east-west brackets.
For the third consecutive year, a WPIAL team went into the state Class AAAA semifinals, and got clubbed by a team from District 1 (Philadelphia area). This time, it was North Allegheny, which lost to Plymouth-Whitemarsh, 71-47, Wednesday night at Chambersburg. If you want to see some highlights of the game and listen to some interviews, then click here. The Norristown Times Herald does a nice job with video, phots and a story.
But anyway, it was the third year in a row a WPIAL team lost to a District 1 team in the semifinals. And all three games were not close. Two years ago, Moon lost to Norristown, 52-33. Last year, Mt. Lebanon was defeated by Penn Wood, 79-58.
It might seem strange for Eastern Pennsylvania teams to play a Western Pennsylvania team in the "western" side of the bracket. But in the 2004-05 season, the PIAA changed its basketball brackets to put some Eastern Pa. teams in the western side of the bracket in Class AAAA. The reason is because District 1 has more teams in Class AAAA and thus the PIAA gives District 1 more spots in the state tournament. So some of those teams, along with District 3 teams, play through the western side of the bracket and meet a real "western" team in the semifinals.
That's bad news for the WPIAL in Class AAAA because usually the top teams in WPIAL Class AAAA aren't as good as the best in District 1. It's no knock against the coaches or players in the WPIAL. It's just the way it is.
Schenley was able to make it to the PIAA Class AAAA title game in 2006 and 2007, beating a District 3 team (Harrisburg) in the semifinals both years. Schenley made it because it had strong teams both seasons. The WPIAL hasn't had a team like Schenley in Class AAAA for a long time.
The WPIAL will have some good Class AAAA teams next season, but will anyone be good enough to get to the state finals? Gateway might have to be No. 1 in the WPIAL going into the season and the Gators certainly will have some size with 6-9 Barnett Harris, 6-7 Devon Cottrell and 6-5 Tyler Scott. Good enough to beat an Eastern Pa. team? We'll see.
In summary, unless the PIAA goes back to true "east-west" brackets, a WPIAL team won't make it to the Class AAAA title game very often.
Lebo a better matchup?
This is no knock against North Allegheny, because the Tigers did an excellent job in the PIAA tournament, knocking off Mt. Lebanon and Gateway. NA certainly deserved to go to the PIAA semifinals. But now that the game is over, and you can look back with hindsight, Mt. Lebanon might have been a better match for Plymouth-Whitemarsh, simply because Mt. Lebanon had much more size than North Allegheny. Plymouth-Whitemarsh's 6-7 Jaylen Bond and 6-10 C.J. Aiken hurt North Allegheny considerably.
But hey, North Allegheny trailed by only two at halftime.
If you think transfer students are a problem in Western Pennsylvania, I think it's nothing compared to the transfers I hear about often in Eastern Pennsylvania, especially in the Philadelphia area. For example, two of Reading Central Catholic's starters, including their leading scorer, transferred before this season. Junior guard Marcus Dawkins, a Division I prospect, came from Reading. Sophomore forward Marquis Marshall came from Muhlenberg. Reading Central Catholic will play Sewickley Academy in the Class A final.
And how about this: Jamal Jones won a state Class AA title last year with Imhotep Charter. He transferred to Strawberry Mansion this year and Strawberry Mansion is in the Class AA title game.