Mike White | Monday, March 2, 9:45 p.m.
Some football coaching news, plus some notes and thoughts on the WPIAL basketball championships that were played this past weekend, and the PIAA playoffs that begin this upcoming weekend.
As expected, Seneca Valley High School hired Don Holl as its new football coach. The school board made the hiring tonight.
Holl was Erie Cathedral Prep's coach the past four seasons. He resigned as Erie Prep's coach last week, although the Seneca Valley hiring didn't become official until tonight. In 2005, 2006 and 2007, Holl guided Cathedral Prep to the PIAA Class AAAA quarterfinals.
Former Pitt coach Walt Harris expressed interest in the Seneca Valley job and spoke with school officials about it. But he eventually took a job as a University of Akron assistant.
Holl might have his hands full, though. Seneca Valley lost many players from this year's team that didn't even make the WPIAL playoffs. Word is the Raiders' cupboard isn't exactly well-stocked with talent. But it is a big school and there are athletes there. The basketball team has turned it around (WPIAL semifinals this year) and the baseball team has been highly successful numerous times.
But you have to wonder why coaches continue to leave Seneca Valley. Mike Buchert, Bob Ceh, Rick Shepas. Ron Butschle resigned after this past season, but it's apparent he still likes to coach. He took an assistant's job at Quaker Valley. You can be sure it won't be easy for Holl to make Seneca Valley a winner. But remember that it doesn't take all that much to make the playoffs. There are only six teams in the conference and four go to the playoffs.
The PIAA playoffs start this weekend and one definitely game stands above all the rest in the West.
City League champion Perry plays Chartiers Valley in a first-round boys’ game Friday night at Allderdice (7:30 tipoff). A week ago, Chartiers Valley was undefeated and thinking about a WPIAL title. But a semifinal loss to Highlands, and a Hampton victory against Highlands in the WPIAL final, moved Chartiers Valley into the No. 4 seed and got the Colts an awfully tough first-round game.
It will be interesting to see how this game plays out. Perry must do a better job of taking care of the basketball than it did against Allderdice in the City League championship. Perry also must hope it shoots a little better.
However, Chartiers Valley might have some issues with Perry. It will be interesting to see how Chartiers Valley defends Perry, how it handles Vaughn Morgan and what it does against Perry’s pressure defense.
* There has been a lot of talk about a WPIAL Class AAA team making it to the PIAA title game. Maybe Hampton or Chartiers Valley. If Neumann-Goretti from Philadelphia gets to the title game, the team from the West will be a huge underdog, no matter who it is.
Many consider Neumann-Goretti the best team in the state, and for good reason. This team is loaded with talent. Senior Andre Gillette is 6 feet 9 and has signed with Niagara. The team also has a 6-5 player in Daniel Stewart. And on top of that, they have one of the best junior guards in the eastern part of the country in Tony Chennault, who already has made a verbal commitment to Wake Forest. Neumann-Goretti is a Philadelphia Catholic League school.
Good luck to the team that makes it from the West.
* Here is my all-tournament team from the WPIAL championships: Tom Droney, Sewickley Academy; T.J. Heatherington, Serra; Craig Wolcott, Peters Township; Matt Madia, Hampton; Tim Donegan, Hampton.
* Friday’s Class A championship between Sewickley Academy and Serra has to go down as one for the ages – just because of Tom Droney and T.J. Heatherington. Droney ties the WPIAL championship game record with 40 points, and Heatherington isn’t far behind with 37. I don’t think people realize how special that game was because of those two.
Really, the only individual battle that compares to it in WPIAL championship history was in a girls’ game. In 2001, Clairton played Monessen for the Class A title at the Palumbo Center. Monessen’s Charel Allen set a Class A championship game scoring record with 39 points, and her team lost, 64-50. Clairton’s Kamela Gissendanner had 34 points and 21 rebounds in the game.
* You have to love how hard Heatherington plays. But you also have to wonder how his teammates feel about his attitude sometimes when he scolds them on the court. Heatherington will often throw his hands in the air at teammates when they make a mistake, or give them a look and make a face as if to say, "What are you doing?"
That’s OK for a coach to do. But a player? It doesn’t look good. But maybe Heatherington’s teammates don’t mind it. After all, Heatherington is awfully hard on himself, becoming visibly upset sometimes when he misses a shot or makes a mistake.
* It’s easy to pick the preseason No. 1 teams in Class AAAA next season. It’s Mt. Lebanon times two.
The Mt. Lebanon girls easily won the WPIAL AAAA title with an undefeated record. Emily Miller is the only senior who sees much playing time.
The Mt. Lebanon boys lost in the AAAA title game to Peters Township. Mt. Lebanon doesn’t have one senior starter.
It’s also easy to pick the preseason Class AAA boys’ team next year. It has to be Hampton. The Talbots have only one senior on the team, but they will sorely miss that senior. Matt Madia is the team’s point guard and leading scorer.
* The WPIAL had to be pleased with attendance at the championships. All of the games were well-attended. Attendance for the Class AA final wasn’t as good as it had been in recent years, but that’s partly because the matchup (Jeannette vs. North Catholic) wasn’t as sexy as some in recent years – like Beaver Falls vs. Aliquippa, or Aliquippa vs. Jeannette, or Beaver Falls vs. Jeannette.
* Championship nugget: Three of the boys’ champions had never won a championship before – Peters Township, Hampton and North Catholic.
* Isn’t it looking like Peters Township’s Gary Goga should be coach of the year? North Hills’ Buzz Gabos and Seneca Valley’s Victor Giannotta might be next in line, along with possibly North Catholic’s Dave Long and Monessen’s Joe Salvino.
* North Catholic’s Matt Long had an interesting comment after the Trojans won the title. He had three cousins – Joe, Martin and Jesse – who were starters on the team.
"We've all won Diocesan championships in grade school and we always talked about winning a WPIAL," Matt Long said. "Our older cousins won Diocesan championships, too, but never had a chance to win the WPIAL. It used to be said that the Longs were no good in high school. They were only good in grade school."
They won't say it any longer.
* Dave Long is North Catholic’s coach, father to Joe and uncle to Jesse, Martin and Matt. Dave Long’s niece is Lauren Savulchak, the leading scorer on the North Catholic girls’ team. And get this: "Lauren has two younger brothers, and the one in eighth grade is a very good player," Dave Long said.
So, the Long tradition will live on.