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WPIAL basketball playoffs go "on the run"

Written by Mike White on .

 Mike White | 1:40 p.m., Sunday, Feb. 22

Notes, thoughts and anecdotes after the quarterfinals of the WPIAL and City League basketball playoffs.

Did you happen to notice there was a recurring theme that shaped the WPIAL basketball quarterfinals this weekend. It was "runs."

Some of the games Friday and Saturday were decided by fourth-quarter or second-half scoring runs. It's hard to remember so many rallies in one round of the playoffs. The scoring run I saw Friday night by Moon had me wondering if I had ever seen anything like it to end a WPIAL playoff game.

New Castle was pretty much in control of the Class AAA boys' contest. Moon had no answer for New Castle guard Tyrone Steals and his basket with 6:38 left in the game put Moon ahead, 47-38.  The final score was 65-49 - in favor of Moon.

Moon outscored New Castle, 27-2, in the final six-and-a-half minutes. Moon's closing run bordered on the unbelievable. After the game, many people were scratching their head, trying to remember such a closing run - or fourth-quarter collapse - depending on how you look at it. A New Castle follower brought up one of the darkest nights in New Castle history.

It was back in 1999 when New Castle had one of the best teams in the WPIAL in probably 10-15 years. New Castle had won a third consecutive WPIAL title and made it to the PIAA Class AAAA semifinals at Pitt's Fitzgerald Field House. New Castle was having its way with Erie McDowell, leading by 18 points in the third quarter. Then New Castle folded again, eventually losing in overtime to Erie McDowell, 52-48. It was a devastating loss to a tremendous team. It hit the town of New Castle hard. As Erie McDowell fans rushed the court after the game, I can still remember covering my head so I wouldn't get hit by the quarters, dimes and nickles that New Castle fans were throwing onto the court in frustration.

But consider some of the other scoring runs in quarterfinal games this past weekend:

* Beaver Falls opened up a 50-36 lead against Monessen in a Class AA boys' quarterfinal. Monessen outscored Beaver Fals, 20-2, from there on out and upset Beaver Falls, 56-52. Beaver Falls was the No. 2 seed.

* Jeannette led Quaker Valley by only 34-28 after three quarters in another Class AA boys' quarterfinal. Jeannette outscored Quaker Valley, 28-8, in the final quarter to pull away.

* Latrobe opened up a six-point lead against North Hills with two minutes left in a Class AAAA game. But North Hills eventually won in overtime, 57-54. North Hills never led in the game - until overtime.

* The Fox Chapel girls went on a 12-0 run in the third quater and knocked off Bethel Park, 35-33.

* Allderdice, the No. 1 seed in the City League boys' playoffs, trailed by two points after the third quarter, but came back and defeated Westinghouse, 49-38.

Quaker Valley misses top player

Quaker Valley played Jeannette without leading scorer Nigel Gibson, who was academically ineligible. That certainly contributed to Quaker Valley's loss to Jeannette.

Monessen's young bunch

The Monessen team that knocked off Beaver Falls is extremely young. At one point in the fourth quarter of a first-round game against Mohawk, Monessen had five sophomores on the court - Terrance Stepoli, Nick Bolias, Cam Johnson, Jeff Rancia and Trae Cook.

Some may be surprised that Monessen beat Beaver Falls. But really, this Beaver Falls team turned out to be not as good as most people thought at the start of the season.

Many coaches and people, including myself, thought Beaver Falls might be the WPIAL's best team this year, regardless of classification. But the Tigers never lived up to that. Injuries took their toll on the Tigers. Another talented player, Chastin Harris, eventually left the team for good. When I saw Beaver Falls play North Allegheny in January, it was obvious Beaver Falls was lacking. For one, the Tigers didn't really handle the ball that well, didn't shoot it that well, and really press and defend as well as some recent Beaver Falls teams.

This is not a knock against Coach Doug Biega. He has done and excellent job in bringing the Beaver Falls basketball program back to prominence. But because of the injuries, he rarely had his entire team together. Plus, sometimes, for whatever reason, teams just aren't as talented as some thought.

Thomas gets 2,000

Beaver Falls' Todd Thomas scored his 2,000th career point in the loss to Monessen. He now has 2,001 and is the 24th player in WPIAL history to score 2,000. Here is the list of players:

Name, School (Senior Year) Points

Tom Pipkins, Valley (1993) 2,838

Kevin Price, Duquesne (1994) 2,635

Kevin Covert, Neshannock (1995) 2,612

Vince Graham, Belle Vernon (1995) 2,429

Don Hennon, Wampum (1955) 2,376

Dan Fortson, Altoona/Shaler (1994) 2,331

Drew Schifino, Penn Hills (2000) 2,318

Terrelle Pryor, Jeannette (2008) 2,285

Ben McCauley, Yough (2005) 2,284

Brandon Fuss-Cheatham, Blackhawk (2001) 2,278

Dante Calabria, Blackhawk (1992) 2,252

Allan MacQuarrie, Pine-Richland (2001) 2,247

James Hairston, Connellsville (2004) 2,245

Lance Jeter, Beaver Falls (2006) 2,243

Yuri Demetris, Shaler (2000) 2,221

David Young, Union/New Castle (1999) 2,198

Steve McNees, Shenango (2006) 2,192

Eric Roslonski, Southmoreland (1992) 2,192

Sam Sims, German Township (1959) 2,138

David Kwiat, Neshannock (1993) 2,085

Warren Sallade, Wilmington (1959) 2,075

Mike Colbert, Chartiers Valley (1997) 2,022

Gabe Jackson, New Brighton (1991) 2,011

Todd Thomas, Beaver Falls (2009) 2,001

Bracket sense

Maybe it's just me, but a part of the PIAA Class AAAA bracket for boys and girls doesn't make a lot of sense. Why? Because there is a decent chance that the WPIAL champion will have to play a first-round PIAA game against the team it defeated in the WPIAL quarterfinals.

The way the brackets are set up, the WPIAL fifth-place team plays the No. 2 team from District 6 in a "play-in" game in the PIAA playoffs. The WPIAL fifth-place is the team that lost to the WPIAL champion in the quarterfinals. The winner of the game between the WPIAL's No. 5 team and District 6's No. 2 team meets the WPIAL champion in the first round of the PIAA playoffs.

Couldn't the PIAA have worked out something where the WPIAL champ could play someone else in the first round of the PIAA playoffs, besides the team it just beat in the quarterfinals? Of course, this all means nothing if the WPIAL fifth-place team doesn't beat the No. 2 team from District 6.

New faces

There will be at least one team in the WPIAL Class AAAA championship that has never played in a title game. Seneca Valley meets Peters Township in a semifinal game Wednesday night at North Allegheny. Neither team has ever made it to the title game.

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