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Freshmen will make impact in WPIAL basketball ...... predicted section winners

Written by Mike White on .

While the state football playoffs reach the semifinals this weekend, high school basketball in Pennsylvania begins.

There are a number of interesting storylines in basketball for this season. How long will New Castle's winning streak last (it is at 31 games)? Will New Castle and Hampton still dominate after dropping to Class AAA? How will Lincoln Park fare moving up to Class AA and Chartiers Valley up to Class AAAA?

But another one of the interesting storylines this season also will be the "fresh" faces that will show up on teams. It seems there are some freshmen around the WPIAL who could have big impacts.

One of the best is Phil Jurkovec, a 6-foot-5 ninth-grader at Pine-Richland. I have yet to see this kid play, but have been hearing about him for a few years. He scored a ton as an eighth-grader on a ninth-grade team. He is extremely athletic, dunking with ease as an eighth-grader. He will start for Pine-Richland at forward.

Jurkovec is more than a basketball player, though. He is an excellent quarterback in football. Current Pine-Richland quarterback Ben DiNucci called him a "stud" and said he is much further along with skills when DiNucci was a ninth-grader. But DiNucci said Jurkovec is probably better in basketball. That says a lot.

Pine-Richland coach Eric Kasperowicz kept Jurkovec on the ninth-grade team this season, but Jurkovec might very well be the Rams' varsity quarterback this season. If you wonder whether this kid has talent, check out his highlight tape from Hudl.

Other freshmen who might have big impacts this season are:

**Rob Carmody, a 6-3 guard at Mars. The son of coach Rob Carmody, the younger Carmody has good size and will start and be a key player for the Planets. He is solid in many phases of the game. He was a starting defensive back on the football team.

**Curtis Aiken, 6-1 guard at North Allegheny. Aiken isn't listed as a starter for North Allegheny, but he will see plenty of action. The son of former Pitt player Curtis Aiken, the younger Aiken is quick, has a good handle and has an extremely bright future.

**John Paul Kromka, a 6-7 forward-center at Gateway. Another in a line of Kromka brothers at Gateway, John Paul has good size. New Gateway coach Daryn Freedman isn't shy about talking about his team. He said the Gators are aiming to be the top defensive team in the WPIAL and state and that the team has one of the best frontcourts in the WPIAL. About Kromka, Freedman said, "He will likely lead all WPIAL freshmen playing varsity in points, rebounds and blocked shots."

One of Kromka's older brothers, James, will be a senior guard-forward for the team.

**Torian Leak, a 5-7 guard at Beaver Falls. It looks like Leak will start at guard for the Tigers, which means they will start a freshman and two sophomores (6-4 Donovan Jeter and 6-6 Josh Creach). Leak also is an excellent athlete. He was a running back on the football team and rushed for more than 200 yards in one game.

Some other freshmen around the WPIAL also could have impacts. Ford City coach Greg Hutcherson plans to start two freshmen - 6-4 Nate Baillie and 6-foot Dawson Porter

Three of New Castle's top reserves are freshmen - Marcus Hooker, Lorenzo Gardner and Geno Stone. Hooker is the younger brother of former New Castle star Malik Hooker, now a freshman football player at Ohio State.

Two of Beaver Falls' top players off the bench will be freshmen - 5-10 Malik Shepherd and 6-2 Syron Noyes.

Put it all together, and maybe the future looks bright for WPIAL basketball talent. But the question is how high will these freshmen rise and how much will they improve over the next few years?

Predicted section winners

The season starts with tipoff tournaments around the state. But section play begins next Friday.

Here are predicted section winners for the entire WPIAL and City League:

WPIAL CLASS AAAA - 1. Hempfield. 2. Gateway. 3. Seneca Valley. 4. Chartiers Valley.

WPIAL CLASS AAA - 1. Hampton. 2. Ambridge. 3. Indiana. 4. Steel Valley. 5. South Fayette.

WPIAL CLASS AA - 1 Lincoln Park. 2. Apollo-Ridge. 3. Seton-LaSalle. 4. Brownsville. 5. Aliquippa.

WPIAL CLASS A - 1. Sewickley Academy. 2. Vincentian. 3. Monessen. 4. Jeannette.

CITY LEAGUE - Allderdice.

 

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It's here! Pantone announces 2015 color of the year

Written by Sara Bauknecht on .

Pantone Introducing Color of the Year Marsala banner

Drum roll, please ... the Pantone color of 2015 will be Marsala.

The earthy wine hue will replace Radiant Orchid as fashion and design's "it" hue in the new year and is expected to "make for an elegant, grounded statement color when used on its own or as a strong accent to many other colors," color experts at Pantone declared.

So what do you think: will Marsala be hot as predicted or a flop?

 

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Body Cameras

Written by Rob Rogers on .

The Michael Brown shooting in Ferguson has started a national conversation about race. It has also started a national conversation about police equipment and body cameras.

120414 Body Cameras

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Me and Earl and the Dying Girl will premiere at Sundance festival

Written by Barbara Vancheri on .

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“Me and Earl and the Dying Girl,” filmed in Pittsburgh earlier this year, will have its world premiere at the Sundance Film Festival in January. Alfonso Gomez-Rejon (pictured) directed and Point Breeze native and Schenley High School graduate Jesse Andrews wrote the novel and screenplay.

It’s the story of Greg, a teenage anti-hero trying to get through high school without being noticed but whose mother guilts him into befriending a girl who has leukemia. Greg and his wildly profane buddy, Earl, are secretly making spirited, bizarre films but his anonymity and friendship threaten to unravel with the addition of the ailing classmate.  

The cast includes Thomas Mann, RJ Cyler, Olivia Cooke, Nick Offerman, Connie Britton and Molly Shannon.

It is among 16 narrative feature films announced today for the prestigious festival. The dramatic competition is designed to offer festivalgoers a first look at groundbreaking new voices in American independent film.

The 2015 festival will be Jan. 22 to Feb. 1 in Park City, Salt Lake City, Ogden and Sundance, Utah.

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Bortuzzo suspended two games - 12-03-14

Written by Seth Rorabaugh on .

Penguins defenseman Robert Bortuzzo was suspended two games by the NHL for a late hit which injured Devils right winger Jaromir Jagr Tuesday during the second period a 1-0 home win by the Penguins at Consol Energy Center.

The hit was not penalized. Bortuzzo will forfeit $6,451.62 of salary due to the suspension.

The NHL's video explanation:

The video states:

 

"After Jagr makes a pass to [Devils center Scott] Gomez, Bortuzzo leaves his man to hit Jagr. The puck already in in front of the net before Bortuzzo initiates this hit along the end boards.

Well after Jagr has released the puck and at a point at which a body check is no longer legal, Bortuzzo drives through Jagr's chest and chin with his right shoulder knocking Jagr out of a tied game in the second period.

This is interference. What elevates this hit to merit supplemental discipline is its extreme lateness, its predatory nature and the significant head contact that results from the way that it is delivered.

Bortuzzo neither launches into Jagr nor hits with his elbow. However, given how late this hit is, there is no part of his body with which Bortuzzo can deliver a legal body check. Whats more, since Jagr should have no reason to expect to be hit this late, he is defenseless at the moment of contact. Since this play is entirely in front of Bortuzzo and he can see Jagr has passed the puck, the onus is entirely on Bortuzzo to avoid contact completely and he has ample time to do so. Instead, he drives forcefully through this dangerous hit."

 

The video also noted Jagr is not expected to miss any future games and Bortuzzo has not been fined or suspended previously in his career.

Bortuzzo will miss tomorrow's game against the Canucks and Saturday's contest against the Senators. Each game is at Consol Energy Center.

-EN Says: The league got this right within the context of its own rules and precedent. This was interference and it resulted in an injury for Jagr.

To be clear, the league does allow a brief window of 0.5 seconds for a player to be hit legally after he releases the puck without interference being called. According source with the league, Bortuzzo was timed as hitting Jagr as 0.7 seconds after the puck was released.

That might sound like splitting hairs, but when it results in an ugly dangerous hit like that, the league is going to take action.

Quite a bit of attention is being directed at the fact that Bortuzzo struck Jagr's head but is seemed impossible to tell what the principal point of contact was on the video. The shoulder, chest and head all seemed to get contacted at simultaneously. That's why the interference aspect of this play is what got Bortuzzo in trouble.

Thankfully for everyone involved, Jagr has apparently escaped serious injury as he is expected to not miss any games. That as well as Bortuzzo's clean history with discipline prior to this spared him a harsher suspension. The League does weigh those two factors in when determining supplemental discipline. Within that context, the league is consistent in how it has punished Bortuzzo.

Last season, Toronto defenseman Dion Phanuef was given a two-game suspension for boarding Bruins defenseman Kevin Miller. Like the Bortuzzo-Jagr hit, that hit did not result in an injury and Phaneuf, like Bortuzzo, did not have a history of supplemental discipline beforehand.

All in all, this could have ended up being a lot worse for all parties involved.

The Devils seem interested in doling out their own punishment when the teams meet in New Jersey Dec. 29.

(Photo: Justin K. Aller/Getty Images)

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