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State basketball playoffs might return to East-West format

Written by Mike White on .

A number of times in recent years, two teams from the Philadelphia area have met in a state basketball championship. If the PIAA basketball steering committee has its way, such matchups will be a thing of the past, starting in the 2016-17 season.

The PIAA basketball steering committee met Wednesday and voted, 8-5, to adopt a motion where the PIAA playoffs return to a true east-west format. In other words, teams from the east and west stay in separate brackets until the championship game, when the east meets the west for a state champion.

The steering committee is made up of a representative from each of the 12 districts around the state, and also the state rules interpreter. The committee's vote to adopt the motion doesn't mean the east-west bracket will happen. It is more a recommendation that the PIAA board of directors must approve at its May meeting. Often, the PIAA board will approve what a steering committee recommends, but not always. If the PIAA approves the recommendation, new brackets would go into effect for the 2016-17 season.

"I don't know how the [PIAA] board will handle this, but at least we got it this far," said Dan O'Neil, the WPIAL representative on the steering committee.

The switch back to the true east-west format would be a monumental change in the state playoffs. In order to understand the landscape of the playoffs, first some history.

Ever since the PIAA basketball championships started almost 100 years ago, the west and the east were in separate brackets. But that all changed in the 2004-05 season, when some eastern teams played on the western side of the bracket. So, you might have a team from Philadelphia playing a team from the WPIAL in the quarterfinals.

The reason for the change was complaints from eastern area schools and representatives of those districts. The east has more schools in some classifications and the east didn't think it was fair that the west and east had equal representation in the PIAA playoffs. The east felt it should get more teams in the classifications where it had more schools.

For example, in the PIAA Class AAAA boys tournament this year, the so-called "western" side of the bracket had 16 teams. But only seven were from the west. Nine teams from the east were in the western side. All 16 teams in the "eastern" bracket were from the east. The championship game turned out to be two teams from Philadelphia - Roman and Martin Luther King.

The brackets over the past decade have caused long road trips for teams. For example, in the Class AAA boys quarterfinals this year, New Castle played Archbishop Carroll of Philadelphia. The game was played at Chambersburg, about a four-hour drive for New Castle. But it's not just basketball. The PIAA doesn't have true east-west brackets in some other sports.

The lack of a true east-west bracket has hurt attendance. Teams sometimes have to drive three to four hours for a game in the middle of the week. The games draw only hundreds of fans. The brackets have also hurt attendance at the state championships because a number of the Philadelphia Public and Catholic League teams do not draw well. When they meet in the championship, attendance often isn't good.

For example, the Neumann-Goretti boys won the Class AAA title this year, playing against Archbishop Carroll. Both teams are from the Philadelphia Catholic League. It looked like Neumann-Goretti couldn't have had more than 100 or 150 fans.

O'Neil said new brackets might not necessarily have the same number of teams in the east and west brackets. That's fine. That's what should have been done all along.

If the east has more schools in a certain classification, they should have more teams in the PIAA playoffs. But why not just have, say, 24 teams in the eastern bracket and maybe 10 or 12 in the west. Shouldn't that make the east happy? The teams in the east simply play an extra round. Doesn't that make more sense than having eastern teams in the west, and having teams travel three to four hours for a playoff game on a school night?

"I think basically there is a philosophical debate, and that's the easiest way to say it," said O'Neil. "Do you want the two best teams playing in the state championship, even though it could be a replay of a district playoff game? Or do you want an eastern team playing a western team?"

The WPIAL supports true east-west brackets.

"You have a lot more fans and there seems to be more of an exciting draw when you have the east and the west playing among themselves until the championship," said O'Neil. "The way it is now, some of these playoff games end up being played in front of a couple hundred people. Nobody is there."

Of course, the true east-west brackets doesn't address what is the biggest issue in basketball these days, and that's the dominance of private, Catholic and charter schools at the championship level. That is a matter for the PIAA board to address and not the basketball steering committee.

You hear more and more calls from coaches, athletic directors and especially fans that there should be separate playoffs for public schools and private/parochial/charter schools. But rightly or wrongly, the PIAA isn't even looking down that path right now.

There has been a lot of talk within the PIAA about going to six classifications in football, and possibly other sports. A proposal had been made by District 9 chairman Bob Tonklin to switch football to six classes. The PIAA strategic planning committee met Wednesday, but the six classification idea is still very much in the talking stages.

What came out of the strategic planning committee meeting was that the PIAA will look at how schools have to count charter, cyber and home-school students. Currently, schools must count all of those students in their enrollment figures. The PIAA then makes classifications based on enrollment figures.

But the PIAA is looking at a plan where schools will only have to count 10 percent of charter, cyber and home-school students toward their enrollment figures. I'm not sure how that will affect many schools, but it could change what classification some schools are placed.

 

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Final state boys basketball rankings

Written by Mike White on .

The final state rankings for boys basketball are out, and the highest-ranked team from the WPIAL is Aliquippa at No. 2 in Class AA.

Here are the final rankings, according to Pennlive.com.

CLASS AAAA

No.  School                                            Rec    Pvs

1.     Roman Catholic (12)                     29-2        1

2.     Martin Luther King (12)                23-9        2                           

3.     McCaskey (3)                                23-11      4                                

4.     Allderdice (8)                                26-3        3

5.     LaSalle College (12)                      21-7        5

6.     St. Joseph’s Prep (12)                    18-5        6

7.     Abington (1)                                  26-4        8

8.     Pennsbury (1)                                25-7        7

9.     York (3)                                          26-5      10

10.   Parkland (11)                                 28-2        9

Others to watch: Abington Heights (2) 22-4, Archbishop Wood (12) 18-6, Cedar Cliff (3) 24-5, Cedar Crest (3) 27-4, Central York (3) 20-10, Chartiers Valley (7) 23-4, Conestoga (1) 22-7, Downingtown West (1) 24-6, Fox Chapel (7) 16-10, Harrisburg (3) 22-9, Methacton (1) 25-6, Mount Lebanon (7) 21-7, North Allegheny (7) 24-4, North Hills (7) 13-12, Penncrest (1) 16-12, Pennridge (1) 25-5, Plymouth-Whitemarsh (1) 26-4, Reading (3) 25-5, Ridley (1) 23-7, Whitehall (11) 16-12.

Moved in: No one.

Dropped out: No one.

CLASS AAA

 

No.  School                                             Rec     Pvs

1.     Neumann-Goretti (12)                    29-2         1

2.     Archbishop Carroll (12)                  23-7         2

3.     Imhotep Charter (12)                     22-10       3

4.     Bishop McDevitt (3)                       22-6         5

5.     Susquehanna Twp. (3)                    22-7         6

6.     Pottsville (11)                                  28-1      10

7.     Scranton Prep (2)                            24-4    OW

8.     Cathedral Prep (10)                        22-7         4

9.     Mars (7)                                          26-3         7

10.   Beaver Falls (7)                               23-4         8

Others to watch: Allentown Central Catholic (11) 17-11, Ambridge (7) 17-9, Audenried (12) 16-6, GAR Memorial (2) 21-6, Glen Mills (1) 18-8, Hampton (7) 20-7, Indiana (7) 25-3, Manheim Central (3) 25-5, New Castle (7) 22-6, Octorara (1) 25-3, South Fayette (7) 19-7, Steel-High (3) 23-6, Strong Vincent (10) 17-9, Tamaqua (11) 21-7.

Moved in: Scranton Prep at No. 7.

Dropped out: No. 9 New Castle

CLASS AA

No.  School                                                  Rec    Pvs

1.     Conwell-Egan (12)                               21-8        2

2.     Aliquippa (7)                                        29-1        1

3.     Loyalsock (4)                                        26-4        4

4.     West Middlesex (10)                            25-4        3

5.     Seton-La Salle (7)                                 24-4        5

6.     Greensburg Central Catholic (7)          23-4        6

7.     Lincoln Park (7)                                     23-4       7

8.     Mastery Charter North (12)                 16-10      8                                       

9.     Mid Valley (2)                                       25-5        9

10.   Trinity (3)                                               19-8     10

Others to watch: Bellwood-Antis (6) 20-8, Blairsville (6) 22-5, Camp Hill (3) 19-6, Columbia (3) 14-14, Holy Cross (2) 19-7, Holy Redeemer (2) 19-8, Mahanoy Area (11) 21-6, Mercyhurst Prep (10) 14-12, Minersville (11) 20-6, Neshannock (7) 18-9, Quaker Valley (7) 19-7, Redbank Valley (9) 22-7, Towanda (4) 22-6, Wellsboro (4) 19-7, West Branch (6) 22-5.

Moved in: No one.

Checked out: No one.

CLASS A

No.  School                                                   Rec    Pvs

1.     Constitution (12)                                  24-8         1

2.     Farrell (10)                                           24-5         2

3.     Kennedy Catholic (10)                          24-5         3

4.     Math, Civics & Sciences (12)               14-14       4

5.     Notre Dame-E.Stroudsburg (11)          22-3         5

6.     Monessen (7)                                       22-7         6                                  

7.     Clarion-Limestone (9)                          25-4         7

8.     St. John Neumann (4)                           27-2         8

9.     Vincentian (7)                                       17-10       9

10.  Elk County Catholic (9)                          26-3       10

Others to watch: Bishop Carroll (6) 24-2, Cameron County (9) 24-4, Cardinal Wuerl North Catholic (7) 16-10, Delco Christian (1) 15-14, Halifax (3) 18-10, Impact Academy (3) 12-8, Jeannette (7) 16-9, Mansfield (4) 21-7, McConnellsburg (5) 18-8, Meadowbrook Christian (4) 25-4, Millersburg (3) 19-9, Portage (6) 20-7, Shanksville-Stonycreek (5) 26-2, Southern Fulton (5) 24-3, Venango Catholic (9) 16-10, West Shore Christian (3) 22-6.

Checked in: No one.

Moved out: No one.

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Vincentian, Blackhawk girls repeat ...... Aliquippa falls short

Written by Mike White on .

The Vincentian and Blackhawk girls teams made history, while the Aliquippa boys were kept from history.

That's how the state basketball championships ended up for the WPIAL this weekend. The Vincentian and Blackhawk girls teams won championships today for the second consecutive season. It is the first time that the WPIAL had two girls teams repeat as champions.

The Seton-LaSalle girls also were trying to repeat as champions, but lost Friday to Neumann-Goretti.

Meanwhile, the Aliquippa boys were trying to become only the 13th team in WPIAL history to win a state championship with a perfect record, but the Quips were upended this afternoon by Conwell-Egan, 62-51.

Vincentian celebrationFor the Vincentian girls, it was a memorable game on a few fronts. First, the Royals clubbed Old Forge, 86-38, to win the Class A championship. It was the biggest blowout in the history of PIAA girls championships. The PIAA girls championships go back to 1973. (Pictured, the Vincentian girls celebrate their title).

While Vincentian had a memorable game, one of the Royals had an unforgettable performance. Brenna Wise, the Royals' sensational senior guard-forward, had a triple double with 30 points, 11 rebounds and 13 steals.

The PIAA doesn't keep individual statistical records. But I've covered the state championships since 1984 and I never remember a player having a triple double. And the 13 steals? Wow.

Now, Old Forge was way overmatched. But still? To have a triple double in the state title game is pretty special.

The 86 points scored by Vincentian ties the second-most points scored in a PIAA girls game.Blackhawk celebration

Blackhawk, meanwhile, won its second consecutive Class AAA championship, 46-40, against Archbishop Wood. (Pictured are the Blackhawk girls celebrating).

Chassidy Omogrosso and Courtney Vannoy were quite the dynamic duo for Blackhawk, combining for 40 points. Omogrosso scored 23 and Vannoy 17.

Like Wise, it was a memorable end to a great career for Omogrosso. She passed the great Swin Cash of McKeesport and moved into sixth place on the WPIAL's all-time scoring list with 2,686 points.

Wise also scored over 2,000 career points and ended as the No. 15 scorer in WPIAL history with 2,315 points.

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State basketball championship predictions

Written by Mike White on .

Before we get to the predictions for the state championships, let's talk attendance.

It will be interesting to see what attendance will be like this weekend in Hershey for the PIAA championships. It probably won't be good. 

The reason? Philadelphia Public and Catholic League teams.

Six of the eight teams in the PIAA boys championships are from the Philadelphia Catholic and Public League. Over the years, one thing has been proven: A number of the teams from those leagues bring nobody. Philadelphia teams have hurt attendance over the years.

Last year, attendance for the games was a little more than 20,000. New Castle's great following helped that. There is no New Castle this year. The year before, attendance was 24,582.

From 2007-12, the games were played at Penn State, and attendance dropped every year. In 2007, the games drew 33,008 in State College. The following four years, attendance was 22,539, 18,620, 16,976 and 15,392. Philadelphia teams had a big effect on that drop.

Predictions 

BOYS

Aliquippa vs. Conwell-Egan - The undefeated Quips have rolled in the PIAA playoffs, winning every game by 24 points or more. This one won't be a blowout. Conwell-Egan is a Philly Catholic League team and it has played some of the best teams in Philly. The teams look to be about even in size. Key to the game is whether Conwell-Egan turns over the ball against Aliquippa's defense. Also, look for Aliquippa's Chucky Humphries to possibly be a difference. Winner: Aliquippa.

Roman Catholic vs. Martin Luther King - A tossup game. Both teams have good guard play. Guard Tony Carr is ranked among the best 100 juniors in the country. He could be the deciding factor. Winner: Roman Catholic.

Archbishop Carroll vs. Neumann-Goretti - Neumann-Goretti is going for its fifth title in six years. Division I college talent is on both teams. Winner: Neumann-Goretti.

Constitution vs. Farrell - Constitution has won its four PIAA playoff games by an average of close to 40 points a game. It's hard to see Farrell winning, especially without starting point guard Jamel Brown, who was arrested on drug charges Monday. Winner: Constitution.

GIRLS

Blackhawk vs. Archbishop Wood - I keep thinking this Blackhawk team isn't as good as last year's that won a PIAA title. But the Cougars just keep doing enough to win. Blackhawk beat Wood in last year's title game. Blackhawk's Chassidy Omogrosso has been terrific, but her supporting cast will be key to this game. Winner: Blackhawk.

Seton-LaSalle vs. Neumann-Goretti - Neumann-Goretti is ranked No. 1 in the country by USA Today. I say no way a Class AA team is the best in the country. But will the Saints be the best in Pennsylvania? Guard play will be interesting to watch because both teams have two guards headed to Division I colleges. That means the game could be won on the inside. Winner: Neumann-Goretti.

Vincentian vs. Old Forge - Vincentian pounded Old Forge in last year's title game and it could be more of the same this year. Old Forge doesn't have a starter taller than 5-7. Enough said. Brenna Wise will end her wonderful career in style. Winner: Vincentian.

Cumberland Valley vs. Central Bucks West - Cumberland Valley is the defending champion. That's enough for me. Winner: Cumberland Valley.

 

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Aliquippa lone WPIAL rep in boys finals ..... semifinal recap

Written by Mike White on .

In terms of WPIAL boys basketball teams still playing, Aliquippa is a loner.

Aliquippa is the only boys team from the WPIAL to make it to the PIAA championships this weekend. Is that unusual? Not really.

This is actually the second time in three years that only one WPIAL team made it to the boys finals. Two years ago, it was Beaver Falls. In fact, over the previous 20 seasons, 10 times the WPIAL had only one representative in the state finals. But if Aliquippa would've lost to West Middlesex tonight, the WPIAL would not have had a team in the state finals for the first time since 1966.

But things do go in cycles with these types of things. Last year and in 2012, the WPIAL had three boys teams in the championships. Heck, it was only four years ago that the WPIAL had four teams in the PIAA finals. Since the PIAA went to four classifications in the 1983-84 season, the only other time the WPIAL had four teams in the finals was 2004.

On the girls side, the WPIAL will have three teams in the state finals. The funny thing is all three are seeking second consecutive titles. The teams are Blackhawk, Seton-LaSalle and Vincentian. The WPIAL has never had two girls teams repeat as champions in the same year.

Now, onto what happened tonight with WPIAL teams and City League member Allderdice ...

PIAA semifinal roundup

BOYS

Martin Luther King 48, Allderdice 35 - The greatest playoff run at Allderdice since 1987 ended with a Class AAAA loss to a Philadelphia Public League team. Allderdice's offense struggled mightily down the stretch. Allderdice took a 30-28 lead with 4:20 left in the third quarter. But the Dragons scored only five points the rest of the way.

"It just wasn't our night," Allderdice coach Buddy Valinsky said to reporter Rod Frisco after the game. "Maybe it was their defense. Maybe it was us. I do know that's the quickest team we've played. Definitely."

James Jackson led Allderdice with 10 points. 

"I'm not sure what our shooting percentage was. Eighteen, twenty percent? All I know it was abysmal," Valinsky said.

Aliquippa 72, West Middlesex 48 - The undefeated Quips (29-0) continue to roll in Class AA. The Quips have won every game by double figures this year and this was their closest of four PIAA games.

Junior guard Jassir Jordan was terrific for Aliquippa, scoring a career-high 30 points. He made 10 of 15 shots, including 2 of 3 from 3-point range. He was 8 of 8 from the free-throw line.

Jordan and Stephon McGinnis make for a terrific guard tandem. It's hard to believe there is a better backcourt in Chucky Humphriesthe state in Class AA. McGinnis didn't have one of his best games, but still had 15 points. Junior forward Chucky Humphries added 12. I love Humphries' game. McGinnis and Jordan get plenty of "pub," but the 6-5 Humphries also has been gigantic for the Quips. (Humphries is pictured after Tuesday night's semifinal win)

Humphreys is excellent at something that has been lost in much of basketball: the mid-range shot. He has a deadly 15-foot jumper.

Aliquippa's defense in the first half also was big. Trey Staunch, West Middlesex's 6-5 senior who has more than 2,000 career points, had only two points in the first half before finishing with 24.

GIRLS

Cumberland Valley 56, Norwin 40 - Offense was a problem for Norwin, the WPIAL AAAA champion. The Knights had only 23 points through three quarters and went on to lose. Kelly Jekot, a Villanova recruit who was named Gatorade Pa. player of the year recently, led Cumberland Valley with 22, and her sister, Katie, a sophomore, added 18. Alayna Gribble had 21 for Norwin.

Blackhawk 71, Berks Catholic 61 - Chassidy Omogrosso poured in 31 points and moved in seventh place on the WPIAL all-time scoring list with 2,661 points. She passed Carrie Bordas, a 1990 Aliquippa graduate who had 2,658. Omogrosso now is only 17 points from legendary Swin Cash, who had 2,678 at McKeesport. 

Breanna Hoover had 12 points and Bridgette Shaffer 11 for Blackhawk. The Cougars led by only two points after three quarters, but outscored Berks Catholic, 19-11, in the fourth.

Seton-LaSalle 61, Bishop Canevin 47 - In a rematch of the WPIAL championship, Seton-LaSalle rolled in Class AA. It was the Rebels' fourth victory against Bishop Canevin this season. Seton-LaSalle's guards were the difference in the game. Nicolete Newman scored 19, Cassidy Walsh 18 and Shaunay Edmonds 12.

Vincentian 63, Blairsville 37 - One of the most dominating runs by a WPIAL girls team continued as Vincentian crushed Blairsville. Vincentian has won eight postseason games (WPIAL and PIAA) by at least 22 points. Now get this: The Royals have won their four PIAA games by 57, 31, 28 and 26 points.

Brenna Wise had her usual standout game for Vincentian. A Pitt recruit, Wise had 20 points and 15 rebounds while guard Torrieonna Cash had 13.

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