WPIAL championship predictions

Written by Mike White on .

The winners of the WPIAL basketball championships will be ...

Sorry. You will have to look below for predictions of the championship games, which will be played tonight and tomorrow at the Petersen Events Center.

Many have wondered why the WPIAL switched to the Petersen Center. Well, basically Petersen's bid for the games was cheaper than that from the Palumbo Center.

There will be no live television for the championships. But all eight can seen on Comcast Xfinity's "On Demand," starting the day after the game. Go to the "Get Local" folder and then "Sports." This is the 10th year that Comcast has the games "On Demand."

Here are the predictions:


Vincentian vs. North Catholic, Saturday at 11 a.m. - The two section rivals meet in the title game for the fourth time in nine years. North Catholic struggling to beat Riverview in the semifinals was a little surprising. Things will be tougher in the final. Vincentian's Brenna Wise (Pitt recruit) is playing on her future home court. Will she rule the place already? It shouldn't be a blowout, which means Wise will get to play a full game for one of the few times this year. Winner: Vincentian.

Bishop Canevin vs. Seton-LaSalle, today at 5 p.m. - Are these two tired of each other? This is the 17th meeting in five years and the third championship meeting in five years. Bishop Canevin lost to Seton-LaSalle by two points a few weeks ago. Will this one be that close? Winner: Seton-LaSalle. 

Blackhawk vs. South Fayette, Saturday at 3 p.m. - Kudos to South Fayette for getting to the title game for the first time in school history. It will take a Lion-hearted effort to knock off Blackhawk. Chassidy Omogrosso (pictured) is having one of the best tournaments in WPIAL history, averaging 33 points a game. Blackhawk has other talented players, but Omogrosso is the engine and will carry the Cougars to another title. Winner: Blackhawk.

Norwin vs. Penn Hills, Saturday at 7 p.m. - Who could've predicted this matchup? Norwin is in the finals for the first time. Penn Hills hasn't made it since 1994. Penn Hills has excellent guards, but the Indians don't have a starter taller than 5-9. Norwin starts 5-8, 5-10, 6-0 and 6-2. I took Penn Hills on Varsity Xtra video. Can I change? Winner: Penn Hills.


Monessen vs. Jeannette, today at 7 p.m. - This is the first time since 2007 that two public schools have met in the Class A final. Monessen can't let Jeannette's Julian Batts have a big game, but Batts will need some help if the Jayhawks are to win their second WPIAL title. I say it's time Monessen coach Joe Salvino gets a big shoutout. Underrated in the WPIAL, Salvino will get his fifth WPIAL title. Impressive. Winner: Monessen.

 Aliquippa vs. Seton-LaSalle, Saturday at 1 p.m. - The Quips could become only the 14th team in the past 52 years to win a WPIAL title with an undefeated record. But to do it, Aliquippa will have to beat the defending champion. A key to the game is how Seton-LaSalle's young guards handle Aliquippa's pressure. Seton-LaSalle starts sophomores Cletus Helton and Paris Ford. Winner: Aliquippa.

Indiana vs. Beaver Falls, today at 9 p.m. - I'm not surprised Indiana is in the title game for the first time. This is a team with good size and good talent and the best Indiana team in ages. The Little Indians don't have one big Indian, but good overall size with four starters 6-3 or taller. I saw the Little Indians lose to Allderdice in January and Indiana did not play well. But you could still tell they would be a formidable team in the Class AAA playoffs. But can Indiana control a Beaver Falls team that has the two-headed "Creach-er" - Josh Creach and Donovan Jeter (Creach, left, is pictured with Jeter). They are two sophomores who average a double-double. But I think a key to the game could be Beaver Falls' outside shooting. Speaking of coaches who deserve a shoutout, how about Beaver Falls' Doug Biega? He's going for title No. 4. Winner: Beaver Falls.

North Allegheny vs. Chartiers Valley, Saturday at 9 p.m. - It's the No. 1 seed (NA) against the No. 2 seed (CV). P-G story this morning says how these two are mirror images of each other. True. This could be an extremely fun game to watch. It should be fast-paced. Two of the WPIAL's top guards meet - Chartiers Valley's Matty McConnell and North Allegheny's Cole Constantino. But the play of their supporting casts will be the difference.

The way these two teams shoot, it's natural to say 3-point shooting will be the key. But North Allegheny has a little bit of size that Chartiers Valley doesn't have. Will that be a difference? I think a key might be defense and who can do a better job of stopping penetration off the dribble. Something else to think about: Chartiers Valley lost in the WPIAL AAA championship the past two years. Both times, the Colts did not execute well down the stretch in a close game. Both times, they turned the ball over too much. Do they remember that and do they want to change the trend?

And before we give a prediction, a few more coaching shoutouts. First, to North Hills' Buzz Gabos and Fox Chapel's Zach Skrinjar. Masterful jobs in getting third-place teams to the semifinals. And also to North Allegheny's Dave DeDegregorio. He hasn't won a WPIAL title, but heck, all the guy does is win 20 games almost every year (six of the past eight). He might give North Allegheny its first WPIAL basketball championship.

But Chartiers Valley coach Tim McConnell might become only the fifth WPIAL coach to win six titles. I took Chartiers Valley at the start of the playoffs. Winner: Chartiers Valley.

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Chartiers Valley, North Allegheny have record shooting nights

Written by Mike White on .

Chartiers Valley did it behind the 3-point line. North Allegheny did it at the free-throw line.

Now both have a line the WPIAL playoff record book.

Both Chartiers Valley and North Allegheny won WPIAL Class AAAA semifinal games Wednesday night and had supreme marksmanship. Chartiers Valley defeated North Hills, 78-53, while North Allegheny beat Fox Chapel, 71-44.

Chartiers Valley made 15 3-pointers in its win. That tied the WPIAL Class AAAA playoff record set by, coincidentally, Chartiers Valley against North Allegheny in 2005.

Chartiers Valley's 3-point shooting is all over the WPIAL playoff records. The Colts hold the record for 3-pointers in any playoff game with 22 against Mount Pleasant in a Class AAA game last season. Chartiers Valley also had 14 3-pointers against Mars in 2009. The 14 is the second-most in a Class AAA playoff game.

Chartiers Valley's Jake Ritson made 7-pointers tonight. That is only one away from the WPIAL Class AAAA playoff record of eight, held by three different players. The 3-point record for any playoff game in any class is 10 by Neshannock's Kevin Covert in 1995.

Meanwhile, North Allegheny set a WPIAL playoff record for free throws made in a game when it made - get this - 39 in the victory against Fox Chapel. The Tigers were 39 of 45 from the line, breaking a playoff record that has been around for three decades. The old record was 37 set by Bishop Boyle against Monessen in 1983, and tied by Latrobe against Baldwin in the 1985 AAAA title game.

North Allegheny was 28 of 31 from the line in the second half alone.

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North Hills and Fox Chapel surprise semifinalists .... other WPIAL semifinal notes

Written by Mike White on .

North Hills and Fox Chapel played in a non-section basketball game in mid-January. Could there have been a person anywhere that could have predicted a month-and-a-half later the same two teams would be involved in the WPIAL Class AAAA final four?

The AAAA semifinals are tomorrow night, and lo and behold, North Hills and Fox Chapel are involved. North Hills will play Chartiers Valley at Moon, while Fox Chapel plays North Allegheny at Chartiers Valley.

North Hills is the No. 11 seed and Fox Chapel No. 12. North Hills has knocked off the No. 6 and 3 seeds, while Fox Chapel has defeated the No. 5 and 4 seeds.

Both North Hills and Fox Chapel were third-place teams in their section. It is unusual for third-place teams to make it this far. Since Class AAAA was started in 1984, this is only the fourth time that two third-place teams or lower qualified for the semifinals. In 2012, Central Catholic and Butler tied for third place in their section and made the semifinals. The 2005 semifinals had two third-place teams - Mt. Lebanon and North Hills. The 2001 semifinals also had two third-place teams - Chartiers Valley and Shaler.

But really, should the success of North Hills and Fox Chapel be all that surprising? After all, Buzz Gabos' North Hills team beat No. 1 seed North Allegheny and No. 5 Pine-Richland in the regular season. North Hills almost beat Hampton, one of the top AAA teams, and gave a strong Allderdice team a good game.

Also, I said it and wrote about it before the playoffs started that there was no prohibitive favorite in Class AAAA, no team like New Castle or Hampton the past few years. Was it a sign of parity, or simply Class AAAA being down? Those are questions for another blog. But coaches and even WPIAL basketball committee chairman Dan O'Neil talked about the balance in AAAA this year. Many thought maybe a third-place team make some noise. Well, two have made plenty of noise.

That being said, look at the other two teams that are in the semifinals. It's No. 1 seed North Allegheny and No. 2 Chartiers Valley.

North Hills and Fox Chapel have won two playoff games by controlling the pace of the game and keeping it low scoring. That being said, how will North Hills and Fox Chapel fare now that they are now facing teams that like to play a faster tempo and shoot theMatty McConnell ball exceptionally well. North Hills faces Chartiers Valley while Fox Chapel plays North Allegheny. Chartiers Valley shoots 53 percent from the field and 44 percent from 3-point range. Char Valley attempts 24 3-pointers and game and makes 10.7. Five players have at least 28 3-pointers and Matty McConnell, Ross Wilkerson and Jake Ritson all have at least 55. McConnell leads the WPIAL in scoring at 30 ppg.

Chartiers Valley and North Allegheny are definite favorites in the semifinals. It would be surprising if they didn't both win. A question for both North Hills and Fox Chapel is how will they handle defensive pressure? Both teams like to press, especially North Allegheny. How well North Allegheny and Chartiers Valley shoot the 3-pointer also will be key, but so will how North Hills and Fox Chapel shoot from the outside.

And lastly, just a little history. This is Chartiers Valley's 16th semifinal appearance under McConnell in the past 21 years, whether in AAA or AAAA. This is North Allegheny's third consecutive appearance and fourth in the past six seasons.

For Fox Chapel, this is only the sixth semifinal appearance in school history. The others were in 2007, 1998, 1988, 1977 and 1967.

This is only the third semifinal appearance in school history for North Hills. The others were in 2009 and 2005. The 2005 team lost to a future NFL player when  Upper St. Clair and Sean Lee beat the Indians.

The bus breaks

Even though Fox Chapel was victorious against Hempfield last night, it was a long bus ride home for Fox Chapel. Literally.

Fox Chapel's team bus broke down. The team had to wait in a shopping plaza until another bus came. Fox Chapel coach Zach Skrinjar said his team got back to school about midnight.

But for some reason, the Foxes didn't seem to mind. You can feel that way after a big win. A lot of selfies and "tweets" came from that bus.

Mastroianni magic

If you didn't know it before, it was proven again Monday night. Quaker Valley's Mike Mastroianni is one of the best coaches around. Quaker Valley knocked off Class AA No. 2 seed Lincoln Park in the quarterfinals.

Mike MastroianniThere aren't many coaches who have won WPIAL titles at two different schools, like Mastroianni (pictured). He won one at Quaker Valley in 1997 before going to Bethel Park and winning another in 2007. He then returned to Quaker Valley and has the Quakers in the semifinals for the second time in three seasons. Mastroianni, by the way, won his 400th game earlier this season.

The Quakers might give defending champion Seton-LaSalle all it can handle in tomorrow's semifinals. But I still say no one is beating Aliquippa in Class AA.

But one more thing about the 400-win milestone, North Allegheny's Dave DeGregorio should get it next season or the season after. He has coached at South Allegheny and Pine-Richland also.

Jula's good times

Last week was pretty darn good for Ambridge coach Mark Jula.

Last Friday, Ambridge upset Class AAA No. 1 seed in the WPIAL quarterfinals. Ambridge is the fourth team that Jula has taken to the semifinals. I doubt that has ever happened before with any other coach. The others were Moon, Butler and North Allegheny.

On top of that, last Monday, Jula and his wife, Sue, became grandparents for the first time.

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Big crowd expected for New Castle-Beaver Falls ..... No lower seating at "Pete"

Written by Mike White on .

Some items that fell off my laptop

The crowd for tomorrow night's Beaver Falls vs. New Castle game is expected to be large. In fact, big enough that it forced the WPIAL to change a game site.

The WPIAL announced this morning that the Beaver Falls-New Castle contest in the WPIAL Class AAA semifinals will be played as a single game at Geneva College, starting at 7 p.m. Also, Geneva College officials said that only a limited number of tickets would be available at the gate tomorrow night. Maybe a couple hundred at most.

The WPIAL originally scheduled the game as part of a doubleheader at Geneva, starting at 6 p.m. The second game was supposed to be a girls matchup between Carlynton and Seton-LaSalle. But WPIAL executive director Tim O'Malley said the presale for tickets was so good at New Castle and Beaver Falls that the league thought it would be best to move the girls game to a different site. Geneva said capacity will be about 2,800.

So, the Seton-LaSalle vs. Carlynton game has been moved to West Allegheny as the third game of a tripleheader. The first two games will be "play-in" games for the PIAA playoffs. Those games will be at 5 p.m. and 6:30.

Forget the good seats

The WPIAL basketball championships will be Saturday at Petersen Events Center. But if you're a fan, you can forget about sitting on the first level.

According to O'Malley, Pitt will not open the first-level seats where the "Zoo" student section sits for Pitt games. The first level on the other side of the court is private boxes. So that means there will be no first-level seating for any fans. That's terrible.

I addressed the situation on this blog a few wees ago, hoping things wouldn't be the same as when the WPIAL played championship games at the "Pete" once before (2006). Pitt did the same thing that year. It pushed back the first-level seats. It was like a cavern on that side of the court. It takes away a lot of the atmosphere.

The City League championships were played at the "Pete" on Saturday. The lower-level seats again were not available. I talked to someone who was there. They said it was like an empty feeling on the court.

O'Malley said it's Pitt's decision not to open the lower-level seats. O'Malley said Pitt's reasoning is who do they allow to sit in those lower-level seats? How do they separate students from different schools who want to sit in the lower-level seats?


This isn't seating science. How about this: You don't let student sections sit in those lower-level seats. They sit in either the end zone or on the second level on the side of the court. For years, there was no problem putting the student sections in the end zone at Palumbo. You couldn't do the same at the "Pete?" 

And Pitt says it has a predicament on what fans should be allowed to sit in that lower level? C'mon, man. Here's a novel idea: Maybe the fans who come first and want to sit in the lower level should be allowed, no matter who they are. Is that really complicated? 

It worked fine at Palumbo. That place has lower-level seating on both sides and it was never a problem. Who sat there? Anybody who wanted. First come, first serve. So what if there were fans from competing schools mixed in the lower-level seats at the Pete.

Sorry, but any explanation of this doesn't hold up. It doesn't make sense. You offer to host the championships and don't let anyone sit in the best seats.

This and that

**** It's that time of year when the subject of players of the year comes up. I think it's pretty easy. For boys basketball, it's a two-horse race between Chartiers Valley's Matt McConnell and Hempfield's Kason Harrell. Who knows? Maybe they will meet in the championship. There is a possibility of that.

For the girls, I think it's also a two-horse race between Vincentian's Brenna Wise and Blackhawk's Chassidy Omogrosso.

**** Here's a good trivia question: Can you name a coach who has taken four different teams to the WPIAL semifinals? I've got one: Mark Jula.

Jula has Ambridge in the semifinals. In his career, he also took Moon, Butler and North Allegheny to the semifinals. He took Butler and North Allegheny to title games and won one championship with Butler.

Ambridge hasn't made it to the championship game since 1984.

**** North Hills plays Mt. Lebanon tonight in a quarterfinal game. Mt. Lebanon is trying to make the semifinals for the seventh time since 2002 and for the 16th time in school history. North Hills is trying to make the semifinals for only the third time in school history.

**** Turning to football, there has been a change in the Pennsylvania roster for the Big 33. Record-setting quarterback Ben DiNucci of Pine-Richland has elected not to participate in the game. DiNucci is a Pitt recruit. DiNucci's spot will be taken by West Allegheny quarterback Andrew Koester, a St. Francis, Pa., recruit.

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WPIAL postpones Saturday games ..... Sites, times set for rescheduled games and semifinals

Written by Mike White on .

If you were planning to head to a WPIAL basketball playoff game today, forget it. 

But if you really want to see a high school game, try the City League championships instead.

Due to the weather, the WPIAL postponed all quarterfinal games today and rescheduled them for Monday. Sites and times are listed below. The WPIAL frowns on holding playoff games on Sundays. Some sites also might not be available on a Sunday. So the league pushed all games back to Monday.

However, the City League boys and championships are being played today as scheduled at Pitt's Petersen Events Center. The boys title game is at noon and the girls at 2.

I'll have some notes and thoughts on the playoffs tomorrow, but here is the schedule for all WPIAL quarterfinal games Monday. Also, the league has announced sites and times for the semifinals Tuesday. Those are listed below.


Monday's quarterfinals

CLASS AAAA - North Allegheny vs. Bethel Park at North Hills, 8 p.m.; Hempfield vs. Fox Chapel at Norwin, 8 p.m.; Chartiers Valley vs. Upper St. Clair at Baldwin, 8 p.m.; Mt. Lebanon vs. North Hills at North Allegheny, 8 p.m.

CLASS AA - Aliquippa vs. Bishop Canevin at West Allegheny, 8 p.m.; Greensburg Central Catholic vs. Neshannock at Peters Township, 8 p.m.; Lincoln Park vs. Quaker Valley at Ambridge, 8 p.m.; Seton-LaSalle vs. Our Lady of the Sacred Heart, at Canon-McMillan, 8 p.m.

Tuesday's semifinals

CLASS AAA - Ambridge vs. Indiana at Fox Chapel, 6 p.m.; Beaver Falls vs. New Castle at Geneva College, 6 p.m.

CLASS A - Eden Christian vs. Jeannette at Hampton, 8 p.m.; Monessen vs. Vincentian at Baldwin, 8 p.m.


Monday's quarterfinals

CLASS AAA - Blackhawk vs. Trinity at North Allegheny, 6:30 p.m.; Beaver vs. Chartiers Valley at Baldwin, 6:30 p.m.; South Park vs. South Fayette at North Hills, 6:30 p.m.; Elizabeth Forward vs. McGuffey at Canon-McMillan, 6:30 p.m.

CLASS A Vincentian vs. Imani Christian at West Allegheny, 6:30 p.m.; Quigley vs. Serra at Ambridge, 6:30 p.m.; Cardinal Wuerl North Catholic vs. Jefferson-Morgan at Peters Township, 6:30 p.m.; California vs. Riverview at Norwin, 6:30 p.m.

Tuesday's semifinals

CLASS AAAA - Penn Hills vs. Bethel Park at Baldwin, 6:15 p.m.; North Allegheny vs. Norwin at Fox Chapel, 8 p.m.

CLASS AA - Seton-LaSalle vs. Carlynton at Geneva College, 8 p.m.; Burrell vs. Bishop Canevin at Hampton, 6:15 p.m.

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