Looking back at the WPIAL and ahead to the PIAA

Written by Mike White on .

With the WPIAL basketball championships behind and the PIAA playoffs ahead -- I'm just sayin' .....

The WPIAL doesn't pick an "all-tournament" team from the championships, but I do. This is based only on the title games.

BOYS - Shawn Anderson, New Castle; Antonio Rudolph, New Castle; Anthony Richards, New Castle (I know it's three from one team but I can't pick pick just two); Ryan Luther, Hampton; Devin Wilson, Montour; Drew Cook, Beaver Falls; Jim Kenna, Vincentian.

GIRLS - Mariah Penascino, Bethel Park; Hallie Torris, South Park; Allison McGrath, South Park; Johnie Olkosky, Bishop Canevin; Erin Waskowiak, Bishop Canevin; Brenna Wise, Vincentian.

***** When did it become a must-do ritual at the start of games that when EVERY starter is iintroduced they "fist bump" all three officials? 

***** The Vincentian boys (pictured) and girls both won WPIAL titles and the school became the 12th in WPIAL history to win both titles in the same year. Vincentian is having a big pep rally Thursday morning. John Fedko, Vincentian president, said he already has two WPIAL championship banners to hang during the ceremony.

I'm wondering if there will be a ring ceremony, too?

***** I say Montour's Devin Wilson and New Castle's Shawn Anderson are now neck-and-neck for Player of the Year.

***** I wish the WPIAL and Consol Energy Center could get together on having the championship games at Consol - even just once. Palumbo is a great place for the games, but Consol would be even better sometimes. Actually, Palumbo wasn't big enough for the games Friday night and Saturday night. They had to stop selling tickets.

And I don't want to hear that Consol would seem empty. If they put up the curtains on the upper level like they do for Duquesne games at Consol, capacity is around 10,500. You might have had 6,000 or so in the place this past weekend. That would seem plenty full. It would be great for the players to say they played at Consol, even if it wasn't totally full.

One of the problems, though, is Consol can't guarantee the dates ahead of time for the WPIAL and cost also could be a factor. But maybe Consol could cut some kind of deal with the WPIAL to make it affordable.

***** I used to be against this, but the WPIAL should seriously think about having "playback" games for teams that lose in the quarterfinals. You might get your truly best teams into the PIAA playoffs and maybe you avoid a PIAA first-round game like Saturday's New Castle-Gateway game. Those two just played in the WPIAL quarterfinals and now they have to play again in the first round of the STATE playoffs? Doesn't make sense. That's because only five teams from WPIAL Class AAAA qualify for the PIAA playoffs. The WPIAL decides the No. 5 team by a "follow-the-leader" approach. In other words, the No. 5 seed is whoever loses in the quarterfinals to the team that wins the title.

***** With the start of the PIAA playoffs, it reminds me that this is the 25-year anniversary of the incredible performance of Carlisle's Billy Owens in the 1988 PIAA championship game.

Carlisle won its fourth consecutive title with an 80-54 victory against Central Catholic. The 6-9 Owens (pictured in the game against Central) scored 53 points, grabbed 12 rebounds, made 19 of 22 shots from the field and 14 of 16 from the free-throw line. To this day, that's the best game I ever saw a high school kid play. Owens had thunderous dunks. made outside shots and scored in the paint. I remember him at one point dribbling on his knees. I remember him grabbing a rebound, making the outlet pass, beating everyone up the court and dunking at the other end.

Owens, Alonzo Mourning and Shawn Kemp were considered by many as the top players in the class of 1988. Owens went on to be an All-American at Syracuse and played in the NBA for 10 seasons, although he was never a great player in the NBA.

I've been covering high school basketball for the P-G since 1980. The two best players I ever saw on their high school teams (and not in an all-star game like the Dapper Dan Roundball Classic) were Billy Owens - and LeBron James. I saw LeBron as a senior play New Castle.

***** Not to criticize WPIAL Class AA champ Beaver Falls because the Tigers were dominant throughout the WPIAL playoffs. But I say Class AA was down this year and nowhere near what it was in the past decade or so.

I think WPIAL Class AAAA girls also was down this season.

***** Chester is without a doubt the team to beat in the PIAA Class AAAA tournament. The Clippers' winning streak against PIAA teams is now at 74. Lower Merion, which lost in the District 1 final, also is good. So is Harrisburg.

Lower Merion and Harrisburg will actually play through the western side of the bracket. I think New Castle will play one of those two in the semifinals. New Castle most definitely can play - and beat - Harrisburg and Lower Merion. I think New Castle can also play with Chester. Yes, a lack of size might be a slight problem against one or two of those teams. But the way New Castle plays and its depth of talent will allow the Red Hurricanes to play with any team in this state.

Remember two years ago, Mt. Lebanon took Chester to overtime before losing in the PIAA final. Many thought Mt. Lebanon would get blown out. This Chester team is better than that Chester team, but I'd say this New Castle team is definitely better than that Mt. Lebanon team.

The next few weeks will most certainly be interesting.

***** Over the past few days, I received an e-mail, one phone call and got some comments about how the Clairton boys didn't show much sportsmanship during the medals ceremony after the WPIAL Class A final. To be honest, I didn't see much of the medals ceremony. But from what I've heard, it was nothing like the display of poor sportsmanship Aliquippa showed after it lost to Prep Charter in the 2007 PIAA Class AA final.

The comments of Clairton brought back memories when Aliquippa's Herb Pope left the court immediately after the game. Someone had to bring him back out for the awards ceremony. When Pope was handed his mideal, he dropped it to the ground and walked away.

When Aliquippa's players, including Pope, were called to the center of the court to accept the runner-up trophy they took it, put it on the floor and walked toward the locker room. Almost the entire team walked off the court before Prep Charter was awarded its medals and trophy.

Not to bring up bad memories.

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