Notes, thoughts and anecdotes about the WPIAL basketball playoffs
The WPIAL basketball playoffs begin tomorrow night and will culminate with title games in two weeks at Pitt's Petersen Events Center.
Now is my time to make my plea to the Pete.
I don't know who makes the decision on this. Whoever it is, please don't configure the Pete the way it was the last time the WPIAL played title games there in 2006.
In short, let fans sit on the first level.
Nine years ago, when half of the WPIAL title games were played at the Pete, all of the first-level seats on one side of the court were pushed back. The other side of the court has private boxes, So, basically there were no seats on the first level for fans who bought a ticket.
It was like a cavern on the first level with all of the emptiness. I have no idea who will get to sit in the private boxes at the WPIAL finals. I don't really care. On the other side of the court is where the Oakland Zoo sits. Why push those seats back? And don't use the security excuse. If you don't want to have students sit there, fine. But let fans sit there.
One of the charms of having the high school games at the Palumbo Center was the atmosphere. Fans could sit close to the court. There was an electricity in the air for many games. It won't be that way if those first-level seats aren't used. And I'm sorry, if you are able to manage The Zoo for Pitt games, you should be able to manage high school fans.
More playoff talk
**** Could it be them again? If New Castle and Hampton win first-round games, they will meet in the Class AAA quarterfinals. It would be the 11th meeting between the two over four seasons. New Castle had won all nine in the previous three seasons, but Hampton knocked off New Castle in a non-section game this season.
**** Speaking of New Castle, don't sleep on the Red Hurricanes just because they are a No. 6 seed in Class AAA. Something tells me teams would like to stay away from New Castle in these first few rounds.
**** You'd have to think Beaver Falls has a chance to win Class AAA. That would be something, considering the Tigers start two sophomores, Donovan Jeter and Josh Creach, and a freshman - Torian Leak. (Jeter is pictured to the left in a game against Ambridge).
**** Mars is the No. 1 seed in Class AAA for the first time in school history. It's just another example of how Rob Carmody has this program rolling. This is the third consecutive year Mars won a section title. Before that run, Mars had won only one section championship in school history (1989).
Mars doesn't have a senior in its starting lineup and freshman Rob Carmody (son of the coach) is a starter at guard. And when you consider Mars has good groups at the younger ages, look for the Planets to be a top-notch team for a number of years.
**** It says here that Indiana might be the most intriguing team in the boys tournament. This is probably the best Indiana team since joining the WPIAL in the 1980s. Indiana comes from a WPIAL section that isn't exactly highly-touted. But this Indiana team has talent and a 20-2 record. The Little Indians didn't look good in a non-WPIAL game against Allderdice. But Indiana took Pine-Richland to three overtimes before losing.
Plus, Indiana beat Hampton in a non-section game Monday and Hampton still got the No. 3 seed. Word is Hampton was without some starters, but it was still an impressive win for Indiana on the road. Indiana plays defending WPIAL champ Central Valley in one of the best first-round matchups.
**** The reason why Indiana wasn't seeded higher than Hampton? Because the two played Monday night on the final night of the season, and the WPIAL basketball committee doesn't pay any attention to those non-section games on the final night.
"They mean nothing to us," said Dan O'Neil, chairman of the WPIAL basketball committee. "We set up the brackets [on Monday]. If we tried to come in and change a few teams the next day, it would change the whole bracket and we just don't have time to do that and have everything ready Tuesday.
"Plus, those Monday games, sometimes coaches hold players out or play differently than normal."
**** Class AAA hasn't had much depth the past few years, at least in terms of quality teams. Not this year.
**** Look for South Fayette to play with a little chip on its shoulder. The Lions weren't exactly enthralled that the WPIAL gave them a No. 7 seed in Class AAA, despite the Lions winning a section title. South Fayette plays Steel Valley in one of the better Class AAA first-round games. South Fayette defeated Steel Valley, 61-51, earlier this season.
**** The Cornell boys play Jefferson-Morgan tomorrow night. On Saturday, the same two schools play in girls first-round game.
**** Two of the top six leading scorers in the WPIAL will meet tomorrow night when Cornell's Dane Jackson (29.3) plays Jeff-Morgan's Rece Henneman (24.6). Jackson (pictured) was second in the league in scoring and Henneman sixth.
**** Greensburg Salem plays Ringgold in a Class AAA girls preliminary-round game Saturday. If Greensburg Salem wins, that means the top two scorers in the WPIAL will meet in a first-round game Wednesday. Blackhawk's Chassidy Omogrosso averaged 26.7 to lead the WPIAL and Greensburg Salem's Claire Oberdorf averaged 26.5.
**** I'd say there are two players who are definite Fabulous 5 picks this year. The playoffs might be a big determining factor for the other three spots.