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A plea to the "Pete" ...... WPIAL basketball playoff notes

Written by Mike White on .

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.

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McConnell averaged 48 vs. Bethel Park ....... WPIAL playoff pairing predictions

Written by Mike White on .

Here is what the WPIAL boys basketball playoff pairings should be ...

But wait a minute. Before the predictions, a couple notes:

***** Just call Matty McConnell the Black Hawks Killer. McConnell (pictured) is the star senior guard for Chartiers Matty McConnellValley and the Colts played the Bethel Park Black Hawks twice this season. Now how's this for an eye-opening statistic? McConnell averaged 48.5 points in the two games.

Yes, 48.5. McConnell scored 54 points against Bethel Park a few weeks ago. Then the two met again Saturday night and McConnell scored 43.

***** Section play is now finished in the WPIAL. Playoff pairings will be announced Tuesday night. But there are a number of games Monday night - and some of them are interesting.

One of the best is Allderdice at New Castle. I've been saying all along to watch Allderdice come state playoff time. The Dragons are definitely good enough to make a run in the state Class AAAA playoffs. Honestly, they are probably as good as any WPIAL Class AAAA team. I'm not saying they will definitely beat any WPIAL AAAA team, but they can play with any WPIAL team.

And don't think for a minute that the Dragons aren't thinking about playing the WPIAL's best. Why do you think Allderdice coach Buddy Valinsky and standout junior guard Ramon Creighton were at North Allegheny last night watching North Hills at North Allegheny?

OK, now for the predictions. If you let me run the WPIAL basketball playoffs, I would make the following seeds and pairings in WPIAL basketball:

QUAD-A

I don't remember this classification being so hard to seed. That's because there is no great team, but a plethora of pretty good ones. You can make a point and poke holes in any of the top four teams. It's also hard to figure out where Pine-Richland should be seeded because it beat North Allegheny and Mt. Lebanon, but also was defeated soundly by Upper St. Clair. Also, where should Plum and McKeesport go? How about Upper St. Clair? USC is a fourth-place team but has wins against Chartiers Valley and Pine-Richland and USC has a 16-5 record. And what about North Hills, which has wins against Pine-Richland and North Allegheny and took Hampton to triple overtime?

Then there is the matter of where to put Hempfield and Latrobe? They tied for the Section 1 title, but Section 1 has not done well in the playoffs. But should Latrobe be seeded close to Hempfield?

So, here goes:

(1) North Allegheny vs. (16) Penn-Trafford. (2) Chartiers Valley vs. (15) Butler. (3) Mt. Lebanon vs. (14) Gateway. (4) Hempfield vs. (13) Fox Chapel. (5) Plum vs. (12) Upper St. Clair. (6) McKeesport vs. (11) North Hills. (7) Pine-Richland vs. (10) Norwin. (8) Latrobe vs. (9) Bethel Park.

I've done this bracket over five different times. So it's hard to say. And I probably have Norwin too high. You could switch USC with Norwin, but USC still finished fourth in its section.

CLASS AAA

There are 20 teams in this bracket. That means there will be four preliminary-round games and those four winners will play into the bracket of 16. It's hard to predict what the WPIAL will do with seeding those eight teams in the preliminary-round games. Do they have the two worst play and the winner plays the No. 1 seed? Or does the No. 13 seed play the No. 20 seed?

One other thing about this bracket. Usually, the WPIAL says it doesn't pay any attention to what happens in non-section games Monday night. But Indiana plays Hampton. Shouldn't that game factor into seedings? If Hampton wins, shouldn't it be seeded higher than Indiana, even though Indiana is a section champ?

We'll have to go under the assumption that game won't matter. If it doesn't, here are the predictions:

Seeds 13 through 20 - 13. Highlands. 14. Knoch. 15. Laurel Highlands. 16. Southmoreland. 17. Montour. 18. West Allegheny. 19. West Shamokin. 20. Greensburg Salem.

I'm going to change my bracket a little from earlier. I had New Castle at 7. But if New Castle would win and Beaver Falls wins, they would play in the quarterfinals. That shouldn't happen because they are from same section and played two close games. So I changed some spots. That's what's nice about the blog. You can change some things after more thought. (1) Mars. (2) Beaver Falls. (3) Indiana. (4) West Mifflin. (5) Hampton vs. (12) Central Valley. (6) South Fayette vs. (11) Ambridge. (7) Uniontown vs. (10) South Park. (8) New Castle vs. (9) Steel Valley.

CLASS AA

This is the same as Class AAA. There are 20 teams in this bracket, which means there will be four preliminary-round games. What makes this bracket hard to seed is there were three ties for second place in sections - Our Lady of the Sacred Heart and Quaker Valley, Laurel and Neshannock, and Apollo-Ridge and Shady Side Academy. So you would think that maybe those second-place teams should be seeded near each other.

Also, how low do you seed Brownsville and Charleroi? They tied for the Section 4 championship. But Section 4's reputation, shall we say, isn't exactly stellar.

Anyway, here goes:

Seeds 13-20 - 13. Bishop Canevin. 14. Apollo-Ridge. 15. Avonworth. 16. Waynesburg. 17. Riverside. 18. Ford City. 19. Chartiers-Houston. 20. Frazier.

The rest: (1) Aliquippa. (2) Lincoln Park. (3) Seton-LaSalle. (4) Greensburg Central Catholic. (5) Washington vs. (12) Shady Side Academy. (6) Our Lady of the Sacred Heart vs. (11) Laurel. (7) Quaker Valley vs. (10) Charleroi. (8) Brownsville vs. (9) Neshannock.

CLASS A

I keep going back and forth whether Sewickley Academy deserves the No. 1 seed, or maybe Vincentian. Sewickley Academy is undefeated, but Vincentian and even Monessen played a much, much tougher non-section schedule. Vincentian sustained one section loss. Monessen was undefeated in its section.

There are 17 teams in this bracket. That means there will be one preliminary-round game. Here goes:

(1) Sewickley Academy vs. the winner of the 16-17 preliminary-round game between Geibel and Serra. (2) Vincentian vs. (15) Imani Christian. (3) Monessen vs. (14) St. Joseph's. (4) Cardinal Wuerl North Catholic vs. (13) Winchester Thurston. (5) Jeannette vs. (12) Riverview. (6) Cornell vs. (11) Clairton. (7) Union vs. (10) Jefferson-Morgan. (8) California vs. (9) Eden Christian.

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Bracketology: Friday losses might cost teams No. 1 seeds

Written by Mike White on .

Friday was the final night of WPIAL section play, and two games might have seriously altered the seedings in Class AAAA and Class A.

Hempfield lost to Latrobe in Class AAAA while Vincentian lost to Cardinal Wuerl North Catholic in Class A. Both Hempfield and Vincentian entered the game ranked No. 1 in their respective classes by the Post-Gazette. The WPIAL announces playoff pairings and seedings Tuesday night. The losses could cost Hempfield and Vincentian No. 1 seeds.

I probably would have made Hempfield the No. 1 seed before the loss to Latrobe. Now, I think the WPIAL drops Hempfield down to the No. 4 seed. Hempfield is a good team, but certainly not great. Hempfield is 19-2 and actually tied Latrobe for the Section 1 title.

The team now in line for the No. 1 seed is North Allegheny. The Tigers are 18-2. But wait. North Allegheny still has to play North Hills tonight in the final Section 3 game. Remember, North Hills beat North Allegheny the first time around. If North Allegheny wins, I say the Tigers get the No. 1 seed - and here's why: North Allegheny owns a victory against Mt. Lebanon, which tied Chartiers Valley for the Section 4 title.

So if North Allegheny wins tonight, I say the top four seeds are North Allegheny, Chartiers Valley, Mt. Lebanon and Hempfield. If the WPIAL wants to break up Chartiers Valley and Mt. Lebanon, the league could put Hempfield No. 3 and Mt. Lebanon No. 4. Now who goes to the fifth seed? Should it be Plum or McKeesport, who tied for the Section 2 title? But what about Pine-Richland, the second-place team in Section 3 that owns victories against North Allegheny and Mt. Lebanon? Also, what do you do with Latrobe? If they tied Hempfield for the section title, shouldn't Latrobe be seeded near Hempfield? Also, remember that Hempfield beat both Plum and McKeesport. But Latrobe lost to Plum.

There is no doubt Class AAAA will be the toughest for the WPIAL to seed. In Class A, a major question is who gets the No. 1 seed, Vincentian or Sewickely Academy? Vincentian is 14-8, but seven of the Royals' losses are to teams in higher classifications, including AAA and AAAA teams. The Royals played a tremendous schedule and shouldn't get penalized for playing tough teams. Sewickley Academy's non-section schedule wasn't even close to Vincentian's. But Sewickley Academy made it through the season undefeated and beat all Class A teams it faced. That should count for something. But the thing is, Sewickley Academy didn't play a Class A team as good as Cardinal Wuerl North Catholic.

I say the No. 1 seed goes to Sewickely Academy.

Tomorrow, I will give you more seeds and predicted first-round pairings. But for today, here are the predicted top four seeds in each class:

QUAD-A - 1. North Allegheny. 2. Chartiers Valley. 3. Mt. Lebanon. 4. Hempfield. This is based on North Allegheny beating North Hills tonight. If North Hills wins, it should be: 1. Chartiers Valley. 2. North Allegheny. 3. Mt. Lebanon. 4. Hempfield.

CLASS AAA - 1. Mars. 2. Beaver Falls. 3. Indiana. 4. West Mifflin.

CLASS AA - 1. Aliquippa. 2. Lincoln Park. 3. Seton-LaSalle. 4. Greensburg Central Catholic.

CLASS A - 1. Sewickley Academy. 2. Vincentian. 3. Monessen. 4. Cardinal Wuerl North Catholic.

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Duquesne women offer scholarship to seventh-grader

Written by Mike White on .

The Duquesne University women's basketball team already has one Blackhawk High School player in its recruiting class. Chassidy Omogrosso is a Blackhawk senior, one of the WPIAL's top players and signed with Duquesne in November.

Now Duquesne is after another player from the Blackhawk school district. But this one is in seventh grade.

And she's only 12 years old and stands 5 feet 1.

Yes, Duquesne has offered a scholarship to a seventh-grader. Mackenzie Amalia is two years away from high school, but Duquesne coach Dan Burt recently offered her a scholarship. Think of it. A girl has her first scholarship offer before she becomes a teenager.

This is not a joke, or publicity stunt. Actually, it's not all that unusual for the Duquesne women. In the spring of 2013, Burt offered a scholarship to Desiree Oliver of Penn Hills. She was in eighth grade at the time.

Amalia, a point guard, obviously is a talented player. She attended the Duquesne women's camp last summer and Burt liked her there. Amalia and her family were invited to attend a Duquesne game recently. Burt met with Amalia and her family after the game and offered the scholarship.

You may be scratching your head at Duquesne's move, especially when you consider Amalia is 5-1. What if she doesn't grow much more?

Is the whole thing crazy? Maybe. But this is the way of the recruiting world nowadays. College coaches in various sports recruit kids earlier and earlier, for better or worse. I'm waiting for the first Tee-ball player to be offered. It can't be far off, right?

There are no NCAA rules pertaining to when a college can offer a scholarship to an athlete. There have been numerous stories in the past few years of a college offering a scholarship to kids who weren't in high school yet. A few years ago, when Lane Kiffin was the football coach at Southern California, he offered a scholarship to David Sills, a talented seventh-grade quarterback from Delaware.

As for Amalia, she has not accepted the scholarship offer from Duquesne. Her older sister, Madison, is a talented sophomore player on the Blackhawk girls team, the defending WPIAL and PIAA Class AAA champion. The Amalias father is Bob Amalia, highly successful baseball coach at Blackhawk. Bob Amalia is a former basketball assistant coach at Blackhawk under John Miller and is in his first season as a Blackhawk girls assistant.

The Amalias are trying to downplay Duquesne's offer.

"We're humbled, but we're not making a big deal out of it," said Bob Amalia. 

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WPIAL basketball playoff picture

Written by Mike White on .

This is the final weekend of section play in WPIAL basketball, and only a few playoff spots are open in both boys and girls.

Here is how the playoffs work: The top four teams in each section qualify. If there is a tie for fourth, head-to-head competition breaks the tie. If teams tied for fourth and split two section games, they both qualify.

If there is a three-way tie for fourth, head-to-head competition again breaks the tie. Head-to-head competition also breaks a three-way tie for third.

Teams that have already clinched playoff spots are fighting for seeds. This could change, but right now I have Hempfield, Mars, Aliquippa and Vincentian as the No. 1 seeds for their respective classes.

The WPIAL will announce playoff pairings and seeds Tuesday night. The playoffs will start next Friday.

Here are the teams that have clinched playoff spots, and also scenarios for teams still alive.

BOYS

CLASS AAAA - (Section 1) Hempfield, Latrobe, Norwin, Penn-Trafford (pictured is Hempfield star guard Kason Harrell). (2) Plum, McKeesport, Fox Chapel, Gateway.Kason Harrell (3) North Allegheny, Pine-Richland, North Hills. The winner of Seneca Valley vs. Butler also qualifies. (4) Mt. Lebanon, Chartiers Valley, Bethel Park and Upper St. Clair.

CLASS AAA – (1) Mars, Hampton, Knoch, Highlands. (2) Beaver Falls, New Castle, Ambridge, Central Valley. (3) Indiana, Southmoreland, Greensburg Salem, West Shamokin. (4) West Mifflin, Uniontown, Steel Valley, Laurel Highlands. (5) South Fayette, South Park, Montour, West Allegheny. Also, Trinity can make it, but only if it beats McGuffey, and West Allegheny loses to Montour.

CLASS AA – (1) Lincoln Park, Laurel, Neshannock, Riverside. (2) Greensburg Central Catholic, Apollo-Ridge, Shady Side Academy, Ford City. (3) Seton-LaSalle, Bishop Canevin, Washington, Chartiers-Houston. Also, Burgettstown can qualify, but only if it beats Washington and Chartiers-Houston loses to Fort Cherry. (4) Charleroi, Brownsville, Waynesburg, Frazier. (5) Aliquippa, Quaker Valley, Our Lady of the Sacred Heart, Avonworth.

CLASS A – (1) Sewickley Academy, Cornell, Union, Eden Christian. (2) Vincentian, Cardinal Wuerl North Catholic, Riverview. Also, If St. Joseph’s beats Leechburg, St. Joseph's qualifies. If Leechburg wins and Riverview beats Springdale, then both St. Joe’s and Leechburg qualify. If Leechburg wins, and Springdale beats Riverview, then just Leechburg qualifies. Springdale can’t make it at all. (3) Monessen, California, Geibel, Jefferson-Morgan. (4) Jeannette, Clairton, Winchester Thurston, Imani Christian, Serra.

GIRLS

CLASS AAAA – (Section 1) Penn-Trafford, Norwin, Hempfield, Latrobe. (2) Penn Hills, McKeesport, Gateway, Plum. (3) North Allegheny, Pine-Richland, Shaler, Seneca Valley. Also, Butler can qualify if it beats Seneca Valley tomorrow. (4) Bethel Park, Baldwin, Mt. Lebanon, Upper St. Clair.

Chassidy OmogrossoCLASS AAA – (1) Mars, Hampton, Ford City. Also, If Deer Lakes beats Highlands tonight, Deer Lakes qualfies. If Highlands wins tonight, Highlands qualifies. Kittanning is still alive also. (2) Blackhawk, Ambridge, Beaver. (pictured is Blackhawk star guard Chassidy Omogrosso). Also, Hopewell and Ellwood City are alive for the other spot. If they both win or both lose tonight, they both go because they split in head-to-head. If one wins and the other loses, the winner goes. (3) Indiana, Mount Pleasant, Greensburg Salem, Derry. (4) Elizabeth Forward, Belle Vernon, South Park, Ringgold. Thomas Jefferson can qualify but only if it wins tonight and Ringgold loses to South Park. (5) Chartiers Valley, McGuffey, South Fayette, Trinity.

CLASS AA – (1) Neshannock, Mohawk, Riverside, Shenango. (2) Burrell, Greensburg Central Catholic, Shady Side Academy, West Shamokin. Also, if Apollo-Ridge beats West Shamokin, then Apollo-Ridge also qualifies. (3) Seton-LaSalle, Bishop Canevin, Chartiers-Houston, Brentwood. (4) Frazier, Washington, Beth-Center, Charleroi. (5) Carlynton, Our Lady of the Sacred Heart, Freedom, Avonworth. Also, South Side Beaver is still alive, but can make it only if it beats Freedom, and Avonworth loses to Northgate.

CLASS A – (1) Quigley, Aliquippa, Cornell, Sewickley Academy. (2) Vincentian, Cardinal Wuerl North Catholic, Riverview. Also, the winner of Leechburg vs. St. Joseph's tonight will most likely qualify, provided Vincentian beats Leechburg Friday, and St. Joseph beats Springdale Saturday. 3) California, Jefferson-Morgan, Geibel, Fort Cherry. (4) Serra, Imani Christian, Winchester Thurston, Ellis School.

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