WPIAL to have hearings with five Ambridge players

Written by Mike White on .

Items that fell off my laptop

The WPIAL will have six eligibility hearings today - and all five will be with football players from Ambridge.

Five Ambridge football players have transferred to other schools in the past two months. Included among the transfers are the team's quarterback, top running back and top receiver. Two went to Aliquippa.

The WPIAL will have separate hearings with every player in what has become one of the most unusual situations involving transfers. I don't ever remember one school losing five players, including the top skill position players.

The WPIAL will try to determine if the transfers were at least partly for athletic intent, which is against PIAA and WPIAL rules. But a few of the transferring students apparently moved into their new districts. It might be hard to prove athletic intent with some of these, but Ambridge has contested the transfers.

Wiltrout to throw

Connellsville's Madison Wiltrout set a national high school record in the javelin last year, but has thrown only once this year because she was recovering from "Tommy John" surgery on her right elbow last summer. But Wiltrout will throw again Friday in the Baldwin Invitational, one of the largest meets in the eastern part of the country.

This will be the 43rd annual Baldwin Invitational.

Biega Hall of Famer

Many times, coaches get into a Hall of Fame after they retire. But Beaver Falls boys basketball coach Doug Biega was inducted into the Beaver County Sports Hall of Fame last Sunday. Well deserved. He has won four WPIAL titles and two state championships.

But here's a question about Biega: Will he throw his name into the ring for the coaching job at North Allegheny? I say yes.

Also, I expect former North Allegheny coach Dave DeGregorio to be a candidate for the Vincentian job that just opened when George Yokitis took the Montour job.

Perfect stuff

So, are you impressed or not? Serra sophomore baseball pitcher Zach Bowen threw his second consecutive perfect game Monday in a 17-0 defeat of Geibel. The game lasted only five innings. He also had a perfect game last week in a 17-0, five-inning game against Clairton.

Yes, that is awfully weak competition in Class A. About as weak as you can get in the WPIAL. But it's still perfection. Overall, Bowen has 13 consecutive perfect innings.

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Knoch's Geist betters his record throw, wins Penn Relays

Written by Mike White on .

Jordan Geist Penn Relays

Knoch High School junior Jordan Geist keeps throwing the shot put farther, and keeps breaking records.

A few weeks ago, Geist thew the shot put 72 feet, 9 1/2 inches. It was the longest throw ever by any high school shot putter in Pennsylvania and put Geist in the top 10 all-time nationally.

On Friday, Geist competed at the Penn Relays in Philadelphia and threw 73-0 3/4. It set a Penn Relays high school record. The Penn Relays is a prestigious event that draws top competitors from Pennsylvania and also other states and even countries. The second-place finisher was from Jamaica. (Geist is pictured above at the Penn Relays standing next to the shot put marker. The 73-0 3/4 is 22.27 meters).

Geist will compete next at the Baldwin Invitational Friday at Baldwin High School. A year ago, Geist set a Baldwin Invitational record with a throw of 69-1.

Also at the Baldwin meet, Connellsville's Madison Wiltrout will compete in the javelin. Wiltrout set a national high school record in the javelin last year. But she had "Tommy John" surgery on her elbow last summer. She has been cleared to throw this year, but has made only one throw. And by the way, that throw of 148 feet is by far the best in the WPIAL this year. But Wiltrout is capable of much, much more.



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Pirates have a "Buddy" throwing out first pitch tonight

Written by Mike White on .

"Buddy Ball" was a big hit this winter. Coach Buddy Valinsky built an extremely strong basketball team at Allderdice and Dragons made it to the state championship game in Class AAAA.

Now, it's time for "Buddy Baseball." At least for one pitch.

Buddy Valinsky, the Allderdice boys basketball coach, is throwing out the first pitch tonight at the Pirates game. Sometimes there is more than one first pitch. Buddy is throwing his at 6:40.

Valinsky (pictured) was the Post-Gazette coach of the year, but apparently he won't be the only Allderdice basketball person throwing a pitch. Valinsky also said players James Jackson and Ramon Creighton will also throw a pitch on the side somewhere to Allderdice assistant coaches Jeff Cohen and Andy Pakler. 

"I think the Pirates wanted the three who won awards, since I got the coach of the year and [Jackson and Creighton] were on the Fab 5. I guess I go to the mound," said Valinsky. "It's sort of like our evening out with the team."

The entire Allderdice team will be at the event. Valinsky said an Allderdice alum donated a limousine for the team to go to PNC Park and another alum is providing a private box for the team.

As for Valinsky's pitch, will it be a hard fastball? The last local basketball coach known to have thrown out the first pitch before a Pirate game was New Castle's Ralph Blundo in 2014, after his team went undefeated. You can't get on Blundo about his pitch because he takes it personally. But let's just say Ralph apparently got confused with slo-pitch softball.

"C'mon now, I was actually a pretty decent baseball player in my day," said Valinsky, an Allderdice graduate. "I was pretty good. But I liked basketball more.

"I actually talked to Ralph about this and he said you'll be nervous. Put it this way, I can't be any worse than when 50 Cent threw one." 

"This is all part of that dream I said I was living through during the season. I still haven't woken up yet."

Sto-Rox hires coach

Sto-Rox High School hired Ryan Hughes as boys basketball coach. Hughes was an assistant coach at Sto-Rox when Bill Minear was head coach and had some championship teams.

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Yokitis leaves Vincentian to take Montour job

Written by Mike White on .

Montour High School hired a new boys basketball coach tonight. By George, the Vincentian coach got the job.
George Yokitis, who was extremely successful as Vincentian's coach the past four seasons, was hired at a school board meeting. He takes over for Will Saunders, who was not rehired after two seasons.

Yokitis was 157-51 at Vincentian (.754 percentage) and won two WPIAL Class A championships in 2011 and 2013. His teams made the WPIAL playoffs all eight seasons and won four section titles.

Before Yokitis took over, Vincentian was 22-51 in three previous seasons. (Yokitis is pictured after winning a WPIAL championship)

Yokitis said the decision of whether to leave Vincentian for Montour was "extremely difficult." Yokitis, 64, lives in Ross Township and works as a lawyer. He talked extensively about his reasons for taking the Montour job.

"First off, I've had the privilege of the last eight years working with the most wonderful kids you'd want to coach," said Yokitis. "I had so many people from college coaches to fans say what great kids we had. What we accomplished was because of the kids, not me. They made the semifinals [of the WPIAL] playoffs five times, which I think is extraordinary because it's difficult to do. Lord knows they probably would've won a couple more games if I didn't foul them up."

Yokitis laughed and then went on to say more.

"One of the reasons I am doing this is – and it was vital to me – was because the top administrators at Montour are good people and a lot of them are basketball people," said Yokitis. "Plus, I'm so impressed with Lou [Cerro] as their football coach and athletic director. He has genuine concern for the basketball program.

"Another thing is how the Montour kids were described to me by their superintendent and others. They're like the kids I had at Vincentian – hard working, gritty, but respectful and good sports.

"The last reason why I would do this - and it goes for anybody with a pulse – is that I like new challenges. It's one of the most vital and critical things I have going in my life. You get older like me, you like challenges. This is a tremendous challenge."

Montour was 13-10 this past season after going 9-14 the previous year.Under the WPIAL's new alignment for next season with six classifications, Montour will play in Class 5A Section 2. It shapes up as an extremely strong section with Chartiers Valley, Hampton, Knoch, Mars, Moon and West Allegheny.

"I'm going to get the opportunity to interface with many of the very best coaches in this area and the state," said Yokitis. "They're there and we know who they are."

Yokitis' teams at Vincentian were known for their uptempo, pressing style. He called it controlled chaos. The Royals were one of the few teams to average 90 points a game for an entire season when they averaged 90.5 in the 2013-14 season.

A big question is will Yoktis try to have Montour play the same way?

"My short answer is yes," said Yokitis. "I've been through this before with many people, and the reason I like to play that way is what I learned from Rick Pitino probably 30 years ago at Providence. Kids really like to play that way. Fans seem to like it and people seem to like it."

Montour hasn't been great the past two years, but the Spartans have some impressive teams – and players – at younger levels, including seventh and eighth.

Vincentian should also be pretty good without Yokitis. Four of the Royals' top seven players are sophomores.
And OK, let's have some fun now. Who might be the next Vincentian coach? If I'm Vincentian, I'm calling Dave DeGregorio tomorrow. Of course, he could end up somewhere else, too.

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South Fayette hires Mislan ..... Woodland Hills finds success in baseball ..... other notes

Written by Mike White on .

This, that and the other thing in high school sports:

Dave Mislan resigned as boys basketball coach at Brentwood after this past season. But he wasn't out of a job for long.

This morning, South Fayette called Mislan and informed him that he is the school's new boys basketball coach. South Fayette did final interviews late into last night and Mislan had to go to bed not knowing if he had the position. He woke up to good news. 

South Fayette is a good job. Rich Bonnaure built a strong program before walking away after 16 seasons. South Fayette also is a growing district and the school certainly has athletes, evidenced by its success in football.

Mislan was a logical choice for the position. He has head coaching experience and he lives in the South Fayette district. He has a son in eighth grade who plays basketball.

Mislan did a nice job at Brentwood, his alma mater. Sure, he had some not-so-successful seasons, but he often didn't have much talent to work with. In 11 seasons, he made the WPIAL playoffs six times. That's pretty decent for Brentwood's program. His record was 113-131, but should the record matter that much in this case? It wasn't like Mislan was blessed with great talent.

Under the new six classification system in the WPIAL next season, South Fayette will play in 4A. Look for Mislan and the Lions to have plenty of success in their section, which includes Belle Vernon, Elizabeth Forward, Keystone Oaks, McGuffey, South Park, Uniontown and Waynesburg. That isn't exactly a loaded section. South Fayette should do very well. There are only 23 teams in 4A and three sections. Section 2 is the loaded section with New Castle, Beaver Falls, Ambridge and Quaker Valley, among others.

Rise of Wolverine baseball

One of the biggest turnaround stories in WPIAL baseball this season has to be the Woodland Hills Wolverines. They haven't played many games (only eight), but they are certainly game for the playoffs.

Woodland Hills is 4-4 overall and 4-3 in Class AAAA Section 3. The Wolverines are in third place behind Shaler (6-1) and Fox Chapel (5-2). Three teams make the playoffs and Woodland Hills has a one-game lead over Kiski Area (3-4) and Central Catholic (3-4). Woodland Hills is sitting nice because it has defeated Central Catholic twice and Kiski Area once.

A record above .500 in section play is a big deal for Woodland Hills. The Wolverines were 2-8 and 1-9 in section play the past two seasons and have not finished above .500 in section or overall games since 2009, the last time they made the playoffs.

Since 2000, Woodland Hills has made the playoffs only three times and finished with a record above .500 three times - in 2000 (12-7), 2002 (11-8) and 2009 (13-6).

Fortson in Ohio HOF

Former Shaler basketball player Danny Fortson will be inducted into the Ohio Basketball Hall of Fame May 21.

The Ohio HOF was started in 2004 to recognize individuals who made impacts on basketball in Ohio. Fortson played three years at the University of Cincinnati in the 1990s and was a first-team All-American in 1997. He went on to Dan Fortson and Strightplay 10 years in the NBA.

I'd say Fortson is the best player I've seen come out of the WPIAL in 25 years. DeJuan Blair came from the City League. Fortson was 6-7 and like a baby Moses Malone in the WPIAL. He transferred from Altoona to Shaler before his junior year but played only two games before he was ruled ineligible by the WPIAL and PIAA for transferring for athletic intent. He had a monster senior year at Shaler, though.

How good was Fortson? Well, remember this: He was a McDonald's All-American. That should tell enough. (Pictured is Dan Fortson and close Shaler friend, Justin Stright, holding up a framed Sports Illustrated cover of Fortson from his Cincinnati days. This was taken shortly before the 1997 NBA draft).

NFL draft and the WPIAL

Pitt receiver Tyler Boyd (Clairton graduate) will likely be the first former WPIAL player taken in this year's NFL draft. Boyd is projected to go in the first three rounds.

After Boyd, the next WPIAL player to be drafted will probably be West Virginia linebacker Nick Kwiatkoski (Bethel Park graduate). Today's Post-Gazette has a story about Kwiatkoski and whether any other former WPIAL players fit into the NFL draft. 

Check out the THEN and NOW photos of Kwiatkoski from his Bethel Park days to his West Virginia days. Just a little change, huh? He was a 190-some pound DB-WR-TB at Bethel Park. Now he's a 240-pound inside linebacker waiting for the draft.

Then ....

(making a tackle on Central Catholic's Anthony Nixon)

Now ...

(at West Virginia)

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