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Vincentian, Blackhawk girls repeat ...... Aliquippa falls short

Written by Mike White on .

The Vincentian and Blackhawk girls teams made history, while the Aliquippa boys were kept from history.

That's how the state basketball championships ended up for the WPIAL this weekend. The Vincentian and Blackhawk girls teams won championships today for the second consecutive season. It is the first time that the WPIAL had two girls teams repeat as champions.

The Seton-LaSalle girls also were trying to repeat as champions, but lost Friday to Neumann-Goretti.

Meanwhile, the Aliquippa boys were trying to become only the 13th team in WPIAL history to win a state championship with a perfect record, but the Quips were upended this afternoon by Conwell-Egan, 62-51.

Vincentian celebrationFor the Vincentian girls, it was a memorable game on a few fronts. First, the Royals clubbed Old Forge, 86-38, to win the Class A championship. It was the biggest blowout in the history of PIAA girls championships. The PIAA girls championships go back to 1973. (Pictured, the Vincentian girls celebrate their title).

While Vincentian had a memorable game, one of the Royals had an unforgettable performance. Brenna Wise, the Royals' sensational senior guard-forward, had a triple double with 30 points, 11 rebounds and 13 steals.

The PIAA doesn't keep individual statistical records. But I've covered the state championships since 1984 and I never remember a player having a triple double. And the 13 steals? Wow.

Now, Old Forge was way overmatched. But still? To have a triple double in the state title game is pretty special.

The 86 points scored by Vincentian ties the second-most points scored in a PIAA girls game.Blackhawk celebration

Blackhawk, meanwhile, won its second consecutive Class AAA championship, 46-40, against Archbishop Wood. (Pictured are the Blackhawk girls celebrating).

Chassidy Omogrosso and Courtney Vannoy were quite the dynamic duo for Blackhawk, combining for 40 points. Omogrosso scored 23 and Vannoy 17.

Like Wise, it was a memorable end to a great career for Omogrosso. She passed the great Swin Cash of McKeesport and moved into sixth place on the WPIAL's all-time scoring list with 2,686 points.

Wise also scored over 2,000 career points and ended as the No. 15 scorer in WPIAL history with 2,315 points.

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State basketball championship predictions

Written by Mike White on .

Before we get to the predictions for the state championships, let's talk attendance.

It will be interesting to see what attendance will be like this weekend in Hershey for the PIAA championships. It probably won't be good. 

The reason? Philadelphia Public and Catholic League teams.

Six of the eight teams in the PIAA boys championships are from the Philadelphia Catholic and Public League. Over the years, one thing has been proven: A number of the teams from those leagues bring nobody. Philadelphia teams have hurt attendance over the years.

Last year, attendance for the games was a little more than 20,000. New Castle's great following helped that. There is no New Castle this year. The year before, attendance was 24,582.

From 2007-12, the games were played at Penn State, and attendance dropped every year. In 2007, the games drew 33,008 in State College. The following four years, attendance was 22,539, 18,620, 16,976 and 15,392. Philadelphia teams had a big effect on that drop.

Predictions 

BOYS

Aliquippa vs. Conwell-Egan - The undefeated Quips have rolled in the PIAA playoffs, winning every game by 24 points or more. This one won't be a blowout. Conwell-Egan is a Philly Catholic League team and it has played some of the best teams in Philly. The teams look to be about even in size. Key to the game is whether Conwell-Egan turns over the ball against Aliquippa's defense. Also, look for Aliquippa's Chucky Humphries to possibly be a difference. Winner: Aliquippa.

Roman Catholic vs. Martin Luther King - A tossup game. Both teams have good guard play. Guard Tony Carr is ranked among the best 100 juniors in the country. He could be the deciding factor. Winner: Roman Catholic.

Archbishop Carroll vs. Neumann-Goretti - Neumann-Goretti is going for its fifth title in six years. Division I college talent is on both teams. Winner: Neumann-Goretti.

Constitution vs. Farrell - Constitution has won its four PIAA playoff games by an average of close to 40 points a game. It's hard to see Farrell winning, especially without starting point guard Jamel Brown, who was arrested on drug charges Monday. Winner: Constitution.

GIRLS

Blackhawk vs. Archbishop Wood - I keep thinking this Blackhawk team isn't as good as last year's that won a PIAA title. But the Cougars just keep doing enough to win. Blackhawk beat Wood in last year's title game. Blackhawk's Chassidy Omogrosso has been terrific, but her supporting cast will be key to this game. Winner: Blackhawk.

Seton-LaSalle vs. Neumann-Goretti - Neumann-Goretti is ranked No. 1 in the country by USA Today. I say no way a Class AA team is the best in the country. But will the Saints be the best in Pennsylvania? Guard play will be interesting to watch because both teams have two guards headed to Division I colleges. That means the game could be won on the inside. Winner: Neumann-Goretti.

Vincentian vs. Old Forge - Vincentian pounded Old Forge in last year's title game and it could be more of the same this year. Old Forge doesn't have a starter taller than 5-7. Enough said. Brenna Wise will end her wonderful career in style. Winner: Vincentian.

Cumberland Valley vs. Central Bucks West - Cumberland Valley is the defending champion. That's enough for me. Winner: Cumberland Valley.

 

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Aliquippa lone WPIAL rep in boys finals ..... semifinal recap

Written by Mike White on .

In terms of WPIAL boys basketball teams still playing, Aliquippa is a loner.

Aliquippa is the only boys team from the WPIAL to make it to the PIAA championships this weekend. Is that unusual? Not really.

This is actually the second time in three years that only one WPIAL team made it to the boys finals. Two years ago, it was Beaver Falls. In fact, over the previous 20 seasons, 10 times the WPIAL had only one representative in the state finals. But if Aliquippa would've lost to West Middlesex tonight, the WPIAL would not have had a team in the state finals for the first time since 1966.

But things do go in cycles with these types of things. Last year and in 2012, the WPIAL had three boys teams in the championships. Heck, it was only four years ago that the WPIAL had four teams in the PIAA finals. Since the PIAA went to four classifications in the 1983-84 season, the only other time the WPIAL had four teams in the finals was 2004.

On the girls side, the WPIAL will have three teams in the state finals. The funny thing is all three are seeking second consecutive titles. The teams are Blackhawk, Seton-LaSalle and Vincentian. The WPIAL has never had two girls teams repeat as champions in the same year.

Now, onto what happened tonight with WPIAL teams and City League member Allderdice ...

PIAA semifinal roundup

BOYS

Martin Luther King 48, Allderdice 35 - The greatest playoff run at Allderdice since 1987 ended with a Class AAAA loss to a Philadelphia Public League team. Allderdice's offense struggled mightily down the stretch. Allderdice took a 30-28 lead with 4:20 left in the third quarter. But the Dragons scored only five points the rest of the way.

"It just wasn't our night," Allderdice coach Buddy Valinsky said to reporter Rod Frisco after the game. "Maybe it was their defense. Maybe it was us. I do know that's the quickest team we've played. Definitely."

James Jackson led Allderdice with 10 points. 

"I'm not sure what our shooting percentage was. Eighteen, twenty percent? All I know it was abysmal," Valinsky said.

Aliquippa 72, West Middlesex 48 - The undefeated Quips (29-0) continue to roll in Class AA. The Quips have won every game by double figures this year and this was their closest of four PIAA games.

Junior guard Jassir Jordan was terrific for Aliquippa, scoring a career-high 30 points. He made 10 of 15 shots, including 2 of 3 from 3-point range. He was 8 of 8 from the free-throw line.

Jordan and Stephon McGinnis make for a terrific guard tandem. It's hard to believe there is a better backcourt in Chucky Humphriesthe state in Class AA. McGinnis didn't have one of his best games, but still had 15 points. Junior forward Chucky Humphries added 12. I love Humphries' game. McGinnis and Jordan get plenty of "pub," but the 6-5 Humphries also has been gigantic for the Quips. (Humphries is pictured after Tuesday night's semifinal win)

Humphreys is excellent at something that has been lost in much of basketball: the mid-range shot. He has a deadly 15-foot jumper.

Aliquippa's defense in the first half also was big. Trey Staunch, West Middlesex's 6-5 senior who has more than 2,000 career points, had only two points in the first half before finishing with 24.

GIRLS

Cumberland Valley 56, Norwin 40 - Offense was a problem for Norwin, the WPIAL AAAA champion. The Knights had only 23 points through three quarters and went on to lose. Kelly Jekot, a Villanova recruit who was named Gatorade Pa. player of the year recently, led Cumberland Valley with 22, and her sister, Katie, a sophomore, added 18. Alayna Gribble had 21 for Norwin.

Blackhawk 71, Berks Catholic 61 - Chassidy Omogrosso poured in 31 points and moved in seventh place on the WPIAL all-time scoring list with 2,661 points. She passed Carrie Bordas, a 1990 Aliquippa graduate who had 2,658. Omogrosso now is only 17 points from legendary Swin Cash, who had 2,678 at McKeesport. 

Breanna Hoover had 12 points and Bridgette Shaffer 11 for Blackhawk. The Cougars led by only two points after three quarters, but outscored Berks Catholic, 19-11, in the fourth.

Seton-LaSalle 61, Bishop Canevin 47 - In a rematch of the WPIAL championship, Seton-LaSalle rolled in Class AA. It was the Rebels' fourth victory against Bishop Canevin this season. Seton-LaSalle's guards were the difference in the game. Nicolete Newman scored 19, Cassidy Walsh 18 and Shaunay Edmonds 12.

Vincentian 63, Blairsville 37 - One of the most dominating runs by a WPIAL girls team continued as Vincentian crushed Blairsville. Vincentian has won eight postseason games (WPIAL and PIAA) by at least 22 points. Now get this: The Royals have won their four PIAA games by 57, 31, 28 and 26 points.

Brenna Wise had her usual standout game for Vincentian. A Pitt recruit, Wise had 20 points and 15 rebounds while guard Torrieonna Cash had 13.

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Sites set for Tuesday's state semifinals

Written by Mike White on .

Five teams from the WPIAL and one from the City League will play Tuesday in the state semifinals of the basketball playoffs.

City League boys champion Allderdice will play Martin Luther King of the Philadelphia Public League at Chambersburg High School at 7 p.m.

In Class AA boys, Aliquippa meets West Middlesex at New Castle at 7 p.m.

In girls, Vincentian plays Blairsville in a Class A game at Plum at 6 p.m. It will be followed by Seton-LaSalle vs. Bishop Canevin at 7:30.

Blackhawk plays Berks Catholic at Bald Eagle High School at 6 p.m.

And Norwin plays Cumberland Valley at Altoona at 7 p.m.

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O'Connor resigns as Bethel Park coach

Written by Mike White on .

The Big Ben of WPIAL coaching is going to small ball.

Ben O'Connor, who at 6 feet 7 or so has to be one of the biggest coaches in the WPIAL, resigned today as Bethel Park's boys basketball coach.

O'Connor loves coaching. He loves Bethel Park. So why walk away from something he loves? His family.

O'Connor and his wife have three young children ages 4, 5 and 7. He wants to be involved with their sports teams as they get older. He also wants to be around more for his father, who has been battling some health issues.

"I plan on coaching T-ball, softball, flag football, whatever," O'Connor said with a laugh.

O'Connor's resignation is definitely a loss for Bethel Park, and for district in basketball in general. He has done a an excellent job every place he has been - Keystone Oaks, Fox Chapel and Bethel Park. He has put a spark in every program he took over.

On top of that, O'Connor is highly respected and known as one of the good guys in high school basketball coaching. Big Ben will certainly be missed.

At Bethel Park, the Black Hawks had two seasons below .500 before O'Connor took over in 2010. He was 4-17 and 8-14 his first two years. In the next four years, he was 15-8, 17-6, 18-7 and 16-10.

He started his head coaching career in 2000 at his alma mater, Keystone Oaks. The Eagles were 0-22 the year before. But O'Connor got KO to 11-13 in his first year and to the WPIAL playoffs. Over the next three seasons, he was 14-9, 14-13 and 17-11 and made the playoffs two more times before leaving to become coach at Westminster College. After two years at Westminster, he became Fox Chapel's coach in 2006 and stayed four seasons, going 61-40 and making the WPIAL playoffs three times. His 2007 team was 20-8 and made the WPIAL semifinals. 

And remember, Fox Chapel hadn't made the playoffs for three seasons before O'Connor took over (Photo is of O'Connor during his Fox Chapel days)

O'Connor will continue to be a guidance counselor at Fox Chapel. He acknowledged he might get back into high school coaching again someday.

"When I was at Keystone Oaks, I thought I would be there forever. Things happen," said O'Connor.

It will be interesting to see who takes over for O'Connor. Maybe one of his assistant coaches want the job. Bethel Park has a new, sparkling gymnasium, one of the best facilities in the state. It is a Class AAAA school. O'Connor didn't leave the cupboard bare, either. There are talented players coming back.

Considering all that, Bethel Park is a job that should draw a good deal of of interest from coaches.

Showtime

If you want to hear some talk about the state quarterfinals and predictions watch Varsity Xtra's "This Week In High School Sports" with yours truly and colleague Terry Shields.

 

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