PIAA highlights: Strong 4th quarter propels Central Valley

Written by Mike White on .

Roundup of PIAA second-round boys and girls games from Tuesday night.

Central Valley came up with a big fourth quarter and turned back Thomas Jefferson, 61-51, in a PIAA Class AAA boys quarterfinal game at Chartiers Valley.
Thomas Jefferson held a 40-38 lead after three quarters, but Central Valley came on strong in the fourth, outscoring the Jaguars, 23-11. Central Valley also beat Thomas Jefferson in the WPIAL semifinals.
Four Central Valley players scored in double figures, led by Tony Gates and Mike Sims with 14 each. Matt Kline scored 11 and John George 10. Zach Talley had 15 for Thomas Jefferson.

*Farrell 86, Uniontown 72: Farrell (24-3) outscored Uniontown, 17-3, in overtime to pull out the win at Penn Hills. Uniontown (22-3) was 1 of 7 from the field in overtime while Farrell was 9 of 14 from the free-throw line. Farrell made 30 of 46 free throws for the game while Uniontnown was only 16 of 26. Five Uniontown starters fouled out.
Farrell opened up a 63-54 lead with a little less than two minutes left in the game, but Uniontown came back to tie at 67-67. After Jamel Brown scored on a layup with 20 seconds left, Uniontown's Lyric Ellis was fouled with 14 seconds remaining. Ellis was hurt and couldn't shoot the free throws, so Rodney Harris came off the bench and made both to tie the game. But Farell dominated the overtime. Jamel Brown led Farrell with 23 points, 15 in the fourth quarter and overtime. Ike Jones had 20 points and 14 rebounds. Joe Campbell had 19 points and 12 rebounds for Uniontown while Jordan Pratt added 15 points and 11 rebounds.
*Lancaster Mennonite 68, Chartiers Valley 64: Chartiers Valley, the WPIAL runner-up, saw its season end after a loss at Bedford High School. Chartiers Valley (25-3) lost despite 32 points and 11 rebounds from Matty McConnell. A junior guard, McConnell scored 23 points in the first half to help the Colts take a 35-34 lead into the break. But Lancaster Mennonite (22-7) opened up a 60-50 lead in the fourth quarter. Chartiers Valley cut the deficit to 65-63 with 50 seconds left, but the Blazers hung on for the win. Julian Collazzo, a junior guard, led Mennonite with 22 points, seven above his average. Chartiers Valley's Jerrad Tuite, who averages 16, scored only six.

*Vincentian 94, Homer-Center 66: Vincentian (24-3) broke the 90-point mark for the third consecutive game and rolled to the win at Hempfield. Vincentian led by 18 points in the second quarter but Homer-Center (23-4) cut the deficit to 61-56 in the third quarter before Vincentian went on a 13-0 run to take control. Ryan Wolf scored 30 points and Jay Cortese had 25 points, and 12 rebounds.
*Lincoln Park 81, Forbes Road 28: Lincoln Park (27-1), the No. 1-ranked Class A team in the state, jumped to a 30-11 lead after the first quarter and breezed to the victory over Forbes Road (17-9) at Hempfield. Sophomore guard Maverick Rowan led Lincoln Park with 23 points, Ryan Skovranko had 20 and Antonio Kellem 18. The win sets up a long-awaited showdown with Vincentian.
*Cardinal Wuerl North Catholic 58, Ridgway 43: Leading by only three after the third quarter, North Catholic (17-10) went on a 10-2 run to start the fourth en route to the win at Clarion University. Ryan Kirby scored 21 points and Dominic Robb 16 for North Catholic while Jeremy Breier had 17 for Ridgway (21-6).
*Bishop Carroll 69, Monessen 65: Undefeated Bishop Carroll (26-0) used a 22-0 run in the second half to overtake Monessen (21-7) at Gateway. Monessen led, 53-50, after the third quarter, but Bishop Carroll opened up a 63-53 lead as Monessen went almost six minutes without scoring in the fourth. Brandon Martinazzi led Bishop Carroll with 28 points. Javon Brown had 19 for Monessen.

*North Allegheny 58, State College 44: The Tigers (23-2) advanced with a win against District 6 champion State College Tuesday night at Indiana High School. Against State College (18-8), sophomore Abby Gonzalez had 18 points, 7 assists and 5 steals.
*Hempfield 54, Fox Chapel 44: Monica Burns scored 26 points for Hempfield to set up a rematch with North Allegheny. Hempfield beat NA in the WPIAL semifinals. Duke recruit Erin Mathias had 18 for Fox Chapel.

*Bishop Canevin 64, Karns City 40: The Crusaders (21-6) will get their fourth chance at knocking off Seton-La Salle this season in the PIAA quarterfinals after disposing of District 9 champion Karns City (24-2) at Clarion University. Canevin jumped out to a 12-0 lead and never looked back. Johnie Olkosky led the way, turning in a double-double with 17 points and 11 rebounds. Gina Vallecorsa added 17 points for the Crusaders.
* Seton-La Salle 61, Greensburg Central Catholic 43: The Rebels (24-4) will be returning to the PIAA quarterfinals for the fifth year in a row after defeating Greensburg Central Catholic (20-6) at Chartiers Valley. Seton-LaSalle held Greensburg Central to only six field goals in the first half. Cassidy Walsh scored 16 points, 12 in the first half on four 3-pointers, for Seton-LaSalle.
*Burrell 34, Bellwood-Antis 29: Sophomore Natalie Myers led the Buccaneers (27-1) back to the PIAA quarterfinals for the second year in a row with a win against Bellwood-Antis (24-4) at Indiana High School. Myers continued her postseason tear with a double-double — 16 points, 13 rebounds — and iced the victory from the free-throw line, going 7 for 7 in the fourth quarter. Burrell will play General McLane in the quarterfinals.

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Former Western Pa. standouts McConnell, Kane, Wilson, Reed pick up big honors

Written by Mike White on .

Western Pennsylvania doesn't have a reputation for producing much top Division I college basketball talent over the past couple decades, but some former players from the district have done some big things this season, evidenced by the honors they received in the past couple days.

You'll be hard-pressed to come up with a year when this many former WPIAL-City League players got this many honors at the Division I level. On top of that, we could see a handful of WPIAL-City League players in the NCAA tournament this year (see below).

But first, the all-conference honors:

T.J. McConnell

University of Arizona point guard T.J. McConnell was named second-team all-Pac 12. While that's quite an honor in a power conference, McConnell might be just as proud of this honor: He was named to the five-player all-Pac 12 defensive team.

And McConnell, a former Chartiers Valley High School star, has been named one of the 24 finalists for the Cousy Award, given annually to the top college point guard in the country. (McConnell is pictured during his Chartiers Valley days).

McConnell is averaging 8.3 points, 3.7 rebounds, 5.5 assists and leads the team in steals with 57. He is 16th in the country in turnover-to-assist ratio (172 to 57) and 30th in the country in assists.

It makes me chuckle that some people are surprised that McConnell would play this much or have such an impact for Arizona. But when McConnell decided to leave Duquesne University and Arizona coach Sean Miller courted him, Miller's design all along was to have McConnell as a starting point guard.

"He's the missing piece to our team's puzzle," Miller said two years ago when McConnell decided to go to Arizona.

Oh, by the way. Shoutout for Miller, the former Blackhawk High School and Pitt point guard who was named the Pac-12 coach of the year. 

DeAndre Kane

Kane is a senior guard at Iowa State who was named first-team all-Big 12 Conference. On top of that, Kane was named today as a third-team All-American by Sporting News, and

Kane and PopeKane, a former star at Schenley High School in the City League, averages 17.1 points, 6.7 rebounds and finished the regular season 20th in the country in assists at 5.9. (The photo is of Kane in his junior year playing against Aliquippa's Herb Pope in a regular-season game in 2006. It was sort of Kane's coming-out party when he scored 18 points early in the season for a team that featured DeJuan Blair, D.J. Kennedy and Onion Bryant).

Like McConnell, Kane is a Cousy Award finalist. Who would've thunk it: Two Western Pa. players, who attended high schools only 12 miles from each other, are finalists for the Cousy Award. I say tremendous. McConnell and Kane are good examples of how Western Pa. guys can be better than a lot of people - or college coaches - think.

Jesse Reed

Reed isn't as well-known as McConnell and Kane, and he isn't playing on a level like the Pac-12 or Big 12, but what Reed has done is awfully impressive also.

Reed is a 6-foot-5 sophomore guard at American University and named second-team all-Patriot League. He also was named the conference's scholar athlete of the year for basketball.

Jesse ReedReed played at Greensburg Central Catholic and then attended Kiski School in Saltsburg for one post-graduate year. (Reed is pictured during his senior year at GCC). He has helped American reach the championship game of the Patriot League tournament and American plays Boston U. Wednesday night for the right to go to the NCAA tournament.

Reed averages 14.1 points, 4.4 rebounds, 1.7 assists and 1.2 steals a game. He is shooting 51.4 percent from the field and 472 percent from 3-point range (57 of 125).

Devin Wilson

Virginia Tech got involved with Devin Wilson late in the recruiting process last year when he was a senior at Montour. But the Hokies ended up signing Wilson and Wilson ended up one of the top freshmen in the ACC.

Virginia Tech is having a rough year record-wise, but Wilson (pictured at Montour) has been a bright spot. He was named to the all-ACC freshman team. And how is this for select company. Only five players were named to the team and the others were Jabari Parker of Duke, Tyler Ennis of Syracuse, Kennedy Meeks of North Carolina and London Perrantes of Virginia.

Wilson is fourth in the ACC in assists at 4.8 a game. He is averaging 9.2 points and 3.3 rebounds. He is playing 34 minutes a game and is the only player on the team to start all 30 games.

Consider what McConnell, Kane, Reed and Wilson have done this year, and throw in that Duquesne's Micah Mason (Highlands) led the country in 3-point percentage during the regular season, and it's been quite a year for former Western Pa. players.

Now about the NCAA tournament. Could we see as many as four players from the area in the tourney? McConnell and Kane are in because their teams are locks. I thought Sewickley Academy's Tom Droney might also get in at Davidson, but Davidson lost in the Southern Conference tourney final in overtime last night.

Reed makes it if American beats Boston U. in the Patriot League tourney final Wednesday night. And Gateway's Barnett Harris could make it. He is a freshman at Delaware and Delaware is playing in the Colonial Athletic Association championship tonight against William & Mary. Harris has played in 27 games for Delaware.

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Winter wins it for Quaker Valley ..... PIAA playoff roundup

Written by Mike White on .

Roundup of WPIAL teams in today's first round of the Pitt playoffs

Spring might be just around the corner, but it was still Winter time for Quaker Valley today.
Fondi made a layup with 2.4 seconds left in overtime to lift Quaker Valley to a 42-40 win against District 6 champion Richland in a PIAA Class AA first-round boys playoff game at Central Cambria. It was the only points scored in overtime.'
Fondi scored 17 points for Quaker Valley. Matt
Class AAAA
*New Castle 71, Bethel Park 64: Bethel Park trailed by only nine at halftime. Then New Castle led by 20 after three quarters. Malik Hooker scored 25 points and Stew Allen added 18 to propel the Red Hurricanes (27-0). Joe Mascaro poured in 38 points for the Black Hawks, who lost to the Red Hurricanes by 27 in the WPIAL quarterfinals.

*Hampton 58, Allderdice 43: The Talbots bounced back from the WPIAL loss to New Castle and defeated the City League champion Dragons. David Huber and Ryan Luther each had a big half for Hampton. Huber scored 13 of his 15 in the first half and Luther 12 of his 16 in the second half.
*North Allegheny 82, Altoona 57: The win sets up a second-round game against New Castle, just like last year. Cole Constantino had 16 points and the Tigers (22-4) took a 19-point halftime lead against the District 6 champion Mountain Lions (13-10) at Hollidaysburg.
*Erie McDowell 65, Kiski Area 46: The Cavaliers (17-7) were outscored by 14 points in the second quarter and could not recover in falling to the District 10 champion Trojans (23-3) at Gannon University. Joe Brungo and Michael Simmons scored 10 points apiece for the Cavaliers.
Class AA
*Beaver Falls 56, Central Martinsburg 44: The defending champion Tigers (19-7) jumped to a 14-point halftime lead and went on to eliminate the Dragons (16-7) at Altoona. Dan Stratton led the Tigers with 17 points.

Levi Masua* Seton-LaSalle 82, Penns Valley 51: Levi Masua (pictured) had 18 points, 12 rebounds, 5 blocks and 5 steals to vault the WPIAL champion Rebels (26-1) to their first PIAA victory since 2000 after coasting past the Rams (19-7) at Penn Hills.
*Greensburg C.C. 92 Bald Eagle Area 59: Brian Graytok's 25 points helped the WPIAL runner-up Centurions (23-3) amass their second-highest point total of the season in defeating the Eagles (20-6) at Hempfield.
* Aliquippa 60, Fairview 42: Jassir Jordan scored 21 points and the Quips (19-6) picked up their first PIAA win in five years by defeating the Tigers (22-4) at Gannon University.
* Summit Academy 75, Conemaugh Township 59: Propelled by a 27-point performance from Dasonte White, the Knights (17-6) advanced to the second round courtesy of the victory against the District 5 champion Indians (21-6) at Johnstown.
*West Middlesex 76, Neshannock 66: The Lancers (18-7) trailed by three points at the half and were eventually defeated by the District 10 champion Big Red (21-5) at Slippery Rock University.

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New Castle's Richards approaching WPIAL milestone ..... A look at Philly's finest

Written by Mike White on .

New Castle's Anthony Richards is about to shoot his way into some select company.

Richards is a senior guard at New Castle who has meant so much to the team's success the past few seasons. The Anthony Richardsway he plays defense and the way he dives for loose balls, I've said he's as tough as a bad steak. But a big part of his game is also shooting. It wouldn't be an overstatement to say he will go down as one of the best 3-point shooters in WPIAL history.

Richards has been on the varsity since his freshman year and has 294 career 3-pointers. New Castle starts the PIAA playoffs tomorrow. If Richards gets six more 3-pointers, he will become only the fourth player in WPIAL history to have 300 career 3-pointers.

The others are Highlands' Micah Mason, Chartiers Valley's T.J. McConnell and Chartiers Valley's Mike Colbert. Richards doesn't have a realistic chance to catch Mason, who had 346 from 2008-12, or McConnell, who had 334 from 2006-10. But Richards does have a chance to catch Colbert, who had 302 from 1994-98.

Micah MasonAs for the select company Richards has a chance to keep, Mason (pictured to the left) is now a sophomore at Duquesne University and leads the country in 3-point shooting percentage. McConnell (pictured to the right) plays for one of the top teams in the country (University of Arizona) and has been called one of the top point guards in the country.

Philly's finest

Philadelphia-area teams are always major players in the PIAA boys basketball playoffs. Here is a look at some Philly teams to watch. Team thumbnails are written by Josh Verlin of, a good web site that covers Philadelphia high school and college basketball. 


AAAA Chester (1-1)

Record: 22-5 overall, 8-2 Del Val

Recent history: The Clippers are the four-time defending District 1 champions and won it all in both 2011 and 2012 before falling to Lower Merion in the title game last year. A championship this year would be the powerhouse's fifth in the last 10 years and ninth overall.

Key players: Conrad Chambers (Sr., G), Mahir Johnson (Sr., G), Tyrell Sturdivant (Sr., F)

Why they could win it: Up front, Chester has one of the toughest forwards in all of AAAA in Sturdivant. The 6-foot-8, 220-pound power forward can step out and hit the 3 but is devastating in the low post; he had 17 points and 18 rebounds in the District 1 title game. He and Mahir Johnson, the team's leading scorer at over 19 ppg, transferred back home from Glasgow (Del.) in the offseason, and if they're on top of their game there's no better inside-out duo in AAAA. An athletic squad behind them features several tough role players and a lot of length around the court--it is Chester, after all.

AAAA: Martin Luther King (12-2)

Record: 22-5 overall, 7-3 Public League

Recent history: The Cougars have taken quite a leap under second-year head coach Sean Colson, going from the 'C' Division of the Public League last year to winning its first-ever Pub title this season. Now, they have their sights set on another first: a state title.

Key players: Greg Bennett (Sr., G/F), Sam Foreman (Jr., G), Jahmir Taylor (Sr., F)

Why they could win it: Despite bringing in a number of transfers this year, King has developed solid chemistry thanks in large part to a coach that understands how to relate to his players and get the most out of them. Foreman, who was known as a ball hog early in his career, has really improved his passing skills and become a dangerous scoring guard, while Taylor, at 6-8 and 210 pounds, brings some size up front. They still rely on a lot of youth, including a trio of sophomores in Jabri McCall, Xzavier Malone and Rasool Samir, but Colson has had this bunch playing well all season.

AAAA: Pennsbury (1-2)

Record: 22-5 overall, 12-2 Suburban One

Recent history: The Falcons have been successful at qualifying for the District 1 Class AAAA Playoffs; however, states has been a different story. Pennsbury last qualified for the State Tournament in 2009-2010. Former Sixer and current Indiana Pacer Lavoy Allen led the Falcons to State berths in 2006 and 2007, while current Temple Owl Dalton Pepper took the reigns for the next two years.

Key players: Mekhi Bryant (Jr., G), Cameron Jones (Jr., G), Derrick Woods (Jr., F)

Why they could win it: Pennsbury is a very reliable, balanced and consistent basketball team. They're highlighted by 6-foot-8 forward Derrick Woods, recently offered by Binghamton, who is capable of putting up a double-double on any given night. The dynamic duo of Mekhi Bryant and Cameron Jones give the Falcons a lethal force on the wings - specifically the perimeter. The junior trio would not be what it is without their senior point guard Steve Ciotti, a true court general who glues everything together. This may be new territory for these Falcons, however, Pennsbury has not shied away from the light thus far in postseason play.

AAAA: Roman Catholic (12-1)

Record: 22-4 overall, 13-0 Catholic League

Recent history: The Cahillites' performance in the PIAAs hasn't been stellar, including a first-round loss to District 1 ninth seed Norristown last year. But they did go on an undefeated tear through the toughest league the state this year before falling to Neumann in the PCL final at the Palestra.

Key players: Shep Garner (Sr., G), Rashann London (Sr., G), Manny Taylor (Jr., F)

Why they could win it: Guards win basketball games at this level, and the Cahillites have a very good trio of them. Garner (Penn State) and London (Drexel) are both 1,000-point scorers and easily capable of dropping 20 on any occasion, and sophomore point guard Tony Carr might be better than both of them by the time he finishes his high school career. They need starting forward TreVaughn Wilkerson, who's missed the last few games with a foot injury, to get healthy--especially if they want to beat physical teams like Chester and King.

AAA: Archbishop Carroll (12-3)

Record: 21-4 overall, 11-2 Catholic League

Recent history: Paul Romanczuk led his team to the state finals last year--and though a few key pieces are gone, this is a group that knows what it takes to get there. They're waiting for a major title to solidify their place as one of the state's elite programs.

Key players: Ernest Aflakpui (Jr., F/C), Derrick Jones (Jr., F), Austin Tilghman (Sr., G)

Why they could win it: There's no deeper team in the class, as Paul Romanczuk usually goes five or six players into his bench--the Patriots have had more than 14 players score in a game twice this season! Jones, a freakish athlete at 6-7, has offers from the likes of Kentucky, Arizona and Syracuse, while Aflakpui, a 6-9 native of Ghana with numerous high-major offers, is perhaps the most improved player in the area. They have their flaws for sure, but when they can get out in transition, Carroll is the Dunk City of Pennsylvania.

AAA: Imhotep Charter (12-4)

Record: 20-6 overall, 8-2 Public League

Recent history: Andre Noble has the current longest winning streak in the PIAA Playoffs, with three consecutive championships--last year in their current classification as well as the 2011 and 2011 Class AA titles. Brandon Austin (Oregon) is gone, so the Panthers have gone with a lead-by-committee approach.

Key players: Jakwan Jones (Sr., G), Sean Lloyd (Jr., G/F), Basil Thompson (Sr., F)

Why they could win it: There's no star on this team, with Noble going nine-deep with players who could all contribute on the offensive end. They're not the most skilled team but they're certainly tough, with players like Thompson (a St. Francis (Pa.) commit) and Lloyd, a Division I recruit, fitting right into the Panther mold. Four members of the rotation sat out the 3-4 seeding matchup with Carroll, so they need to get healthy quick if they're going to make a run.

AAA: Neumann-Goretti (12-1)

Record: 22-4 overall, 12-1 Catholic League

Recent history: The most dominant team in Catholic League history, the Saints won three consecutive PIAA Class AAA titles from 2010-12 before losing to Donegal in the quarterfinals last season. The six-time defending PCL and District 12 champions know how to win playoff games.

Key players: Troy Harper (Sr., G), Ja'Quan Newton (Sr., G), Tony Toplyn (Sr., F)

Why they could win it: When you need a bucket, there's no better player to turn to than Ja'Quan Newton, who's headed to Miami (Fl.) next year after leaving as the most impressive in a line of Division I guards to come out of the South Philly institution. The 1800-point scorer has got plenty of D-I talent around him, including Campbell-bound duo Harper and Toplyn, plus junior point guard Lamarr Kimble, a CAA/A-10 recruit with several offers. And if you didn't notice above, this senior class has done a lot of winning in their years at the school.

AA: Constitution (12-1)

Record: 23-5 overall, 8-2 Public League

Recent history: The 2012 PIAA Class A champions moved up to AA last year but found the road a little tougher, losing to Division 2 top seed Holy Cross in the quarterfinals. Rob Moore didn't have any seniors on that team, and now his juniors--freshmen the last time the Generals won it all--are ready to lead their own run.

Key players: Ahmad Gilbert (Jr., G/F), Raheem Liggins (Sr., F), Kimar Williams (Jr., G)

Why they could win it: Despite all the transfers in the Philadelphia region last offseason, Constitution's roster remained nearly unchanged thanks to a lack of a senior class and no real roster needs. Williams, a quick 5-11 slasher, has become a bona-fide Division I prospect in his junior year, while Gilbert, a 6-6 wing with good range, has solidified his standing as a mid-major-plus recruit. They've got some size with the 6-5 Liggins, 6-6 Chad Andrews and Gilbert, but their strength is pressure defense and using turnovers to create mismatches on the offensive end.

A: Math, Civics & Sciences (12-1)

Record: 11-14 overall, 4-6 Public League

Recent history: The 2011 PIAA Class A champions have quickly become a state powerhouse, considering the whole program is not yet 10 years old. Last year they were bounced in the semifinals by eventual champion Rysheed Jordan and now-closed Vaux HS.

Key players: Samir Doughty (Jr., G), Louis Myers (Sr., G), Mike Watkins (Sr., F/C)

Why they could win it: It's been a rough year for the Mighty Elephants, but they still have more raw talent than anybody else in the classification--if they can put it all together. Watkins, a Penn State commit, is an athletic monster in the frontcourt, and Doughty (offers from Temple, Rhode Island, La Salle, SJU and more) leads a number of capable scorers in the backcourt. Head coach Dan Jackson has to hope a disappointing regular season leads to an inspired postseason.

Dark Horses

AAAA: Abington (1-6)

Record: 22-5 overall, 14-0 Suburban One

Recent history: Last year, the Galloping Ghosts were the third seed in District 1 but wound up with a tough draw against St. Joseph's Prep in the first round and didn't advance.

Key players: Amir Hinton (Jr., G/F), Anthony Lee (Sr., F), Matt Penecale (Jr., G)

Why they could win it: It was known that head coach Charles Grasty had one potential Division I recruit in Penecale, but Hinton has emerged this season right alongside him; they're both athletic and bouncy and can shoot it quite well. There are solid pieces around them, including Lee, stretch-forward Lazaros Mackrides, Jordan Neely and more. A pair of regular-season wins over Pennsbury proves they can play with the top teams in one of the toughest districts in the state.

AAAA: Conestoga (1-3)

Record: 24-5 overall, 16-3 Central League

Recent history: Conestoga has not qualified for the state playoffs since the 2008-2009 season, where it went 29-4 and fell in the second round. Last year's Pioneers, dropping nine games by 15 points combined, failed to earn a spot in Districts. In 2011 and 2011, Conestoga fell in the first round of the District playoffs. Experience is scarce, however that only adds to the motivation of this year's edition of Conestoga.

Key players: Zack Yonda (Sr., G), Andrew Diehl (Jr., G/F), Martin Dorsey (Jr., F)

Why they could win it: This year's Pioneers are known for their smart and tough playing style. 'Stoga is not the most athletic team in the field, however their size and depth are what got them here - and they'll continue to ride the wave of that. Senior guard Zack Yonda, Swarthmore College bound, is the man behind it all and one of the purest scorers you will find in Pennsylvania. 6-foot-4 Andrew Diehl and 6-foot-3 forwards Martin Dorsey and Dan Vila are the men in the middle.

AAA: La Salle College HS (12-3)

Record: 19-6 overall, 9-4 Catholic League

Recent history: Despite seven seniors on last year's squad, including current D-I players Steve Smith (Fairfield) and Amar Stukes (La Salle), the Explorers fell just short of a berth in the state tournament. But this current group is playing without any such expectations in the school's first trip to the PIAAs since 2011.

Key players: David Krmpotich (Jr., F), Najee Walls (Jr., G), Shawn Witherspoon (Jr., G)

Why they could win it: Despite a large percentage of the minutes (and scoring) coming from a junior class that only saw spot minutes last year, the Explorers came in fifth in the Catholic League. Krmpotich is a long and lanky 6-7 forward with Division I interest, while Walls and Witherspoon are the primary ballhandlers. They'll need players like senior guard Sean Greenberg and sophomore wing Chuck Champion to knock down shots if they're going to advance.



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Ineligible player knocks team out of PIAA playoffs ...... other notes

Written by Mike White on .

The Kennedy Catholic High School boys basketball team has been a regular participant in the PIAA playoffs. This year's team qualified again, but was knocked out before ever playing a game.

Kennedy Catholic, located near Sharon, was disqualified for the playoffs for using an ineligible player in last Friday's District 10 Class A consolation game. Kennedy Catholic defeated Eisenhower, 66-62, in double overtime.

On Monday, Kennedy Catholic informed the PIAA that it had used an academically ineligible player in the game. PIAA rules clearly state that a team must forfeit any game that an ineligible player is used. Thus, Eisenhower gets to go to the WPIAL playoffs and not Kennedy Catholic.

This was not a great Kennedy Catholic squad. The team was 14-9 before the forfeit. But you can bet the players still wanted to compete in the PIAA playoffs. Eisenhower plays Ridgway in a first-round game Friday.

Why them again?

It doesn't seem to make a whole lot of sense when you look at the PIAA Class AAAA boys bracket and see New Castle playing Bethel Park again. This is the same team that New Castle beat in the WPIAL quarterfinals on the way to a WPIAL title. So Bethel Park plays two games in a row against the same team. Why?

Well, look at the Class AAAA bracket and it does make a little sense. From the west, five WPIAL teams qualify, the District 6 champ, the District 9-10 champ and the City League champ. It wouldn't seem right if the WPIAL champ had to play another district champ in the first round, would it? Well, besides the WPIAL teams, that's all that left from the west. And doesn't it seem right that the WPIAL champ play the lowest seeded team? Well, that's the No. 5 team from the WPIAL.

Of course, if the WPIAL had "playbacks" for the No. 5 spot, all the quarterfinal losers would play for the No. 5 spot. But that's not going to happen. The WPIAL uses the "follow-the-leader" system, where the team that loses in the quarterfinals to the WPIAL champ automatically gets the No. 5 seed.

Now here is something that makes you scratch your head about the PIAA playoffs. In Class AAAA girls, the same amount of teams qualify from the west as the boys. However, in the girls bracket, the WPIAL champ plays the No. 4 team from the WPIAL, and the No. 5 team from the WPIAL plays the District 6 champ.

Go figure.

Oh, brother

There are two brothers coaching teams in the Class AAAA boys playoffs. Ben O'Connor is the coach at Bethel Park Kevin O'Connorwhile his younger brother, Kevin, is the coach of McDowell, which won the District 10 championship and then the District 9-10 regional. (Kevin is pictured)

Could the brothers meet in a PIAA game? Well, let's just say that Bethel Park would have to beat New Castle and then ... well, let's just stop there. Don't count on an O'Connor bowl. Ben has done a great job at Bethel Park, but beating New Castle?

Name that school

It's always interesting at this time of year to look at the schools that qualify for the PIAA playoffs from Philadelphia and see the number of relatively new charter schools that qualify for the playoffs or names of other schools that you never remember seeing before.

And get this: The No. 1 Class A girls team from District 12 (Philadelphia) is actually called Parkway West. Seriously. The school used to be called Parkway Gamma. At Parkway West, supposedly you don't want to go in this school around 8 in the morning or 5 at night. Students apparently are all bunched together in the hallways and no one moves.

Some other names of schools in the PIAA playoffs that you don't see often in other PIAA playoffs: Sankofa Freedom, which opened in 2009, qualified in Class A boys while Palumbo (opened in 2006) qualified in Class AA. New Media Charter (opened in 2004) qualified in Class A boys.

Mastery North Charter (Class AAA girls) is a charter school at the old Simon Gratz public school.

Philadelphia Electrical (Class AAA boys) opened in 2002.

It might get to the point where it will be rare to see a public school make it to the Class A or AA finals.

Ones to watch

Neumann-Goretti of Philadelphia is one of the top Class AAA boys teams in the state once again and the No. 1 team from District 12. Neumann-Goretti features a player who has a four-star rating in

Ja'Quan Newton is a 6-foot-3 guard who averages 21.7 points a game. He already has signed with Miami (Fla.). (Newton is pictured. Photo from Philadelphia Inquirer).

Neumann-Goretti won the PIAA title three consecutive years from 2010-12.

Roman Catholic is the No. 1 Class AAAA team from Philadelphia and has two Division I recruits. Shep Garner has signed with Penn State and Rashawn London with Drexel. Both are 6-2 guards.

Earlier this time

The Lincoln Park boys team was stopped one game short of the PIAA Class A title game last year when it lost to Johnsonburg, 59-53, in the semifinals. Lincoln Park will get a chance for revenge, only earlier in the tournament this year.

Lincoln Park meets Johnsonburg in a first-round game Friday at North Hills.

Actually, Lincoln Park already got a measure of revenge against Johnsonburg earlier this year when Lincoln Park traveled to Johnsonburg for a Dec. 17 game and won, 77-59. It makes you believe that Lincoln Park should roll in this PIAA game. But Johnsonburg does have two players averaging 21 points a game in Cameron Grumley and Cole Peterson. They both have scored more than 1,000 points.

Johnsonburg is 21-4 and the No. 3 team from District 9.



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