A look back at the WPIAL basketball championships, and a look ahead to the state playoffs
Chartiers Valley boys basketball coach Tim McConnell will have to miss his son's Senior Day with the University of Arizona team. There is a PIAA playoff game to be played.
Chartiers Valley is scheduled to play Mt. Lebanon in a PIAA Class AAAA first-round game Saturday at 2:30 at Canon-McMillan. Saturday is the day that all Class AAAA boys first-round games are played around the state. Chartiers Valley had asked the PIAA if the game could instead be played Friday, so that McConnell could travel to Arizona Saturday morning and attend Senior Day at Arizona. McConnell's son, T.J. (pictured), is the starting point guard for Arizona and the Wildcats play their final home game at 5 p.m. (eastern time).
Besides Chartiers Valley request, representatives of the WPIAL acted on Chartiers Valley's behalf and also asked the PIAA if the game could be moved up a day. This is not the WPIAL's call because it is the PIAA's tournament. But WPIAL executive director Tim O'Malley said Mt. Lebanon also was fine with the change.
But the PIAA decided to keep the game on Saturday. The schedule for the PIAA tournament is set a year ahead of time. PIAA executive director Bob Lombardi said today there were two reasons the PIAA didn't move the game. First, it would set a precedent for other teams wanting schedule changes for whatever reason. Secondly, Lombardi said some might see it as a competitive advantage for the Char Valley-Mt. Lebanon winner in that they would get four days to prepare for their second-round game, while their opponent would get only three.
Lombardi said the PIAA gets requests every year to adjust the schedule. He said one team wanted a change this year because of a senior trip to Florida.
Maybe you have an opinion on the PIAA's decision. I hate to be a "fence sitter," but I can see both sides. I can understand Chartiers Valley asking for the schedule change and, as a father myself, I can certainly sympathize with Tim McConnell's feelings about wanting to be present for his son's senior night. That's a special thing.
But yet I can also see why the PIAA would say no.
WPIAL MVPs, all-tourney
The WPIAL doesn't give out MVPs or name an all-tournament team for the championship games. So, I will. There are the Emmys. So may we present the Whiteys ...
This is easy for the boys and girls. For the boys, it's Chartiers Valley's Matty McConnell (pictured celebrating with his father, Tim). He scores 34 points, pulls down 10 rebounds, goes over 2,000 points for his career, makes a half-court shot and leads Chartiers Valley to a win in the Class AAAA title game. The more people see the way he has played this year, the more I keep hearing this comment: "Robert Morris is getting a steal."
For the girls, the MVP is Vincentian's Brenna Wise. She is the do-everything player for Vincentian and was terrific in the Class A final, scoring 35 points and pulling down 15 rebounds while playing on her future home court. Wise is a Pitt recruit.
What's funny is how Wise's and McConnell's statistics were almost identical. McConnell was 14 of 20 from the field. Wise was 15 of 20. Wise was 3 of 4 from the free-throw line and McConnell 3 of 5. McConnell made three 3-pointers and Wise two.
Eddie Flohr, Chartiers Valley - Was terrific in the second half of the Class AAAA final. He hurt NA with his quickness and penetrating ability, scoring 20 of his 24 points in the second half.
Cole Constantino, North Allegheny - Constantino showed again why he is one of the best guards in Class AAAA, scoring 27 points for the Tigers
Josh Creach, Beaver Falls - Only a sophomore, the 6-5 Creach had 24 points and 14 rebounds. I'd say his future is pretty bright.
Dylan Stapleton and Blake Shields, Indiana - It's tough to pick one player from Indiana because the Little Indians were so well-balanced. But Stapleton (pictured going against Creach) had 15 points and made the pass to his brother, Riley, for the winning basket. Shields had 14 points.
Stephon McGinnis, Aliquippa - 22 points in the Quips' Class AA win.
Kazeon Pugh, Aliquippa - Only scored 11 points, but his physical play was a major factor, especially in the second half. Had 12 rebounds.
Ryan Norkus, Seton-LaSalle - Had 25 points, including 16 in the first quarter.
Justice Rice, Monessen and Noah Rullo, Monessen - It was a little R&R for the Hounds. Rice scored 22 and Rullo 22 for the Class A champs.
Julian Batts, Jeannette - Point guard had 15 points despite being "Hounded" by defenders.
Alayna Gribble, Norwin - Has been gigantic all year for Norwin and was big in title game with 21 points, including three 3-pointers.
Desiree Oliver, Penn Hills - It was a rough night for Penn Hills against Norwin, but Oliver had 17 points.
Emily Anderson, South Fayette - Anderson is 6 feet 3 and she's not just a tall drink of water with no talent. Colleges should be interested in her. Despite playing on an injured knee, she still had 17 points and 12 rebounds.
Chassidy Omogrosso and Courtney Vannoy, Blackhawk - There can't be many better inside-outside punches in WPIAL. Omogrosso scored 26 points to finish off a great tournament. She averaged 31.5 points in four playoff games. Vannoy (pictured to the left) also was a big factor with 19 points and eight rebounds.
Nicolette Newman, Seton-LaSalle - This sharpshooting guard had four 3-pointers and 16 points as the Rebels rolled past Bishop Canevin.
Maia Joiner, Vincentian - Vincentian isn't all Wise. Joiner had 13 points for the Royals.
Sam Breen, Cardinal Wuerl North Catholic - There wasn't much to cheer about for the North Catholic faithful against Vincentian. But Breen still had a double double with 12 points and 10 rebounds.
Notes and anecdotes
***** The Aliquippa boys team would have been good this season without Stephon McGinnis, who transferred from Ambridge to Aliquippa in the middle of football season. Not to take anything from the Quips and the job coach Nick Lackovich did as a second-year coach. But I seriously doubt whether Aliquippa would be undefeated if McGinnis would have stayed at Ambridge.
**** And what if McGinnis would have stayed at Ambridge, a team that made it to the semifinals? Would we be talking about the Bridgers' first title since 1967 and not Indiana as the WPIAL AAA champs?
**** I thought it about it late Friday after the game. Considering the way the game was played, considering the talent, considering the way it ended and the storylines, the Indiana-Beaver Falls game should go down as one of the best in WPIAL history. It most certainly is one of the best I have seen in more than 30 years of covering WPIAL title games.
**** Isn't it about time Joe Salvino gets recognized as an outstanding coach? I think he is under-appreciated, but the guy has more than 500 wins and five WPIAL titles.
**** Indiana and its championship is one of the "neatest" stories in WPIAL basketball in a while.
**** Vincentian's 74-35 victory against North Catholic was the biggest blowout ever in a WPIAL Class A girls final.
**** It was interesting to hear Chassidy Omogrosso and Bridgette Shaffer talk to the media after winning a second consecutive WPIAL title and hear them say that winning the state title feels so much bigger. But that's all in your experiences. If they hadn't won the WPIAL before, it would've been gigantic for Blackhawk.
**** No knock against Omogrosso, a wonderful player. But it amazes me how she is so right-hand dominant and yet no one can stop her from scoring tons of points.
**** Best first-round game involving WPIAL teams is Chartiers Valley boys against Mt. Lebanon. The Blue Devils beat Chartiers Valley in triple overtime earlier this year.
Chartiers Valley has a tough road. If the Colts would get by Mt. Lebanon, which won't be easy, it's likely they would play City League champion Allderdice, which plays Fox Chapel in a first-round game. Believe me when I tell you Allderdice has enough to beat Chartiers Valley.
**** I would say of the WPIAL four boys champions, Aliquippa has the best chance of winning a state championship in Class AA.
**** In the eight classifications (boys and girls), the WPIAL has three teams ranked No. 1 in the state in the Pennlive.com rankings - the Aliquippa boys (AA), and and the Blackhawk (AAA) and Vincentian (A) girls.