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Arizona inspires Chartiers Valley ..... "On Demand" for finals ..... WPIAL championship picks

Written by Mike White on .

Chartiers Valley boys basketball coach Tim McConnell doesn't just show his players film of their team or opponents. Chartiers Valley also has watched film of a college team this season.

McConnell has showed his squad game films of the University of Arizona's team and not just because McConnell's son, T.J., is a starting guard for the Wildcats. Tim McConnell hopes his players learn a thing or two about defense from watching Arizona. Tim McConnell is using Arizona for motivation.

Chartiers Valley plays Central Valley for the WPIAL Class AAA title tonight at Duquesne's Palumbo Center. Chartiers Valley doesn't have a starter taller than 6-1.

Arizona"Are we the best basketball players? No. But do we work hard? Absolutely," Tim McConnell said. "I had a college coach tell me he would love to bring his team to watch us play because he thinks we play harder than his team. I had another college coach text me the other night and say he thinks the [Chartiers Valley] Colts and North Carolina play the hardest. 

"I said, 'You're going to put me in the category with North Carolina? I'm taking it.' But I'll tell you what, I want to be in the category with Arizona's defense because I think they play great defense. (above photo of Arizona from Associated Press). We use them as a measuring stick, just watching them play defense, how they hedge screens, how hard they play,  how they play in gaps, how they don't give up easy baskets.

"I'll bring a tape of Arizona [to Chartiers Valley's players] and say 'Look at this. Look how they play. We have to play that way.'"

Chartiers Valley allows 50.2 points a game. But Central Valley knows a thing or two about defense also. Central Valley allows only 48.5 points.

"On Demand" for title games

There will be no live television for the WPIAL championships, but all eight games - boys and girls - will be on Xfinity (Comcast) "On Demand" starting Monday. The games can be found by going to the "Get Local" folder through "On Demand" and then going to "Sports," "HS Basketball," "WPIAL Finals."

Championship picks

Here are my picks for the WPIAL title games. In the semifinals, I was 6-2 in boys selections and 7-1 in girls.

BOYS - New Castle over Hampton ... Central Valley over Chartiers Valley ... Seton-LaSalle over Greensburg Central Catholic ... Lincoln Park over Monessen

GIRLS - Hempfield over Penn-Trafford ... Blackhawk over South Park ... Seton-LaSalle over Burrell ... Vincentian over Serra

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Father-son games, family ties run rampant in WPIAL basketball finals

Written by Mike White on .

The WPIAL basketball championships are tomorrow and Saturday at Duquesne's Palumbo Center and everywhere you look there are bloodline storylines.

Matty McConnellLet me apologize ahead of time if I miss any father-son or family stories involving the championships, but let's start with father-son teams. There are three head coaches whose sons play for them. In the Class AAA title game, there is Chartiers Valley's Tim McConnell, whose son, Matty (pictured), is a starting junior guard and the team's leading scorer. Tim McConnell is trying to win a second title with a son. In 2010, his oldest son, T.J., was the star guard for Char Valley when it beat Hampton for the title.

In the Class AAAA final, there is Hampton coach Joe Lafko, whose son, Joe, is a starting junior guard for the Talbots.

In the Class AA championship, there is Greensburg Central Catholic coach Greg Bisignani, whose son, Colin, is a starting senior center.

But there are more father-son teams in the title games. Anthony Richards is the all-time leading 3-point shooter at New Castle, which plays Hampton in the Class AAAA final. Richards' father, Dave, is a New Castle assistant.

New Castle also has guard Robert Natale, whose father, Bob, is a New Castle assistant.Ron Rowan

In Class A, Lincoln Park's Maverick Rowan is averaging 32 points in three playoff games. His father, Ron, is a Lincoln Park assistant. Ron Rowan played at St. John's and Notre Dame and briefly in the NBA. He had a long professional career overseas. The "throwback" photo is of Ron during his college days. 

Reggie WellsAnd how about the father-son team coaching the South Park girls? Reggie Wells (pictured) is South Park's head coach and his son, Reggie Jr., is one of his assistants. The two six next to each other on the bench. Like I've said before, if anything "goes down" at Palumbo this weekend, I'm aligning myself with the South Park bench. Dad Reggie is a former state policeman and son Reggie a former NFL offensive lineman. 

No, how about the family ties in these championships? They're everywhere. Here are some of them (again we apologize if we missed anyone):

***** Seton-LaSalle boys coach Mark Walsh has guided his team to the Class AA title game. His niece, Cassidy Walsh, is a starting guard for the Seton-LaSalle girls team. Their two families live next to each other.

Cassidy WalshAnd I have to mention this again about the Walsh boys. Mark Walsh is known to everyone as "Knobby." Cassidy's father, Kevin, also is known as Knobby. So is Danny Walsh, Mark and Kevin's brother. And the Walsh's father (Cassidy's grandfather) is known as Knobby.

As for Cassidy Walsh (pictured)? You can just call her Cass, thank you.

***** There are the Luther twins at Hampton (Ryan and Luther).

***** New Castle has the Allen twin brothers - Stew and Drew. Both have signed to play football in college. Stew will play at Duquesne and Drew at Robert Morris. The twins will play against each other because Duquesne and Robert Morris football teams are in the same conference.

***** Sisters Megan and Katie Sieg are two of the top players for the Serra girls team that will play in the Class A final.

***** Burrell girls coach Meghan Ziemianski has guided Burrell to a WPIAL title game for the first time in the program's history. Her brother, Zack, and her father, Mark, are her two assistants. Burrell is undefeated.

***** Jerrad Tuite is Matty McConnell's cousin and a standout point guard for Chartiers Valley.

***** Senior Monica Burns is the star player for Hempfield, averaging 20 points a game. Her freshman sister, Michelle, also plays for the Spartans and had 11 points in the quarterfinals against Bethel Park.

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Lincoln Park's Rowan on torrid scoring pace

Written by Mike White on .

Breakfast table talk after the first night of the WPIAL basketball semifinals

First, don't forget to follow @PGVarsityXtra on Twitter tonight for score updates and notes on all the WPIAL semifinals. If you have a score update or thoughts on a game, tweet @PGVarsityXtra with #wpial

Maverick RowanThe scoring Maverick

Lincoln Park has made it to the Class A championship game and sophomore guard Maverick Rowan could end up with one of the best scoring tournaments in WPIAL history.

Rowan, who already has verbally committed to Pitt, has scored 25, 37 and 35 points in three playoff games for a total of 97. Another game in the 30s will put him among the top playoff scorers of all time.

Only nine players in WPIAL history have scored more than 120 points in a tournament. The all-time leader is Penn Hills' Drew Schifino, who scored 147 in four games in 2000. Next is Chartiers Valley's T.J. McConnell, who scored 144 in 2010.

Playing his old teammates

The Lincoln Park vs. Monessen game in the Class A championship presents an interesting storyline. Elijah Minnie, Lincoln Park's second-leading scorer, played at Monessen as a freshman.

Minnie then was sent to Summit Academy, a school for adjudicated youth near Butler. He spent his sophomore year at Summit. Rather than go back to Monessen as a junior, he chose to attend Lincoln Park, a charter school in Midland. 

Record numbers

Scoring records fell during Monessen's 110-99 victory against Vincentian in last night's semifinals. Anyone who was there should remember that game for a long time.

The 110 points by Monessen broke a 25-year-old WPIAL playoff record for most points. Brentwood scored 109 against Elderton in 1989.

The 209 points combined by both teams smashed the 35-year-old WPIAL playoff record of 188 set in 1979 when Union beat St. Joseph, 99-89.

Section 1 uprising

Section 1 and Westmoreland County, stand up and be proud.

The Hempfield and Penn-Trafford girls teams have both made it to the Class AAAA championship. It truly is a first-time occurrence.

Until this happened, not one of the eight teams in Section 1 had ever made it to a title game, let alone two. The teams in Section 1 besides Hempfield and Penn-Trafford are Laurel Highlands, Albert Gallatin, Norwin, Connellsville, Latrobe and Kiski Area.

Too crowded

I know rental costs are a concern so I'm not sure this could be done. But in the future the WPIAL shoulder seriously consider playing some of these semifinals as single games instead of part of a doubleheader. Especially if the Palumbo Center is not going to be used for semifinal games.

Single games especially make sense for some of these boys games. It's just way too crowded at some games. Sometimes, people are standing everywhere. And if you want to maybe get there for some of the first game, forget it. You have to stand and wait until the place clears out a little.

Just a suggestion.

Remembering "Sonar" Myers

The Burrell girls are in the WPIAL final for the first time ever and there is a tie between this team and the Burrell boys team that was the first basketball team from the school to play for a title.

The 1979 Burrell boys team featured Joe Myers, a blonde bomber with a great shot who was nicknamed "Sonar." His daughter, Natalie, is a sophomore and one of the top players on the girls team.

In 1979, Burrell played Beaver Falls for the Class AAA title. It was the first time I attended the WPIAL finals in person. I had watched the finals for years as a kid on WQED channel 13, listening to Bill Cardille, Bill Hillgrove and Red Donley. And I'll always remember "let's go to Dr. Tony Brungo with the halftime stats."

Anyway, in 1979 my friend Jim "Buster" Lang and I ventured downtown in my parents black and red Impala to watch three title games at the Civic Arena. We were juniors at North Hills High School and the main reason for our journey was to watch some friends and classmates as the North Hills girls team played in the second game of a championship tripleheader against Franklin Regional.

I will never forget Midland's Boo Kirby banking in a long shot to beat Ford City in the first game. Franklin Regional's Pam Miklasevich and Cheryl Ellison were too strong for North Hills in the second. And in the third game, "Sonar" Myers, Brian Sharick and the Burrell boys looked like they were going to knock off powerful Beaver Falls.

Burrell took a five point lead with a little more than a minute remaining. Not totally sure of our way around downtown, "Buster" and I decided to hurry up and get out of the Arena and beat the traffic. We thought the game was over. I got home, turned on the 11 o'clock news and - WHAT? Beaver Falls came back and won, 55-54?

Damon Bryant brought Beaver Falls back. Supposedly, there was a controversial jump-ball call near the end.

By the way, "Sonar" Myers had 22 in the game before going on to play at Duquesne University.

What did I learn? Don't ever leave a game early with Beaver Falls.

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WPIAL basketball semifinal predictions

Written by Mike White on .

Before we get to the predictions, follow @PGVarsity Xtra on Twitter tonight for score updates and notes about the WPIAL semifinals. If you have a score or note, tweet it to with #wpial

As for the semifinals tonight and tomorrow, four teams in the boys semifinals have not been in the final four in at least 10 years. They are Kiski Area (last time was 2002), Uniontown (2002), Central Valley (this is only the fourth year of existence for the school) and Seton-LaSalle (last time was 2000). On the other side, shoutout to Cardinal Wuerl North Catholic coach Dave Long, who has his team in the semifinals for the sixth year in a row.

Now, for predictions. 

BOYS

In the WPIAL quarterfinal round and with the City League boys championship, record was 15-2. Postseason record is now 50-14 (.781 percentage)

CLASS AAAA

North Allegheny vs. Hampton - Like last year, these two are meeting in the semifinals. Like last year, it is at Chartiers Valley. Like last year, they split two regular-season games. And like last year, Hampton wins. I really hate to go against North Allegheny because the Tigers are really playing well. There is a part of me that thinks North Allegheny wins this game, but ... Winner: Hampton

Raloh BlundoNew Castle vs. Kiski Area - Seedings and matchups are extremely important in this tournament. Just ask Kiski Area. Sure, the Cavaliers were seeded 13th, but they didn't have to play any of the Section 3 teams in the first two rounds. But now they do. And from the did-you-know department: Saturday's victory against Bethel Park gave New Castle coach Ralph Blundo (pictured during last year's WPIAL championship) his 100th victory in only four seasons. He is 100-10 with a 12-1 WPIAL playoff record. Winner: New Castle.

CLASS AAA

Chartiers Valley vs. Uniontown - I know Chartiers Valley coach Tim McConnell is worried about this game. He should be. Uniontown is good. But good enough to knock off Char Valley? This isn't one of McConnell's best teams, but it still could end up with a championship. Matty McConnell and Jerrad Tuite need to continue their stellar play for CV. Winner: Chartiers Valley

Thomas Jefferson vs. Central Valley - I waffle back and forth from day to day on this one. Yesterday, I said TJ on Varsity Xtra video. But I picked Central Valley at the start of the playoffs. Winner: Central Valley

CLASS AA

Beaver Falls vs. Seton-LaSalle - Seton-LaSalle is the No. 1 seed. I took Beaver Falls on Varsity Xtra video, but is there any way to edit that? I guess not. Winner: Beaver Falls.

Greensburg Central Catholic vs. Aliquippa - As long as Greensburg Central Catholic keeps Aliquippa away from any "runs," GCC moves on. Winner: Greensburg Central Catholic.

CLASS A

Lincoln Park vs. Cardinal Wuerl North Catholic - North Catholic seems to be playing well, but not well enough to win this one. Winner: Lincoln Park

Vincentian vs. Monessen - A Monessen win should not be considered an upset. The Greyhounds are that good. But Vincentian should come through in the fourth quarter. Winner: Vincentian

GIRLS

CLASS AAAA

Fox Chapel vs. Penn-Trafford - Fox Chapel has 6-foot-3 Duke recruit Erin Mathias. But it's not how Mathias plays that will be the key to this game. It's how her teammates play. Penn-Trafford has never been to the semifinals. Does their dream season continue? Winner: Penn-Trafford

North Allegheny vs. Hempfield - North Allegheny is the No. 1 seed and Hempfield hasn't been to the semifinals since 2001. North Allegheny's defense will be key. NA coach Sherri McConnell will get the chance to coach at Duquesne's Palumbo Center, the same place she played college basketball. Winner: North Allegheny.

CLASS AAA

South Park vs. Elizabeth Foward - South Park's Allison McGrath has been superb in the playoffs, averaging 29 points a game. The rest of her team is pretty good, too. Winner: South Park.

Blackhawk vs. West Mifflin - Scott Stephenson is West Mifflin's athletic director. But he also is the Titans' girls coach and has done a tremendous job in getting the unheralded Titans to the semifinals. But Blackhawk is awfully good. Winner: Blackhawk.

CLASS AA

Seton-LaSalle vs. Bishop Canevin - Seton-LaSalle has already defeated Bishop Canevin twice. What's that old adage that it's tough to beat a team three times? I never believed it. Winner: Seton-LaSalle.

Burrell vs. Greensburg Central Catholic - Ready for some history? Burrell's girls have never played in a WPIAL championship game. Winner: Burrell.

Brenna WiseCLASS A

Vincentian vs. Quigley - If I'm playing pickup at the playground, I want Vincentian's Brenna Wise (pictured) on my team. Quigley will have trouble with her. Now, will it be two years in a row with the Vincentian boys and girls in the WPIAL championships? John Fedko (Vincentian Prez) should be smiling. Winner: Vincentian.

Serra vs. California - California has never been to the WPIAL semifinals. Kudos to the Trojans for an unforgettable season. But it's time to think about the PIAA playoffs. Winner: Serra.

PIAA PLAYOFFS

Just a reminder that all teams that make it to the WPIAL semifinals automatically qualify for the PIAA playoffs. Some quarterfinal teams also qualify. 

Here are the number of teams that qualify for the PIAA playoffs in each class.

B0YS - Class AAAA 5, Class AAA 6, Class AA 7, Class A 4

GIRLS - Class AAAA 5, Class AAA 6, Class AA 7, Class A 5

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State basketball rankings

Written by Mike White on .

Here are this week's state boys basketball rankings from Pennlive.com and the Harrisburg Patriot-News.

 

CLASS AAAA

 

No.  School                                           Rec    Pvs

1.     Roman Catholic (12)                   21-3        1

2.     New Castle (7)                             24-0        2

3.     Martin Luther King (12)             23-4        3                           

4.     Hampton (7)                                21-3        4

5.     North Allegheny (7)                    21-3        5

6 .    Chester (1)                                   20-5        9

7.     Conestoga (1)                               23-4     10

8.     Lower Merion (1)                        19-7        8

9.     Abington (1)                                 21-4        7

10.  Pennsbury (1)                              21-4      NR                                    

Others to watch: Allderdice (8) 19-5, Bethel Park (7) 18-6, Carlisle (3) 17-7, Cathedral Prep (10) 15-7, Cedar Crest (3) 24-4, Central (12) 22-3, Central Bucks West (1) 15-10, Central York (3) 24-2, Cumberland Valley (3) 18-6, Emmaus (11) 17-7, Franklin Regional (7) 16-7, Gateway (7) 14-10, Great Valley* (1) 22-3, Harrisburg* (3) 17-7, Hazleton (2) 20-4, Hempfield (7) 21-3, Hershey (3) 17-7, Kiski Area (7) 17-5, LaSalle College (12) 18-6, McDowell (10) 20-3, Obama Academy* (8) 22-1, Oxford (1) 20-7, Parkland (11) 19-5, Reading (3) 18-8, Spring-Ford (1) 23-3, St. Joseph’s Prep* (12) 16-7, Stroudsburg (11) 15-10, West Chester Rustin (1) 17-8, Wilson (3) 24-3, Wissahickon (1) 15-10, York (3) 20-6.

*-season complete

 

CLASS AAA

 

No.  School                                             Rec     Pvs

1.     Neumann-Goretti (12)                  20-4         1

2.     Archbishop Carroll  (12)              20-4         2

3.     Allentown Central Cath (11)        25-0         3

4.     Chartiers Valley (7)                      23-1         4

5.     Imhotep Charter (12)                   20-5         5

6.     Abington Heights (2)                    23-1         7

7.     Central Valley (7)                          20-3         9

8.     Bishop McDevitt (3)                      25-1         8

9.     Berks Catholic (3)                          22-5         6

10.   Uniontown (7)                                21-1       10

Others to watch: Bermudian Springs (3) 22-2, Blackhawk (7) 12-12, Blue Mountain (11) 20-5, Boiling Springs (3) 20-4, Elizabeth Forward (7) 20-4, Erie East (10) 19-4, Farrell (10) 20-3, GAR Memorial (2) 19-5, Holy Ghost Prep (1) 20-6, Honesdale (2) 21-3, Lancaster Mennonite (3) 19-6, Manheim Central (3) 23-3, Mars (7) 15-9, Montour (7) 16-8, Oil City (10) 18-4, Philly Electrical (12) 16-10, Pittston (2) 17-7, Pottsville (11) 22-4, Scranton Prep* (2) 21-3, Shamokin (4) 20-3, Strong Vincent (10) 16-7, Susquehanna Twp (3) 17-7, Thomas Jefferson (7) 22-2, West York (3) 23-3.

*-season complete

 

CLASS AA

 

No.  School                                                  Rec    Pvs

1.     Constitution (12)                                22-5       1

2.     Seton-La Salle (7)                               23-1       4

3.     Greensburg Central Cath (7)            21-2       5

4.     Loyalsock (4)                                      23-2       2

5.     Lewisburg (4)                                     21-3       3

6.     Aliquippa (7)                                       18-5       6

7.     Mid Valley (2)                                      21-3       8

8.     Holy Cross (2)                                      19-5       7                                       

9.     Fairview (10)                                       21-2       9

10.   Elk Lake (2)                                          18-5     10

Others to watch: Avonworth (7) 17-6, Bald Eagle Area (6) 19-4, Beaver Falls (7) 18-6, Calvary Christian (1) 19-4, Catasauqua (11) 16-8, Central Martinsburg (6) 16-7, Columbia (3) 15-8, Conemaugh Twp (5) 20-5, Delone Catholic (3) 15-9, Del-Val Charter (12) 17-7, Elk Lake* (2) 21-2, Hanover (3) 18-6, Mercyhurst Prep (10) 17-6, Meyers (2) 17-7, Neshannock (7) 18-6, Northern Bedford (5) 19-5, Notre Dame-Green Pond (11) 15-9, Penns Valley (6) 19-4, Quaker Valley (7) 21-3, Reynolds (10) 16-7, Richland (6) 18-5, Riverside (2) 17-7, Summit Academy (7) 16-6, Towanda (4) 22-3, Trinity (3) 10-12.

*-season complete

 

CLASS A

 

No.  School                                                   Rec    Pvs

1.     Lincoln Park (7)                                   23-1       1

2.     Math, Civics & Sciences (12)               11-14     2

3.     Bishop Carroll (6)                                23-0       3

4.     St. John Neumann (4)                          25-0       4

5.     Johnsonburg (9)                                  22-3        5

6.     Vincentian (7)                                      22-2        6

7.     Monessen (7)                                       19-5        7                                  

8.     Church Farm (1)                                  21-4        8

9.     Elk County Catholic (9)                        22-3        9

10.   Mahanoy Area (11)                             22-2      10

Others to watch: Berlin Brothersvalley (5) 22-2, Bishop Guilfoyle (6) 18-5, Clarion-Limestone (9) 22-2, Cochranton (10) 19-3, Forbes Road (5) 16-7, Galeton (4) 19-4, Greenwood (3) 18-5, Homer-Center (6) 21-2, Juniata Valley (6) 19-5, Kennedy Catholic (10) 13-8, Lebanon Catholic (3) 16-7, Mansfield (4) 17-7, Mount Calvary (3) 21-3, Nativity (11) 17-6, New Hope Academy (3) 12-9, North Catholic (7) 15-9, Notre Dame-East Stroudsburg (11) 16-7, Phil-Mont Christian (1) 18-4, Pius X (11) 18-3, Ridgway (9) 18-6, Sullivan County (4) 18-5.

 

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