It's time for WPIAL basketball bracketology

Written by Mike White on .

The WPIAL basketball steering committee is meeting today to determine seedings and playoff pairings. Matchups will be announced tomorrow night at a meeting in Green Tree.

But let's have a little bracketology class today.


I think three teams from Section 3 deserve the top three seeds. Based on what they did this year, and also what happened last year. A year ago, four teams from Section 3 made the semifinals. That's the first time four teams from once section made the semifinals. Last year shouldn't have much to do with this year, but last year proved the strength of Section 3 and it is strong again this year

North Allegheny and Hampton tied for second in the section. It's hard to differentiate between the two because they split two meetings. So let's put them 2-3. (Pictured is North Allegheny senior guard David Haus).

What makes the seedings for this class a little difficult is what to do with the three teams from Section 2 - Franklin Regional, Fox Chapel and Gateway. They should all be seeded somewhere 7 through 12, but it's a little hard because you have to keep them away from playing each other in the first round.

So let's go with this: 1. New Castle vs. 16. Latrobe; 2. Hampton vs. 15. Peters Township; 3. North Allegheny vs. 14. Norwin; 4. Hempfield vs. 13. Mt. Lebanon; 5. Plum vs. 12. Seneca Valley; 6. Upper St. Clair vs. 11 Gateway; 7. Franklin Regional vs. 10. Kiski Area; 8. Bethel Park vs. 9. Fox Chapel.

I thought of moving things around a little to have USC play Kiski Area, but you would also have to make some other changes. That is a possibility. But should Kiski Area, a second-place team from Section 1, drop all the way to a No. 11 seed, even though Section 1 hasn't done well in the playoffs lately?


What "Valley" team should get the No. 1 seed - Central Valley or Chartiers Valley? Chartiers Valley has one loss (to Ambridge) and Central Valley two (Obama and Hampton). Chartiers Valley lost to Ambridge and Central Valley beat Ambridge twice. But Chartiers Valley didn't have standout guard Matty McConnell (pictured) against Ambridge.

So who should it be? Well, the coin is in the air and ...

Chartiers Valley is No. 1.

There are 21 teams in this bracket, so there will have to be some preliminary-round games. So I will just give you my top 12 seeds because the preliminary-round games could go so many different ways.

1. Chartiers Valley. 2. Central Valley. 3. Uniontown. 4. Thomas Jefferson. 5. Elizabeth Forward. 6. Indiana. 7. Mars. 8. Knoch. 9. Montour. 10. Steel Valley. 11. Blackhawk. 12. Ambridge.

Does Uniontown deserve the No. 3 seed over Thomas Jefferson? Tough question. Uniontown has only one loss, but troubles in early-round games the past few years make you wonder just how good this Uniontown team is. We'll give them the benefit of the doubt one more year. It's also tough to decide where to put Indiana, Mars and Knoch, who all tied for the Section 1 championship. We decided the best thing is to put them right next to each other in 6 through 8.

CLASS AAMike Mastroianni

Two questions with this class are about Quaker Valley and Beaver Falls. Quaker Valley had only two losses - both to Avonworth - so where should the Quakers be seeded? They have a terrific record, but can't be ahead of Avonworth. (Pictured is Quaker Valley coach Mike Mastroianni). By the way, a shoutout to Avonworth, which won a section title for the first time in 40 years.

And where should two-time defending champ Beaver Falls go? Should an injury affect a team's seeding? Beaver Falls is without standout point guard Elijah Cottrill because of a knee injury. There is no way the Tigers are the same team without him.

Like Class AAA, I am only seeding the top 12. There are 24 teams in these playoffs and those preliminary-round games could go a lot of different ways.

Here goes ...

1. Seton-LaSalle. 2. Greensburg Central Catholic. 3. Aliquippa. 4. Avonworth. 5. Summit Academy. 6. Quaker Valley. 7. Beaver Falls. 8. Washington. 9. Neshannock. 10. Brownsville. 11. Apollo-Ridge. 12. South Allegheny.


The top is easy to do in this class. The bottom is a little hard to do because there are four teams with records below .500 and trying to differentiate between them is difficult. Also, where should Section 4 champion Wilkinsburg go? Should the Tigers get a top five seed because of a section championship or go below Cardinal Wuerl North Catholic and Sewickley Academy, who tied for second in Section 2? North Catholic played a very good non-section schedule.

Here goes ...

1. Lincoln Park vs. 16. St. Joseph. 2. Vincentian vs. 15. Mapletown. 3. Monessen vs. 14. Trinity Christian. 4. OLSH vs. 13. Eden Christian. 5. Cardinal Wuerl North Catholic vs. 12. Winchester Thurston. 6. Sewickley Academy vs. 11. Clairton. 7. Wilkinsburg vs. 10. Union. 8. Western Beaver vs. 9. Carmichaels.



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Beaver Falls basketball going for another section title

Written by Mike White on .

The winner of tonight's boys basketball game between Beaver Falls and Aliquippa wins the WPIAL Class AA Section 2 title. For Beaver Falls, a win keeps alive an impressive streak.

Beaver Falls has won six section titles in a row under coach Doug Biega. It is the longest active streak in the WPIAL and a win against Aliquippa would give the Tigers seven in a row and put them closer to the top six section title streaks all time in the WPIAL.

Here are the longest section championship streaks.

1. Blackhawk 14 (1990-2003)

2. Ford City 12 (1928-39)

2. (tie) Wampum 12 (1950-1961)

4. Uniontown 11 (1956-66)

4. (tie) Aliquippa 11 (1997-2007)

6. Washington 10 (1950-59)

It is a little coincidental that Beaver Falls is playing Aliquippa. Aliquippa had won 11 section titles in a row from 1997 through 2007 until Beaver Falls stopped the streak in 2008.

Tonight's game figures to be close. First-year Aliquippa coach Nick Lackovich has done a good job in bringing Aliquippa basketball back to prominence in Beaver County. The Quips are 15-5 after finishing below .500 the past three years.

What's also interesting is that Lackovich spent the past few years as an assistant at Beaver Falls under Biega. The picture below is from last year of Biega coaching Beaver Falls, with Lackovich on the bench nearby.

This might be the year to get Beaver Falls. The Tigers lost a few starters from last years state championship team and standout point guard Elijah Cottrill is done for the season with a knee injury. He is supposed to have surgery today.

But Beaver Falls might be very good again in the future. Biega is playing a few talented, good-sized freshmen, including Donovan Jeter, younger brother of former Beaver Falls star Sheldon Jeter. But this is Beaver Falls' final year in Class AA. The Tigers are moving up to AAA next year. The school's enrollment still is Class AA, but the Tigers have chosen to play up. They will likely play in the same section as Central Valley, Blackhawk and probably New Castle, which is moving down from Class AAAA to AAA.

Jimmy WheelerWheeler still undecided

All but one of the seniors on the Post-Gazette Fabulous 22 all-star football team signed with a college Wednesday, the first day high school seniors could sign a binding letter of intent with a school. The only one who didn't was West Mifflin running back Jimmy Wheeler (pictured).

Wheeler said last night he is still deciding between California University of Pa. and Slippery Rock.

Wheeler led the WPIAL in rushing this season.

Just one, please

The most bizarre recruiting story this year had to be a high school player from Florida signing three letters of intent Wednesday with three different colleges.

That's right. D.J. Law of Haines City, Fla., signed with Mississippi Wednesday morning and then Utah in the afternoon. Both of those schools had him on their recruiting lists. But it didn't end there. Law also signed with East Missippi Junior College.

Crazy and idiotic? For sure. Apparently, Law's mother signed his letter of intent with Ole Miss and his father the one with Utah. But the ordeal seems to be over. On Thursday, Mississippi released him from his letter of intent and Law can go to Utah. He signed with East Mississippi just in case he didn't qualify academically.

So Law will be a Ute - apparently.

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Hampton at New Castle sold out ..... WPIAL boys basketball playoff picture

Written by Mike White on .


Tomorrow night is the final full night of section play in WPIAL boys basketball and there are still several playoff spots to be filled.

But before we give you the playoff picture, one piece of news concerning the Hampton vs. New Castle II. The game is sold out tomorrow at New Castle.

New Castle has a good-sized gym, but New Castle athletic director Sam Flora said at 7 p.m. tonight that the game is officially sold out. Flora said the crowd will be roughly 2,500. Below is a picture from the game and tomorrow the place will be even more crowded.

Now listen to what transpired with the tickets. It’s great to see a town follow a basketball team like this.

First off, New Castle has 600 season ticket holders. There are undoubtedly many schools in the WPIAL who don’t get 600 fans total for a game this late in the year.

Next, New Castle gave Hampton 350 tickets to sell and New Castle sold some student tickets. Then New Castle sold tickets to the general public tonight and Flora said the school sold well in excess of 1,000 tickets in about two hours. All of them were Red Hurricane fans.

More than 1,000 tickets to a high school game in two hours? Wow. But I love it.

“It’s New Castle, brother. What do you expect?” Flora said with a laugh.

They are definitely ‘Cane crazy in New Castle.

New Castle and Hampton met in the WPIAL Class AAAA championship last year and in the Class AAA title game two years ago.

Now the playoff picture. Four teams from each section qualify for the playoffs. If there is a tie between two or more teams for the final spot, head-to-head breaks the tie. If teams are tied in head-to-head competition, then the tied teams all qualify.

Here is the playoff picture.


Section 1 – Hempfield, Kiski Area, Norwin and Latrobe have all clinched. The only way Connellsville can make it is if Latrobe loses its final two games to Albert Gallatin and Hempfield, and Connellsville beats Albert Gallatin.

Section 2 – Plum, Franklin Regional and Gateway have all clinched. The winner of Fox Chapel at Central Catholic Friday is in, and the loser is out.

Section 3 – New Castle, Hampton, North Allegheny and Seneca Valley have all clinched. No one else can qualify.

Section 4 – Upper St. Clair, Bethel Park and Mt. Lebanon have clinched. Peters Township and Canon-McMillan are alive for the other spot. Canon-McMillan plays Trinity tonight, and Peters Township plays host to Canon-McMillan tomorrow night. Regardless of what Canon-McMillan does tonight, the winner of tomorrow’s game is in the playoffs and the loser is out.


Section 1 – Mars, Indiana, Knoch and Kittanning have all clinched. No one else can qualify.

Section 2 – Central Valley, Blackhawk, Ambridge and West Allegheny have all clinched. No one else can qualify.

Section 3 – Uniontown, Mount Pleasant and Laurel Highlands have all clinched. The winner of tomorrow’s Greensburg Salem vs. Derry game gets the fourth spot and the loser is out.

Section 4 – Thomas Jefferson, Elizabeth Forward, Steel Valley and West Mifflin have all clinched spots and no one else can qualify.

Section 5 – Chartiers Valley, Montour, South Fayette and Keystone Oaks have all qualified. South Park can finish in a fourth-place tie and qualify for the playoffs if Montour beats Keystone Oaks tomorrow.


Section 1 – Summit Academy, Apollo-Ridge, West Shamokin and Burrell are the four qualifiers.

Section 2 – Beaver Falls, Aliquippa, Neshannock and Laurel have clinched and no one else can qualify. Beaver Falls plays at Aliquippa tomorrow for the section title.

Section 3 – Greensburg Central Catholic, South Allegheny, Shady Side Academy and Jeannette have all clinced and no one else can qualify.

Section 4 – Seton-LaSalle, Washington, Chartiers-Houston and Brentwood have all clinched and no one else can qualify.

Section 5 – Brownsville, Frazier, Charleroi and California have all clinched. Jefferson-Morgan is still alive, but the only way Jeff-Morgan can qualify is if it beats West Greene, and California loses its final two games against Bentworth and Charleroi.

Section 6 – Avonworth, Quaker Valley, Sto-Rox and Northgate have all clinched. If Northgate loses to Avonworth tomorrow, then South Side Beaver also qualifies.


Section 1 – Lincoln Park, Our Lady of the Sacred Heart, Western Beaver and Union have all clinched. No one else can qualify.

Section 2 – Vincentian, Sewickley Academy, Cardinal Wuerl North Catholic and Eden Christian have all qualified. If Quigley beats Eden Christian tomorrow night, Quigley also qualifies.

Section 3 – Monessen, Carmichaels, Clairton and Mapletown have all clinched. No one else can qualify.

Section 4 – Imani Christian is in second place, but not eligible for the playoffs. Wilkinsburg, St. Joseph, Winchester Thurston and Trinity Christian are all in. Leechburg is still alive.


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West Mifflin's Maha done for season because of knee injury

Written by Mike White on .

Another top guard in WPIAL basketball is done for the season because of a knee injury.

West Mifflin senior Ryan Maha will not play again and will have surgery on an injured knee next week. Maha has played the entire season with the injured knee and has missed some games because of it. He dealt with a lot of pain, putting off the surgery. But it eventually got to be too much. He scored his 1,000th career point earlier this season.

Ryan MahaMaha (pictured), whose father, Lance, is West Mifflin's coach, was a warrior to play through so much pain. He helped his team get a WPIAL Class AAA playoff berth. Maha is one of those kids you find yourself pulling for, because of his attitude, personality and other things away from the court. He had already signed with Carnegie Mellon. That tells you something about him off the court.

Maha is the second WPIAL guard to finish the season early because of a knee injury. Beaver Falls' Elijah Cottrill is done for the season and will have surgery Friday on his injured knee. Cottrill was a Post-Gazette Fabulous 5 last season.

It will be interesting to see how much Cottrill's and Maha's injuries hurt their team's playoff seeds. Neither team is the same without those two.

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Comments on Pitt's football recruiting class ..... List of district recruits

Written by Mike White on .

Pitt's football recruiting class includes a good crop of offensive linemen. But overall, the Panthers' class is viewed as average.

At least that's what guys say who make a living out of rating players and recruiting classes. Pitt coach Paul Chryst signed 22 players today. The class has 23 recruits but Upper St. Clair's Rori Blair is already enrolled at the school for this semester. ranks Pitt's class 43rd in the country while ranked it 42nd. ESPN Recruiting Nation ranks Pitt's class ninth in the ACC.

Sam Werner of the Post-Gazette has a story on Pitt's class.

Mike GrimmThe offensive line recruits include two four-star players from the WPIAL - Mike Grimm of Bethel Park and Alex Bookser of Mt. Lebanon.

But it seems much of the talk concerning this class is the players the Panthers didn't get. Quarterback Wade Freebeck of St. Thomas Aquinas in Florida backed out of his verbal commitment and signed with Vanderbilt. The Panthers also were finalists for a few of the top players in the WPIAL but didn't land them, such as Gateway receiver-defensive back Montae Nicholson (Michigan State), Aliquippa defensive back Dravon Henry (West Virginia) and Washington running back Shai McKenzie (Virginia Tech).

But the Panthers did land seven WPIAL players.

Here are some comments from Mike Farrell, national recruiting analyst from

"There is good and bad to this class. The good is they did a good job on the offensive line. That's important to the foundation of an offense. The bad is a few guys got away and you don't want that to happen, especially if their local kids.

"Maybe the media built up expectations too much. I thought McKenzie would go to Pitt and I thought Montae would stay at home as well. When they don't do what myself and even some fans expect, it becomes a disappointment. Is Montae a difference maker? I don't know. On offense I think he is but I'm not sure about defense. McKenzie is a good running back and they could use him. But is he better than Chris James [running back recruit from Illinois]? That's a tossup. But Chris James is not a consolation prize. He is a terrific running back.

"Under Dave Wannstedt they really did a good job in Western Pennsylvania, but he never won the Big East. Can you win the ACC with just Western Pa. kids? Absolutely not. But if there are kids in your back yard and you've got a geographical advantage, you really need to take advantage of it.

"That being said, if I have my choice of getting Montae and Shai McKenzie, or a good offensive line class, I'd take the good offensive line class."

James got a four-star rating from Pitt also got another talented running back in Qadree Ollison of Niagara Falls and a quarterback in Adam Bertke of Maria Stein, Ohio.

Here are some comments from Brian Dohn, national/Northeast recruiting analyst for

"To miss out on Nicholson and Henry were big because I think both are really good players and if you want to win, it starts on defense, and those kids can play in the secondary.

elijah zeise"I'd keep Shai McKenzie out of the loop because I don't know if they really wanted Shai McKenzie. They already had Qadree Ollison and Chris James when Shai was on the board. From Western Pa., I think it was great that they got Bookser and I know Elijah Zeise (pictured) is a nice player. 

"But you want them to lock it down out in the Pittsburgh area. Losing Robert Foster to Alabama [last year] was one thing. But when you lose a kid to Michigan State, one to West Virginia and one to Virginia Tech, that's a little troubling.

"But I really like the running backs in this class and the offensive line is good. I like the depth they have there. And another thing is I think they went for kids with character. I think that was a big point in this class. I think they wanted to concentrate on not only do you have to be a good player, but you also have to be a good kid.

"When you look at the depth of what Paul Chryst and his coaches are doing, they are trusting in their own evaluations, which is big. They evaluate kids and it doesn't matter what other schools are doing or other people are saying about those kids. They're trusting their own evaluations."

WPIAL recruits

Below is a list of Division I-A recruits from the WPIAL. One tidbit first. Sage Curry, a tight end-fullback-linebacker from Beaver Falls, had committed to West Virginia last summer. But he will not sign with WVU. Beaver Falls coach Ryan Matsook said Curry most likely will attend a junior college, possibly Lackawanna in Eastern Pennsylvania.

Now the list:

AKRON - Brock Boxen, Beaver Falls (DL, 6-3 – 260); Chandler Kincade, Blackhawk (QB, 6-4, 210).

BALL STATE – Jake McPhatter, New Castle (RB-DB, 5-11, 170).  

BOWLING GREEN - Andrew Podbielski, Blackhawk (TE-DL,  6-5 – 235).

FLORIDA STATE – J.J. Cosentino, Central Catholic (QB, 6-4, 215).

KENT STATE – Connor Shinsky, Knoch (OL-DL, 6-5, 250).

MASSACHUSETTS – Charan Singh, Franklin Regional (QB-DB, 6-1, 170).

MICHIGAN - Chase Winovich, Thomas Jefferson ( LB,  6-3, 216).

MICHIGAN STATE – Montae Nicholson, Gateway (WR-DB, 6-3, 205).

NAVY – Tory Delmonico, West Allegheny (RB-LB, 6-3, 203).

OHIO STATE - Malik Hooker, New Castle (WR-DB, 6-2, 185).

PENN STATE – Troy Apke, Mt. Lebanon (WR, 6-2, 186). 

PITT - Rori Blair, Upper St. Clair (DE, 6-3, 225); Alex Bookser, Mt. Lebanon (OL, 6-6, 295); Dennis Briggs, Shady Side Academy (RB-DB, 5-11, 195); JaQuan Davidson, Elizabeth Forward (QB-WR-DB, 6-2, 173); Mike Grimm, Bethel Park (OL, 6-6, 325); Quintin Wirginis, Fox Chapel (LB, 6-2, 225); Elijah Zeise, North Allegheny (WR-DB, 6-2, 185).

TEMPLE -  Delvon Randall, Gateway (WR-DB, 6-1, 185); Brenon Thrift, Gateway (LB, 6-3, 230); Lenny Williams, Sto-Rox (QB, 5-11, 197).

TOLEDO – Terry Swanson, Aliquippa (RB-DB, 5-10, 187).

VANDERBILT – Tre Tarpley, Central Catholic (DB, 6-1, 195).

VIRGINIA - Darrious Carter, Indiana (DE, 6-5, 205).

VIRGINIA TECH – Shai McKenzie, Washington (RB, 6-0, 216).

WEST VIRGINIA – Jaleel Fields, Aliquippa (OL-DL, 6-2, 287); Dravon Henry, Aliquippa (RB-DB, 6-2, 187); Ricky Rogers, Gateway (WR, 6-1, 200).

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