The move up in classes in high school sports presents fundamental problems for the schools making the move, both in the WPIAL and across the country. Most challenging of all, the schools' teams have to play against schools that, more likely than not, have a larger enrollment and more resources at its disposal.
Naturally, then, there is expected to be a transition period where the teams take their proverbial lumps as they adjust to a new level of competition.
Serra Catholic's boys basketball team, through the first month of the WPIAL season, is proving to be an exception to the rule of the struggles of upward mobility.
Playing in Class AA for the first season in many years, the Eagles are off to a surprising 7-0 start. And it hasn't been a matter of Serra Catholic scraping by -- it's on a run of largely decisive and convincing victories.
The Eagles are winning their games by an average of 13.9 points, with only two of their wins coming by single digits. They've been sound in both of the major aspects of the game, scoring an average of 63.7 points per game and giving up 49.9 per game.
Part of the success stems from the fact that this was not an average Class A program moving up. Serra Catholic won 16 games last season and 15 the season before that, making it as far as the WPIAL quarterfinals in each year. The Eagles have been a perennial playoff qualifier for the past eight seasons.
Is the Eagles' run sustainable? Their next few games aren't against top-ranked teams, but they are in the same section as strong programs such as Jeannette and Greensburg Central Catholic, both of which are currently undefeated as well. Serra will play both of them twice this season. Its overall success may very well come down to how it performs in those games.
Serra has been getting big contributions from a number of players, including Max Kaminsky, a junior guard who specializes in the 3-point shot, 6-foot-10 sophomore center George Prota, who has been a consistent force scoring and rebounding, and solid guard play from junior Tyler Grebur, and sophomores Joe Satira and Anthony Rosso.
Regardless of how things turn out for Serra Catholic this season, its move to Class AA has thus far been a smooth one.
Getting by at Gateway
Even with a few defections from the teams that won back-to-back WPIAL Class AAAA titles, the Gateway boys basketball team entered this season as one of the favorites for another championship.
The No. 3 Gators are off to a 4-0 start on the season, but the wins haven't always been comfortable. About two weeks after getting a buzzer-beating 3-pointer from D.J. Boyce to defeat Blackhawk in its first game of the season, Gateway got another winning basket late in the game, this time from Shomari Thomas with 1.5 seconds remaining to beat Plum, 38-36, Dec. 21.
Blackhawk and Plum are a combined 7-8 this season.
Lions are golden
The girls basketball team at Greensburg Salem got a big early season win by handing Uniontown its first loss of the season, 50-40, in a Class AAA matchup last Thursday.
Guard/forward Claire Oberdorf led the team with 15 points, with guard/forward Karly Mellinger backing her up with 14
The win was the third in a row for the Golden Lions (3-2). Each of the wins has been by double digits, with the average margin of victory being 22.3 points per game.
Dominance at Jeannette
The Jeannette boys basketball team is off to a strong start this season, standing at 7-0 overall, 3-0 and on top of Section 3-AA. Although the record itself is impressive, what's been the most noteworthy aspect of the team's early season run has been the manner in which it has won games.
The Jayhawks are the highest-scoring team in Class AA at 74.7 points per game and are also among the top teams defensively, giving up fewer than 45 points per game. With an average margin of victory of 30.3 points, Jeannette has blown out nearly every team it's played. Its closest game this season? An 80-65 victory against Greensburg Salem in its first game of the season.
And it hasn't just been the Jeannette boys who have been standing out this season -- the girls team has, as well. Led by the high-scoring Ciara Gregory, the Jayhawks have a 5-1 record and have won four consecutive games since falling to Mount Pleasant, 61-53, on Dec. 8.
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