Playing and performing without fault over an extended period of time is one of the hardest accomplishments in all of sports, particularly in a game such as basketball where contests occur on such a regular basis.
A little more than halfway through the 2012-13 WPIAL basketball season, the Beaver Area boys' basketball team had managed to find a way to do what so many others could not -- that is, maintain a perfect record.
But the Bobcats couldn't maintain that pace, losing to Blackhawk, 44-42, Tuesday on their home court. The loss dropped Beaver's record to 12-1 overall and 5-1 in Class AAA Section 2. The Bobcats are tied with Central Valley for the section lead.
At 62.2 points per game, Beaver is the leading scoring team in its section, having scored at least 60 points in six of its games this season.
No player has had a more instrumental role in helping build up those numbers this season than center Aaron Barlow. Though he is the team's center, Barlow stands just 6 feet 5, but he is averaging right around 20 points per game, making him one of the WPIAL's top 20 scorers.
"He's been a tremendous presence down there," Beaver coach Andy Podbielski said. "Aaron has definitely figured it out. He's proven himself to be one of the better big men around."
The Bobcats also have a stout defense that is allowing 49.4 points per game, one that has helped the team already collect roughly two-thirds of the wins it had last year when the Bobcats went 19-8.
Despite the loss to Blackhawk, Beaver still has a good shot to win or share the section title.
Of the teams the Bobcats have defeated, just three (McGuffey, Ellwood City and Hopewell) had losing records as of the beginning of the week. Among the teams that they have defeated are Chartiers Valley (12-1), Central Valley (10-4) and West Allegheny (8-5), so the outstanding record hasn't been a product of a cupcake schedule.
In fact, with eight games remaining before the WPIAL playoffs, Beaver could enter the postseason an impressive record an a solid argument for a high seed. Five of the eight games are against teams the Bobcats have already defeated.
Still, with road games against Central Valley, West Allegheny and 8-3 West Middlesex (of District 10), challenges certainly remain before Beaver can worry about grabbing the top seed.
"You want to play your best in February and March, not January," Podbielski said. "That's when it counts."
The West Allegheny boys' team has made winning something of a habit lately, as it had won four games in a row and six of eight, but stumbled Tuesday against Ambridge. The run comes after an underwhelming 2-3 start in which the Indians (8-5, 3-3) averaged just 45.3 points per game in their three losses. While offense still may not be the team's forte (its averaging fewer than 60 points per game), West Allegheny has been particularly excellent on the defensive end, holding opponents to 50 points per game in its past five games.
Forward Andrew Koester, a sophomore who also plays quarterback for the football team, is the Indians' leading scorer at about 17 points per game.
Going streaking ... wrong way
On the other end of the spectrum from West Allegheny is fellow Class AAA Section 2 competitor Ellwood City.
After kicking off the season with back-to-back wins, the Wolverines lost 12 consecutive games, with all but one of the losses coming by double digits.
The Wolverines finally put an end to their misery with a 51-33 victory against South Side Beaver Tuesday in a non-section game.
The team lost seven players from last season's squad that went 8-14 and is still relatively inexperienced, with eight players on the roster who are freshmen or sophomores.
The week ahead
The upcoming week isn't overloaded with games between top girls' teams in the area, but there are still some compelling matchups on tap.
Likely the best of them will come Saturday when Class AAA No. 2 Hopewell takes on No. 3 South Park in the Pittsburgh Classic at Ambridge. The game will feature two of the region's top scorers in Hopewell's Shatori Walker-Kimbrough and South Park's Shelby Lindsay, both of whom average more than 18 points per game.
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