The guy who has guided high school basketball teams for 43 seasons and more than 1,000 games apparently still has something left in the coaching tank.
Phil Pergola is 66 years old and having a ball this season at California High School. Pergola has guided the California boys to a 12-1 record and the Trojans are in first place in WPIAL Class AA Section 5 with a 7-0 record.
"I still really enjoy being around the kids and my coaching staff, so that keeps me going," Pergola said.
Pergola is in his ninth season at California, where he has led the Trojans to heights rarely reached at the school. The 2007 team played in a WPIAL championship game for the first time in school history. This year's team has a chance to win only the eighth section title in school history -- and it would be the third under Pergola.
Pergola's career record is 573-470. He coached at Mon Valley Catholic from 1970-77, Charleroi from 1977-86, Ringgold from 1986-04 and California since 2004. He won a WPIAL title and a PIAA championship at Ringgold.
"If I stick around long enough, I can have 500 losses, too," Pergola said with a laugh.
Jim Williams has returned to Pergola's coaching staff this year after coaching at Ringgold last year. Williams had been an assistant under Pergola for many years at Ringgold and California. Bruno Pappasergi is in his second season under Pergola. He was on Pergola's first team at Mon Valley Catholic in 1970.
This California team has been led by one of the most potent one-two scoring punches in the WPIAL. Tanner Huffman is averaging 22 points a game and Brian Fisher 18. Both have scored more than 1,000 career points.
"We really have three seniors who have been with me since I came to California and they were in fourth grade and have come all the way up in our system," Pergola said. "That's Tanner Huffman, Brian Fister and Evan Patterson. ... I don't expect us to lay down the rest of the season because Huffman and Fisher just won't let it happen."
The Seton-LaSalle girls team had its 37-game winning streak snapped a few weeks ago with a loss to Centerville, Ohio, 66-63. But Seton-LaSalle still has a long streak against WPIAL teams.
The Rebels headed into Thursday's game on a 56-game WPIAL winning streak. The last WPIAL loss was to Vincentian, 47-42, on Dec. 28, 2010.
Vincentian is the top scoring team in WPIAL boys basketball, averaging 82.4 points a game after Tuesday's games. New Castle is second at 79.9 and Uniontown third at 74.0.
Plum has the WPIAL's top defensive team, allowing 42.4 points a game. Carmichaels is second at 42.9 and Quaker Valley third at 43.6.
In WPIAL girls basketball heading into Thursday's games, Blackhawk led in scoring at 73.2 points a game. Serra was second at 71.5 and Seton-LaSalle third at 71.3.
Three girls teams were actually giving up fewer than 30 points a game. Burrell was No. 1 at 25 points a game. Beaver (26.5) and Our Lady of the Sacred Heart (28.7) were second and third. Beaver and OLSH both play in Class AA Section 6.
• New Castle is the only undefeated boys team in the WPIAL. Blackhawk and Vincentian were the only undefeated girls teams heading into Thursday's games.
• St. Joseph's Mallory Heinle, one of the top 15 scorers in the WPIAL, will be out three to four weeks because of an injured ankle.
• Stefan Arch was one of the top players for Our Lady of the Sacred Heart a year ago, but missed much of the season with a concussion. He sustained another concussion in preseason practice this year, and just started playing again a week ago.
"He's done well to battle back," OLSH coach Mike Rodriguez said. "He's a nice point guard and good leader. It's nice to have him back."