South Xtra: Big Macs register a big win

Brad Everett's High School Basketball Notebook

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No team will earn an official WPIAL playoff win until Friday night, but don't tell that to Canon-McMillan, which won what was essentially a playoff game last Friday.

In the final section game of the season, Canon-McMillan played host to Peters Township with the fourth and final playoff spot in Class AAAA Section 4 on the line. Moon's loss to Trinity the previous night meant the winner of the Peters/Canon-Mac showdown would advance to the postseason. The loser would see its playoff dreams expire.

Canon-McMillan won, 62-49.

"We were really excited," Canon-McMillan coach Rick Bell said. "We've worked really hard and have had to deal with adversity as far as injuries. We lost a heartbreaker against Mt. Lebanon [49-46] earlier in the week. This group of kids has worked real hard. We thought this senior class had a chance to do something special."

Bell has Canon-McMillan in the playoffs for the first time since the 2009-10 season. The Big Macs (11-11, 6-8) finished behind Upper St. Clair, Bethel Park and Mt. Lebanon.

Senior guard Brett Haney scored 26 points in the playoff-clinching win. Canon-McMillan trailed Peters Township by four points at the half, before outscoring the Indians, 20-4, in the third quarter to take control.

Canon-McMillan is seeking its first playoff victory since 2007-08. Bell knows the Big Macs will be a big underdog when they play North Allegheny next Wednesday at a site and time to be determined, but that hasn't stopped him from believing his team has what it takes to pull off a stunner.

Said Bell: "I've been telling the kids, 'It's not a best of seven. We don't have to beat them four times. We just have to do it once.'"

WPIAL Championship picks

A total of 161 teams -- 80 boys and 81 girls -- in four classifications have seen their WPIAL championship hopes extend to the postseason, but only eight will finish with gold medals around their necks at Duquesne University's Palumbo Center March 1-2.

Here are one guy's predictions on who will ultimately lift the championship trophies two weeks from now. (Note: If these picks are all correct, there will be six repeat champions).

BOYS

Class AAAA: New Castle -- It's been awhile since a Class AAAA team has been so heavily favored. In fact, New Castle, the Class AAA champ last season, might be the best team from Western Pennsylvania since DeJuan Blair led Schenley to the PIAA title in 2006-07.

Class AAA: Mars -- This class is wide open, but look for Mars, which had never had a team advance past the first round until last season, to finish on top. The Planets have a solid backcourt and an excellent big man in 6-foot-8 Josh Goetz.

Class AA: Beaver Falls -- The Tigers' guard tandem of Elijah Cottrill and Drew Cook is the best in Class AA and will carry the team to their second WPIAL title in a row. Each of the Tigers three losses this season came to potential champions -- New Castle, Montour and Lincoln Park.

Class A: Lincoln Park -- Make it back-to-back titles for Lincoln Park, too. Lincoln Park was already a good team with sharpshooting freshman Maverick Rowan leading the way, but the Leopards went from good to great with the midseason addition of 6-9 center Elijah Minnie.

GIRLS

Class AAAA: Mt. Lebanon -- The talent gap between the top five teams is small, but Mt. Lebanon's experience will be the difference. The last three seasons alone, the Blue Devils played in 25 postseason games -- going 23-2 -- and won a pair of WPIAL and PIAA titles.

Class AAA: Hopewell -- In what is a deep, talented pool of contenders, the thought here is that the WPIAL's best player, Hopewell's Shatori Walker-Kimbrough, will put the Vikings on her back and lead them to a title just as she did last year when she scored 35 in the final.

Class AA: Seton-LaSalle -- This discussion begins and ends with Seton-LaSalle, which is looking to win its third title in a row. The Rebels have won 63 consecutive games against WPIAL teams, winning all but one of them by at least six points.

Class A: Serra Catholic -- Call this the Upset Special. Nearly everyone is expecting a rematch of last year's final -- Vincentian vs. North Catholic -- while Serra Catholic is flying under the radar. The Eagles have the top scoring offense and defense in Class A.

hsbasketball


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