East Xtra: Westinghouse has top dogs in the City

Craig Meyer's high school basketball notebook

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Because of a combination of factors that it takes to achieve them, championships are usually something of a rare feat. Even rarer on the high school level is when a school's boys and girls teams are able to capture titles in the same sport in the same season.

Not even two hours apart, the basketball programs at Westinghouse were able to do just that.

The Bulldogs, on both the girls and boys side, secured City League championships last Saturday, giving the school an uncommon distinction among its local peers.

According to records kept by the Post-Gazette, Westinghouse's basketball teams have not won City League titles in the same year since at least the 1983-84 season, which is as far back as the records go in girls high school basketball.

In the WPIAL, it happened as recently as 2010, when both the boys and girls teams at Mt. Lebanon won Class AAAA championships.

All things considered, it was a great accomplishment for Westinghouse.

The boys' title was its first since 1998, not too long after many of its current players were born. Behind a game-high 20 points from guard Shaquan Johnson, the Bulldogs defeated Perry, 61-52, a team which it lost to by three points in their most recent meeting (Jan. 22). It was the culmination of a run in which the team won 10 of its final 13 games.

For second-year coach Tariq Francis and his team, it was also a hard-earned title for a squad that has faced struggles with things as basic as being able to find a gym in which to practice.

"This means a lot," said senior guard-forward Robert Bailey, the team's leading scorer, Saturday after the championship game. "Not just to our team, but also to the community, to see that there is still Westinghouse basketball."

Before it was able to defeat Allderdice in the City League championship game, the girls team, too, had to work through some obstacles. The Bulldogs lost two of their better players -- including guard Kayla Key, who is now at Vincentian -- before the season began and worked through a four-game losing streak in the middle of the season, with three of those losses coming by double digits.

"It means a lot to the community," coach Phyllis Jones said. "Everyone could see it on Saturday with all of the Homewood community there to support, even with as early as it was. It was just great support."

A few good years

The boys basketball team at Kiski Area High School saw its season come to an end with a come-from-behind 56-45 victory by Gateway last Wednesday. But even with the loss, the Cavaliers finished 16-6, meaning they have posted double-digit win totals in four of the past five seasons. In three of the past four seasons, they have won 16 games exactly.

Still going strong

Kiski is not the only local team to have that kind of recent success -- the same can be applied to the Winchester Thurston girls team. Though the Bears were eliminated in the Class A quarterfinals by a one-loss Vincentian team, the Bears ended the season with 13 wins, the fourth time in the past five years that the program has surpassed 10 wins in a season.

Breaking new ground

Hempfield regularly fields a competitive boys basketball team in Class AAAA, but this season, even it was able to accomplish something that it had not done in a decade.

With their 17 wins this season, the Spartans have won 36 games over the past two seasons under coach Jim Nesser. That is the most games that Hempfield has won in a two-season span since winning 42 games from 2002-04.

On to PIAA playoffs

The Allderdice girls basketball team's aforementioned 54-42 loss to Westinghouse in the City League championship has not ended the Dragons' season.

Allderdice will play in the PIAA Class AAAA tournament, beginning March 8 against the WPIAL champion.

It will give the Dragons' dynamic back-court tandem of Sierra Fordham and Sydney Abernathy at least one more chance to ply their considerable talents together.

They were among the top 11 female scorers in the area, with Fordham averaging a team-high 21.5 points per game and Abernathy right behind at 20 points per game. While Fordham will be back for her senior season, Abernathy will be graduating.


Craig Meyer: cmeyer@post-gazette.com; Twitter: @craig_a_meyer


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