For the players winning WPIAL championships last weekend, the smiles on their faces seemed to gleam from the time the game ended until they walked out of Palumbo Center.
But few, if any of those grins, seemed to be as wide as Vincentian's Brenna Wise.
Wise, who is among the top sophomores in the WPIAL, helped the Vincentian girls repeat as Class A champions with a 53-46 victory against Serra Catholic.
Wise posted one of the best performances of the championships, scoring 18 points and grabbing 20 rebounds. Wise would have had to be considered for not only MVP, but also MJP -- Most Jovial Player.
"She's our emotional leader," Vincentian coach Ron Moncrief said when told of Wise's postgame exuberance. "She's always energetic. That's her mindset. She's very energetic and very outgoing. That's the way she plays. It works for her, so I'm not going to try to stop it."
While Wise boasts a happy-go-lucky attitude off the court, she's one of the fiercest competitors when she's on the court. Serra got a first-hand look at that, as Wise, a 6-foot-1 guard-forward, bullied her way down low to spark Vincentian to its second title in a row.
"It's something special. Most teams can't do that," Wise said of the back-to-back championships.
Wise averages 22.8 points per game and finished the regular season fifth in the WPIAL in scoring. She had a triple-double (18 points, 11 rebounds and 10 blocks) in Vincentian's first-round win against West Greene, and went over 1,000 points in her career in a quarterfinal triumph against Winchester Thurston. Wise has scored 1,056 points in two seasons.
Vincentian (25-1) plays Keystone (20-6) Saturday at Gateway in the first round of the PIAA tournament. Vincentian lost in the semifinals last season.
"Our goal is to win states," said Wise. "We're going to keep pushing and keep going."
Tough test for Seneca
As the No. 12 seed in the WPIAL Class AAAA playoffs, the Seneca Valley boys faced a gauntlet of excellent teams in its run to the semifinals.
The Raiders will face yet another in the first round of the PIAA playoffs.
Seneca Valley (17-8) will square off against Erie Cathedral Prep (21-2) at General McLane on Saturday. Cathedral Prep, which is the No. 5-ranked Class AAAA team in the state in the Harrisburg Patriot-News/Pennlive.com poll, won its third District 10 championship in a row by defeating rival McDowell, 64-46.
Cathedral Prep is in the PIAA tournament for the fifth consecutive season. Four of its players were starters on last year's team that advanced to the semifinals. The Ramblers beat Obama Academy, Central Catholic and Shaler before being eliminated by Lower Merion.
Senior guard Sheldon Zablotny leads Cathedral Prep in scoring with 19 points per game. Zablotny scored 16 points in the district championship, moving him up to No. 2 on the all-time career scoring list at Cathedral Prep.
NA faces familiar foe
WPIAL teams playing a team from outside this district in the PIAA playoffs likely won't be familiar with their opponent aside from any film they have on them, but that is not the case for the North Allegheny boys.
North Allegheny (21-4) will play District 6 champion State College (17-7) for the second time this season when the two meet in a first-round game Saturday at Altoona. North Allegheny traveled to State College for a tournament the opening weekend of the season, and the Tigers defeated the Little Lions, 68-53, in the championship game. Sean Hennigan scored 21 points for the Tigers, who rallied after trailing by eight points at the half.
State College edged Central Mountain, 63-59, in double overtime in the District 6 title game. North Allegheny lost to Hampton, 66-62, in the WPIAL semifinals.
Prior to last season, the Mars boys had never qualified for state playoffs.
The Planets will now be participating for the second year in a row.
Mars earned a berth in the PIAA Class AAA tournament by finishing as the third-place team from the WPIAL. The Planets lost in the semifinals to eventual champion Montour, 61-52.
Up next for Mars (21-4) is Girard (20-5) in a first-round game Friday at Gannon University.