Depending upon the sport, there is sometimes a so-called "magic number" that exists, one that clearly distinguishes a team or player and can even be seen as an all-encompassing barometer of success.
There isn't necessarily rhyme or reason that goes into the number, but oftentimes, it just looks or feels right.
This season, the Beaver Area boys' basketball team was able to get just that -- the vaunted 20-win season.
Though their season came to an end at a relatively late juncture -- the second round of the PIAA Class AAA tournament -- the Bobcats finished 20-5, their highest win total in more than a decade.
It represents the end of what has been a slow and steady ascension to relevancy for Beaver in local high school basketball.
"Raw numbers definitely indicate that we've come a long way," Beaver coach Andy Podbielski said. "The excitement around our program and all of those things are definitely good answers. We've making our home [court] a difficult place to play as well."
These accomplishments and positive developments come not too long after Beaver wasn't far from being a perennial section doormat.
In the 2008-09 season, the year before Podbielski took over the coaching reigns, the team finished 3-17 just two years removed from a winless 2006-07 campaign in which it lost 22 games by an average of more than 22 points per game.
Steps forward soon came as the Bobcats went 11-11 two years ago before taking a much larger leap to a 19-5 season last year that saw them advance to the WPIAL semifinals and, like this season, the second round of the state tournament.
Building off the promise of that run, Beaver got off to a torrid start this season, winning its first 12 games and 15 of its first 16 to set them up for the Section 2 title it would ultimately win.
Along the way, the team averaged 64.3 points per game, the most of any team in its section (with the next-closest team almost five points behind). Leading that offensive charge was 6-foot-5 center Aaron Barlow, who averaged 21.3 points per game in the team's 20 regular-season contests.
The Bobcats will have to do some major reshuffling before next season, as Barlow will graduate along with six other seniors from the team's roster.
But while some teams would start preparing for a rebuilding job and a multiple-year lull if faced with a similar situation, Podbielski remains excited about his team's immediate future.
He noted that the team has two starters returning in junior forward Alex Rowse and sophomore guard Austin Saal, as well as a talented group of younger players that includes sophomore guard Zachary Royba, junior center Kevin Kirkland and junior forward Dannison Lacey.
With this season serving as a potential catalyst, Podbielski sees the start of some potentially great feats for his program.
"We know what we're capable of now," he said. "Now it's a matter of taking that next step. Now you want to be one of the elite. Those are the kinds of things we're looking forward to eventually doing."
Colts bow out in semifinals
After facing the disappointment of falling short in the WPIAL Class AAAA final not even two weeks prior, the Chartiers Valley girls' basketball team continued its second life in the postseason by knocking off Mt. Lebanon last Friday by a 48-37 final.
Though the low scoring total is not indicative of it, a key for the Colts' win was improved offensive play.
"Offensively, we played with instinct and were non-robotic," Chartiers Valley coach Spencer Stefko said. "That made us a little less predictable than we are sometimes."
The Colts great postseason run ended Tuesday, however, as they lost to Cumberland Valley, 54-39, in the PIAA semifinals.
Chartiers Valley finished the season with a 22-8 record.
End of a storied career
A year removed from going 25-3 and winning a WPIAL Class AAA championship, the girls' basketball team at Hopewell saw its season end last week with a loss to South Park in the PIAA tournament's second round.
It was not only the end of the Vikings' title aspirations for this season, but also the end of standout player Shatori Walker-Kimbrough's high school career.
Walker-Kimbrough well exceeded 2,000 points in her time at Hopewell and helped lead the team to a cumulative 74-10 record over the past three seasons.
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