With the conclusion of the PIAA playoffs last week in Hershey, the high school basketball season has ended for even the most talented of local teams, many of which happen to reside in the Post-Gazette's West Xtra region.
With that in mind, here is one guy's opinion on who should receive recognition for a job well done. Without further adieu, here is the 2013 "Craig's List" for basketball excellence:
Offensive Player of the Year
Boys: Tie: Elijah Cottrill, Beaver Falls; Devin Wilson, Montour
Most sports fans at any level have it ingrained in them to detest everything about ties, but in some cases, it's merited. This happens to be such an instance, as two of the top players in the WPIAL happened to come from the same region and honoring one would mean slighting the other. Both players were stars on wildly successful teams, all while putting up some big offensive numbers. Wilson averaged 17 points per game in the regular season as the Spartans went 25-5 and won the WPIAL Class AAA championship before falling short in the PIAA semifinals against Archbishop Carroll. Cottrill was the leading scorer on a state championship Tigers team, averaging 16.3 points per game in the regular season for a roster that featured another go-to-scorer in Drew Cook.
Girls: Tie: Shatori Walker-Kimbrough, Hopewell; Chassidy Omogrosso, Blackhawk
Yes, another tie, but this one comes for a different, and equally understandable, reason. From a pure scoring standpoint, Walker-Kimbrough is the clear choice as she averaged 5.5 more points per game than Omogrosso, but Omogrosso averaged 22 points per game in the regular season while playing for a very balanced offensive team that had five players averaging double figures in scoring. Walker-Kimbrough, a three-sport star who averaged 27.5 points per game (trailing only Jeannette's Ciara Gregory among WPIAL scoring leaders), will be playing next season at Maryland. Just a sophomore, Omogrosso has already committed to play at Pitt.
Team of the Year
Boys: Beaver Falls
It might seem a bit repetitive to have Beaver Falls represented more than once, but this team and its players were simply that good this season. Coach Doug Biega and the Tigers went 28-3 this season, winning both the WPIAL and PIAA championships in Class AA. In its first 13 games, Beaver Falls lost three games, but those came to teams (New Castle, Montour, Lincoln Park) that finished a combined 76-13. Since that time, the Tigers won 18 consecutive games to end the season, with only two of those victories coming by single digits.
Girls: Bishop Canevin
This honor could have easily gone to Blackhawk, which finished its regular season undefeated, but the Cougars fell in the semifinals of both the WPIAL and PIAA Class AAA playoffs. The Crusaders, on the other hand, were able to follow up a strong regular season, in which they went 18-4, with an equally strong postseason run, winning nine consecutive playoff games to capture both the WPIAL and PIAA crowns in Class AA. A big factor in the team's success was a strong defense, as Bishop Canevin allowed just 33.1 points per game, the fourth-best mark among Class AA teams. Of the team's nine players, three are graduating, including leading scorer Erin Waskowiak.
Coach of the Year
Boys: Mark Jula, Ambridge
Ambridge was not among what many would consider to be the elite teams in the region, but even accomplishing what it was able to was impressive enough. After the Bridgers finished 4-16 last season, Jula guided his alma mater to a 10-win improvement in his first season, with the team finishing 14-9 and earning a spot in the WPIAL playoffs, its first appearance since 2009. All of this happened two years removed from a 1-21 season.
Girls: Steve Lodovico, Blackhawk
As was mentioned earlier, Blackhawk stumbled in its two most important games of the season, but that cannot negate what Lodovico and the Cougars were able to accomplish during the rest of their season. Now in his eighth season with the program, Lodovico posted a career high in single-season wins as Blackhawk went 27-2, winning by an average of more than 25 points per game with a roster that had just two seniors. Utilizing a balanced offense, the Cougars improved their scoring average by 7.7 points per game, helping them win the most games in a season since 1999-2000.
firstname.lastname@example.org; Twitter: @craig_a_meyer