Seneca Valley lost three of its final four regular-season games, but the Raiders didn't need a makeover for the WPIAL playoffs.
Apparently, all they needed was just to get out of rugged Class AAAA Section 3.
Seneca Valley gave Section 3's reputation another big boost when the Raiders crushed Central Catholic, 72-41, Saturday afternoon in the first round of the Class AAAA playoffs at North Hills.
Seneca Valley (16-7) was the fourth-place team from Section 3 and the No. 12 seed for the playoffs. The top three seeds are from Section 3.
Central Catholic (16-6) was the Section 2 champion and No. 5 seed. It was a highly anticipated first-round matchup, but Seneca Valley turned it into a rout, handing Central Catholic one of its worst playoff losses.
"I think this just validates how good our section is," said Seneca Valley coach Victor Giannotta. "Quite frankly, there is no doubt in my mind that anyone in our section would've made the playoffs in any other section."
Central Catholic has played 67 playoff games since joining the WPIAL in the mid 1970s. This was the Vikings' second-worst playoff loss, exceeded only by a 90-57 loss against Ambridge in a third-place game in 1980.
It's hard to believe anyone could have envisioned a 31-point loss for Central Catholic.
"I didn't think we'd win by 30, but that's only 10 more than I thought we would beat them by," said Seneca Valley senior forward R.J. McCauley.
Seneca Valley's zone defenses gave Central Catholic problems and the Raiders got 26 points from McCauley and 22 from senior guard Easton Bazzoli. Central Catholic turned the ball over 15 times in the first half. It wasn't as if the Vikings couldn't handle full-court pressure. Seneca Valley played its usual half-court zone defenses, using everything from a 2-3 to a triangle-and-two.
But Central Catholic had two major problems. The Vikings' passing decisions were bad and their shooting was way off. Central Catholic shot 28 percent from the field. Seneca Valley shot 49 percent.
"Central Catholic is a great program. They were in the WPIAL finals a year ago," Giannotta said. "But, boy, we played well."
McCauley and Bazzoli were a two-man wrecking crew in the first quarter, combining for 17 of Seneca Valley's 21 points. McCauley is a bulky 6-foot-2, 210-pound senior who will play football at California University of Pa. But he has a nice shooting touch, evidenced by his three 3-pointers.
"We have so much talent on our team and we blend really well together," McCauley said. "That's why I thought we'd win."
Seneca Valley scored the first seven points and the final six of the first quarter to take a 21-8 lead. The Raiders went on an 11-3 run to start the second and take control. The first half finished with a dunk by Bazzoli to give the Raiders a 38-16 lead.
For more on high school sports, go to "Varsity Blog" at www.post-gazette.com/varsityblog. Mike White: email@example.com or 412-263-1975. Twitter @mwhiteburgh First Published February 17, 2013 5:00 AM