Xtra Points: Olkoskys have a knack for beating the odds

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Like father, like daughter. And for the Olkosky family of Sheraden, it's an upsetting thing.

Johnie Olkosky, a junior guard on the Bishop Canevin girls basketball team, had a big game in leading the Crusaders to a 56-47 victory against Seton-LaSalle in last Friday's WPIAL Class AA championship. It was considered a huge upset as Seton-LaSalle was the two-time defending champion and had won 66 games in a row against WPIAL teams. Olkosky tied a WPIAL girls championship game record with seven 3-pointers and finished with 26 points.

How coincidental that 27 years ago, Olkosky's father, John, played a role in another gigantic upset. On Feb. 25, 1986, the Canevin boys defeated Beaver Falls, 56-55, at Ambridge in what is still considered possibly the biggest upset in the history of the WPIAL playoffs.

Canevin came into the game with an 11-12 record while Beaver Falls was 21-1, the two-time defending WPIAL Class AAA champion and ranked No. 1 in the state. Beaver Falls led, 23-11, after the first quarter, but Canevin came back and knocked off the Tigers.

John Olkosky scored 12 points in the game and made a key basket coming down the stretch. Pat Rogers led Canevin with 16 points and Len Sweeney also scored 12. Gordon Stoernell's two free throws late in the game iced the victory for coach Jack Burik's team.

Vincentian's double play

Vincentian will have a pep rally next week, and the event will include raising a WPIAL championship banner.

But Vincentian will have to raise the banner twice.

Vincentian pulled off a rare double take of WPIAL basketball championships last weekend as the McCandless private school won both the boys and girls titles. It is only the 12th time in WPIAL history that a school won both the boys and girls titles.

The first school to win both titles was Beaver Falls in 1985. The others were Penn Hills (1987), Aliquippa (1987), Aliquippa (1988), Blackhawk (1996), Upper St. Clair (1996), Blackhawk (1999), Blackhawk (2000), Moon (2005), North Catholic (2009) and Mt. Lebanon (2010).

Beaver Falls dominates

The Beaver Falls boys breezed through the WPIAL Class AA playoffs and had the most dominating run to a title in recent years.

Beaver Falls won the championship with a 61-33 victory against Burrell. That was the Tigers' smallest margin of victory in the playoffs as they won four playoff games by an average of 32.8 points. That is the largest average margin of victory since the WPIAL started taking four teams from every section to the playoffs in 2006. Last year's Lincoln Park team won four playoff games by an average of 30.3 points.

Part of the reason for Beaver Falls' domination was the Tigers had a good team. But another reason is that this was considered a down year for Class AA, at least in terms of the number of quality teams. In the semifinals, Beaver Falls beat an Apollo-Ridge team that hadn't been to the semifinals since 1988. In the title game, Beaver Falls beat a Burrell team that hadn't been to at least the semifinals since 1979.

Sellout crowds

The attendance for the WPIAL championships at Palumbo Center couldn't have gotten much better as the paid attendance for the two days was 13,500. The games were played in three sessions and two of the sessions were sellouts.

Palumbo was filled to capacity for Friday night's Class AAA final between Montour and Chartiers Valley and the place was jammed for Saturday night's AAAA boys showdown between New Castle and Hampton. New Castle sold 1,500 tickets at its school ahead of time. That is an unusually high number these days for a school in a basketball championship.

Palumbo underwent renovation a few years ago and capacity dropped to 4,300. The WPIAL definitely could have sold more tickets and even used a bigger venue both Friday and Saturday nights.

Games "On Demand"

All eight of the championship games -- boys and girls -- are now available through Xfinity's "On Demand." Go to the "Get Local" folder, and then "Sports", and then "High School Sports" and then "Basketball" folders.

Swin's book

Swin Cash, a legendary former McKeesport High basketball player, has written a book. "Humble Journey: More Precious Than Gold." It is about her journey through her professional basketball career and personal life. The book traces her road from 2008, when she failed to make the U.S. Olympic team, to being part of the 2012 gold medal Olympic team.

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Mike White: mwhite@post-gazette.com


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