Chartiers Valley's Matty McConnell is one of a squadron of strong guards still alive in PIAA tournament.
By Brad Everett Tri-State Sports & News Service
Look up the word "guard" in the dictionary, and it will state something along the lines of "one assigned to protect or oversee another."
In other words, the remaining WPIAL boys teams competing for a PIAA title are in good hands.
It's a party of five for the WPIAL in the PIAA quarterfinals, which will be played tonight and tomorrow. New Castle (Class AAAA), Montour (AAA), Chartiers Valley (AAA), Beaver Falls (AA) and Lincoln Park (A) are the survivors of the nearly two dozen teams that qualified for the state tournament.
If there's one thing the remaining teams have in common, it's outstanding guard play. Between pace-controlling point guards, standout shooters and defense-splitting slashers, these teams have a little bit of everything when it comes to backcourt talent.
Montour coach Adam Kaufman has arguably the best in the WPIAL in senior point guard Devin Wilson, a four-year starter who has won two WPIAL championships and has played in two PIAA championship games.
"I think the game starts with the guards, especially the point guard," Kaufman said. "They have the ball the majority of the time. I think the point guard should be the coach on the floor. In our case, Devin is so good at controlling the tempo. He can get teams that play fast to play more to our style."
Montour has some 3-point snipers at the guard positions, too. Seniors Kevin Scuilli and Rob Julian both have more than 60 3-pointers this season.
Chartiers Valley features senior Michael Boulos and sophomore Matty McConnell. Boulos leads the Colts in scoring with 18.1 points per game and is at his best when driving to the basket. McConnell, much like his older brother, T.J., is a deadly shooter and will spot up from nearly anywhere. McConnell has made 70 3-pointers and junior Dom Castello has knocked down 50.
New Castle is considered by some to be the best WPIAL team in more than a decade. Senior Brandon Domenick is a three-year starter at point guard, and teams with junior Anthony Richards to give the Red Hurricanes a dynamite guard tandem that is extremely athletic and can light it up from the perimeter. Domenick holds the school record for career 3-pointers.
"Having a point guard like Brandon Domenick, it's such a comforting feeling to know I have someone out there who can take care of the ball and make good decisions," New Castle coach Ralph Blundo said.
Beaver Falls also boasts a pair of excellent guards in senior Drew Cook (15.9 ppg) and junior Elijah Cottrill (16.9 ppg).
Lincoln Park's Maverick Rowan, a 6-foot-5 guard, is considered to be one of the top freshmen in the state. Rowan averages 20.1 points per game and has more than 70 3-pointers. Ryan Skovranko, a 6-6 junior guard-forward, is getting Division I interest.
From the start, some projected a semifinal between New Castle (28-0) and either Lower Merion or Harrisburg, but the Red Hurricanes' quarterfinal opponent, Erie Cathedral Prep (23-2), might be just as good. The Ramblers have four players who started on last year's team that made it to the semifinals. Senior guard Sheldon Zablotny averages 19 points per game. New Castle senior forward Shawn Anderson (20.3 ppg) has scored in double figures every game this season.
Should Chartiers Valley and Montour both win their quarterfinal games, it will setup a rematch of the WPIAL championship. Both teams, however, will have their hands full tonight.
Montour (24-4) plays District 10 champion General McLane (22-5), whom the Spartans beat by 10 points in last year's quarterfinals.
Chartiers Valley (24-4) will take on Archbishop Carroll (21-6). The key matchup may be between the 6-foot-6 centers: Chartiers Valley senior Spencer Casson and Archbishop Carroll sophomore Derrick Jones.
Lakeview (23-4) had never won a PIAA playoff game until last weekend, but the Sailors have quickly picked up a pair of wins against WPIAL opponents Quaker Valley and Greensburg Central Catholic. WPIAL champion Beaver Falls (25-3) will pose an even stiffer test. The Tigers have won 15 games in a row, all but one coming by at least 12 points.
Can Bishop Carroll (23-5) knock out two WPIAL powers in a row? The Huskies outlasted WPIAL champion Vincentian, 92-85, in the semifinals, and now get a shot at two-time defending PIAA finalist Lincoln Park (21-6). The Leopards scored fewer than 60 points only twice in the regular season, and they have already matched that mark in the PIAA playoffs, scoring 54 and 51 points in the first two rounds.