Well into the postseason, the Beaver Falls boys' basketball team has done a good job of proving it is the best Class AA team in the area and done so with a surprising lack of competition along the way.
Heading into their PIAA Class AA second-round game against Mercyhurst Prep Wednesday night, the Tigers had beaten their five postseason opponents by an average of 35 points per game. It's a run that's not even limited to the last several weeks. Since beating Central Valley Jan. 29, Beaver Falls had not had an opponent finish within single digits.
The Tigers obviously have talent on their roster with players such as Drew Cook and Elijah Cottrill, but what more than anything seems to be causing teams such problems against Beaver Falls is a suffocating full-court pressure defense that turns opponents over with regularity and creates excellent offensive opportunities in transition.
For a team in which Cottrill, at 6 feet 3, is its tallest player, it's an example of utilizing available assets to their fullest.
"I definitely believe that's the case," Beaver Falls coach Doug Biega said of the press' ability to fluster opponents. "That's the only way we can play because of our disadvantage inside.
"We have to play full court, very high pressure. We have to make it as difficult on any dribble and any pass."
Playing against slower-paced teams such as Bishop Canevin, Brentwood and Burrell, all of which averaged fewer than 55 points per game in the regular season, has also benefited the Tigers, as they have been able to force teams out of their more deliberate rhythm and into a full-court game.
"The matchups have been favorable toward us," Biega said. "If you can't handle our pressure, you won't be successful and if you can, you will be."
With all of the success it's had over the last few months, it's hard to believe that there were some doubts about Beaver Falls entering the season.
After going 28-3 last season and winning the WPIAL championship, the team had to replace seven seniors, with the most notable being star guard Sheldon Jeter, who is averaging 5.7 points per game as a freshman at Vanderbilt this season.
Any concern about their ability to succeed has only motivated the Tigers.
"They've had a chip on their shoulders to show that we're not a one-hit wonder," Biega said.
If another source of motivation seems obvious to most -- winning a state championship after losing in the PIAA title game last year -- it's not something that Beaver Falls is strongly mulling.
While Biega and his team are aware of what's happened in the past, the players have other things pushing them toward the greatness they hope to achieve.
"I guess with human nature, you would have to be hungry to get back to that point," Biega said. "But I would like to think this group would be motivated to create its own legacy in the Beaver Falls basketball tradition regardless of last season's outcome."
Quaker Valley goes cold
The Quaker Valley boys were among the hottest teams in the WPIAL at one point this season, but they got cold late and saw their season end last Saturday.
Quaker Valley lost to Lakeview, 44-40, in a PIAA Class AA first-round game. The Quakers led, 26-23, at halftime, but Lakeview outscored them, 21-14, in the second half to get the win. The Quakers were defeated by Burrell, 43-32, in the WPIAL semifinals. The back-to-back losses represented two of the team's three lowest point totals of the season.
Quaker Valley experienced a lot of success this season, finishing 20-6 overall and 9-3 in Section 6. The Quakers were 5-3 on Dec. 28, but went on to win 15 of their next 16 games.
Pair of girls' teams ousted
Last week saw the seasons of the girls' basketball teams at Quigley Catholic and Central Valley come to an end. The Spartans' attempt at a fourth-quarter comeback fell short as they lost to Conemaugh Township, 49-44, while the Warriors lost their second game in a two-week period to Elizabeth Forward, falling, 51-44. It was Central Valley's fourth loss in its final six games.
After winning 18 games for the second-consecutive season, Quigley loses four seniors, including standout forward Morgan Dillon. Although Central Valley returns leading scorer Seairra Barrett, it must replace one of its best players in guard Madi Rowan.
firstname.lastname@example.org; Twitter: @craig_a_meyer