WPIAL Basketball: Seeding method changes

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As WPIAL seedings go, Class AAAA Section 3 pulled a trifecta.

Three boys teams from Section 3 were seeded first, second and third for the WPIAL AAAA playoffs. New Castle was given the No. 1 seed, North Allegheny No. 2 and Hampton No. 3.

The WPIAL announced playoff pairings and seedings Tuesday night at the Doubletree in Green Tree, and it is believed to be the first time in WPIAL history that three teams from the same section were given the top three seeds.

The boys and girls playoffs begin Friday and conclude with championship games March 1-2 at Duquesne University's A.J. Palumbo Center.

"I think it speaks volumes for our section," Hampton coach Joe Lafko said of the seedings.

New Castle has a 22-0 record, North Allegheny 19-3 and Hampton 18-4. North Allegheny's and Hampton's losses were to Section 3 teams.

In the past, the WPIAL basketball committee often rewarded section champions with a higher seed, no matter the strength of the section. But not this season.

Section 4 champion Upper St. Clair, which has won 16 in a row, got the No. 4 seed. Section 2 champ Central Catholic was seeded fifth. Hempfield and Kiski Area tied for the Section 1 championship, but Hempfield was seeded seventh and Kiski Area eighth.

When New Castle and Hampton moved from Class AAA to AAAA this season, the WPIAL created a "super section" by placing the two teams in an already strong Section 3. Many coaches believe Section 3 is, by far, the strongest section in the WPIAL, top to bottom. Apparently, the WPIAL basketball committee agrees.

"I think the committee is moving toward rewarding people for playing top-flight competition," said Dan O'Neil, chairman of the WPIAL basketball committee.

"Strength of schedule is becoming more and more important to us. We're moving away from giving seeds to section champs who come from a weaker section."

A year ago, five teams from Section 3 made the Class AAAA quarterfinals.

This season, New Castle is the only undefeated team in the WPIAL playoffs in any classification. The Red Hurricanes defeated 21 of 22 opponents by 16 points or more. The lone exception was a 54-50 victory against Hampton.

"I really thought Upper St. Clair would be the No. 2 seed," said New Castle coach Ralph Blundo, who used to be a WPIAL basketball committee member. "It all depends on how you look at it. I know this. I've sat in that room before and I know Dan O'Neil and that committee works extremely hard. It's not easy."

Upper St. Clair coach Danny Holzer was not upset.

"I guarantee you 15 teams came here to this meeting hoping not to get on New Castle's side of the bracket," Holzer said. "Unfortunately, seven of us have to be on that side. That's where the committee put us, and I respect that."

Chartiers Valley (AAA), Beaver Falls (AA) and Lincoln Park (A) were the other top boys' seeds.

The top girls' seeds were Mt. Lebanon (AAAA), Blackhawk (AAA), Seton-LaSalle (AA) and Vincentian (A).

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