South Xtra: Clairton more than one-trick Bears

Brad Everett's High School Basketball Notebook

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Immediately following a football season filled with historic moments, Clairton showed that its athletes do more than score touchdowns.

The Bears proved they had a championship-caliber basketball team, too.

Clairton shined on the basketball court this season, winning a section title with a perfect record and making it to its first WPIAL championship game since 2003. The Bears (17-8) saw their season end with a 37-35 loss to Smethport in a PIAA Class A second-round playoff game last Tuesday.

The Clairton basketball team was made up entirely of players from the football team that finished this past season with a state-record 63-game winning streak. The seniors had won four WPIAL and four PIAA football titles.

"A lot of people asked me if the football success can carry over to basketball," first-year coach Matt Geletko said. "When you have guys used to winning and tough situations, nothing really rattles them. It helped a lot."

Geletko, who was previously an assistant at Serra Catholic for 12 seasons, saw his team make large strides from the beginning of the season up until the postseason.

As usual, Clairton got a late start because the football team didn't wrap up its season until Dec. 14. The Bears played their first basketball game on Dec. 21, but it wasn't until weeks later when the team found its groove.

Geletko pointed to his team's game at Section 3 rival Monessen on Feb. 9 as being the time when the pieces started to fully come together. National letter-of-intent signing day had passed just a few days earlier, and the pressure on the backs of football stars Tyler Boyd, Terrish Webb and Titus Howard -- all of whom chose Pitt -- began to dissolve. The trio, all starters on the basketball team, were able to focus completely on basketball.

Given the No. 5 seed in the WPIAL playoffs, Clairton defeated St. Joseph and Union before pulling one of the biggest upsets of the playoffs when the Bears knocked off No. 1 Lincoln Park, 71-70, in a packed gym at Keystone Oaks.

"That was probably the high point of the season right there," Geletko recalled. "It was a great win for the program and the whole community. We were decided underdogs in that game."

Looking for its seventh WPIAL title, Clairton came up just a little short, as the Bears were defeated by Vincentian, 86-74, in the championship game.

Clairton began the PIAA playoffs with a win against Cochranton, before falling to Smethport.

The Bears were one of the most experienced teams in the WPIAL. All five starters were seniors and well-known football standouts: Boyd, Webb, Howard, Bryon Clifford and Armani Ford.

Clifford led Clairton in scoring with 17.9 points per game, while Boyd, Webb and Howard often scored in double figures.

Clairton will have a much different look next season, but there will still be talent on board. The player to keep an eye on is 6-foot-4 freshman Aaron Matthews, who saw quality minutes this year and even started a handful of games early on. Rasheed Pacley is also expected to play a key role.

Season over for EF girls

The Elizabeth Forward girls were eliminated from the PIAA playoffs last Wednesday by District 10 champion Franklin, but the defeat did nothing to take away from what was one of the best seasons in program history.

The Class AAA Section 4 champion Warriors finished 24-4. Coached by Sam Kosanovich, the Warriors advanced to the WPIAL final for the first time since 1990. After losing to South Park, 50-32, in the championship game, the Warriors picked up their first PIAA playoff win since 1990 by defeating Central Valley, 51-44.

Aside from the WPIAL championship appearance, the highlight of the season was an upset of No. 1 seed and previously undefeated Blackhawk in the WPIAL semifinals.

Elizabeth Forward was led by senior Dana Buck and juniors Natalie Fekula and Alison Pastore.

CV girls fall in semis

A loss in the WPIAL Class AAAA championship wasn't the end for the Chartiers Valley girls. Instead, it was just another beginning.

Chartiers Valley had improved to 6-1 in the postseason after defeating Mt. Lebanon, 48-37, last Friday in the PIAA quarterfinals. That win advanced the Colts to Tuesday's semifinals against Cumberland Valley.

But that's where the Colts' season ended with a 54-39 loss to the No. 5 team out of District 3. They finished with a 22-8 record.

Defense continued to be Chartiers Valley's strength. Before Tuesday, the Colts were holding opponents to 39.4 points per game in the postseason, and had given up more than 50 points only three times all season.

hsbasketball


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