Dustin Sleva doesn't look like the same player from a year ago, and he certainly plays a lot differently.
Sleva, a senior at Montour, would be perfect for a role in the next Transformers movie because he has transformed himself from a reserve player, averaging six points a game off the bench, to one of the leading scorers in the WPIAL.
Sleva's transformation involved size, growing about 3 inches from last season to stand 6 feet 6. It involved muscle (he added 20 pounds and now weighs 190). And it involved talent. He is now averaging 21 points a game.
Varsity Xtra: Teams jockey for sectionals
The PG's Mike White and Terry Shields talk about the final week of regular season high school hops, as teams square off for a position in the sectionals. (Video by Melissa Tkach; 2/6/2014)
Is there a better rags-to-riches story in the WPIAL this year?
"To be honest with you, my senior year [at Montour] was very similar," Montour coach Adam Kaufman said. "I remember I averaged seven points as a junior and then 18 my senior year. Dustin is young for his grade and I think he was just a little bit of a late bloomer."
One of the main reasons for Sleva's increased scoring average is he became a better all-around player. He used to be pretty much just a shooter. He now scores on the inside as well as the outside.
Kaufman said Montour assistant coach Daren Tielsch played a big role in Sleva's development. Tielsch played at Penn State and Robert Morris.
"Dustin basically lived with Daren all summer," Kaufman said. "Dustin worked with Daren and put in a lot of work with his post game. His back-to-the basket game has come around nicely.
"Honest to God, when Daren gets his claws into a kid, he really works him. I think Dustin just worked harder and harder."
Montour was hit hard by graduation attrition after winning the WPIAL Class AAA championship last season. This team might not be as talented as last year's, but with Sleva leading the way, the Spartans are still a team to watch in the playoffs. Montour has a 13-6 record.
Sleva has improved so much that some Division II colleges are now interested in him. College basketball seemed like a far-fetched dream a year ago.
"I think they like his versatility," Kaufman said. "You've got a kid who will end up being 6-7 or 6-8 and can still step out and shoot it."
When it comes to shooting free throws, Lincoln Park's Maverick Rowan has been perfect for about a month.
Rowan is on a free-throw shooting streak rarely seen at any level of basketball. He has made 45 consecutive free throws. He has gone nine games without a miss and his last miss came Jan. 10 against Our Lady of the Sacred Heart.
Rowan is a 6-6 sophomore guard who already accepted a scholarship offer to Pitt last summer. For the season, he is 87 of 98 (89 percent) from the free-throw line and has made 59 of his past 60.
It is not known what the WPIAL record is for most consecutive free throws. But Uniontown coach Rob Kezmarsky made 52 in a row in the 1989-90 season when he played for Laurel Highlands. Latrobe's Tom Mueseler, who went on to play at Clemson, made 48 in a row in the 1967-68 season. Also, University of Arizona coach Sean Miller made 44 of 45 at one point when he played for Blackhawk in the 1985-86 season.
Fox Chapel was ranked one of the top 10 Class AAAA teams in the state before the season. Central Catholic has missed the WPIAL playoffs only twice in the previous 18 seasons. But after those two meet tonight, one won't make the playoffs.
Fox Chapel and Central Catholic are tied for fourth place in Class AAAA Section 2 and only the top four teams make the playoffs. Only the winner of tonight's game will make the playoffs.
* Two years ago, South Allegheny didn't win a game. This season, South Allegheny has qualified for the WPIAL playoffs for the first time since 2003. South Allegheny (14-7) can clinch second place outright in WPIAL Class AA Section 3 with a victory tonight against Serra.
* After making the WPIAL playoffs last year for the first time since 1996, the East Allegheny boys are 0-18. The only other winless team in the WPIAL is Woodland Hills, which is 0-20.
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* The Uniontown boys have won their 47th section title this season, the most in WPIAL history. The first came in 1925. Washington is next with 43 and Monessen won its 41st this season.
* Uniontown also has qualified for the playoffs for a record 59th time. Washington is next with 58 appearances and Monessen 57.
* Monessen also has qualified for the playoffs for a record 33rd consecutive time. Blackhawk has qualified for the 31st consecutive time.