Hampton standout Ryan Luther, right, grapples for a rebound with New Castle's Shawn Anderson in last season's WPIAL Class AAAA title game.
By Mike White / Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
One year after three teams from WPIAL Class AAAA Section 3 got the first three seeds, history repeated itself.
The same three teams from Section 3 were seeded first through third for the playoffs this season, and they begin Friday night. The WPIAL announced playoff pairings and seedings Tuesday night, and New Castle was seeded No. 1 in Class AAAA, Hampton No. 2 and North Allegheny No. 3.
A year ago was the first time in WPIAL history three teams from the same section grabbed the top three seeds.
"It was pretty easy," said Dan O'Neill, chairman of the WPIAL basketball committee. "When we met Monday [as a committee], I went in and said I think those three teams should be 1 through 3. Does anybody have any complaints. No one said a word."
A year ago, New Castle, Hampton and North Allegheny made it to the semifinals along with one other Section 3 team (Seneca Valley). It was the first time four teams from one section made the semifinals in any classification.
"I think with what all four teams did last year was validation for our league," said Ralph Blundo, coach of defending champion New Castle. "I think with that, combined with what teams have done this year, made it pretty easy for the committee."
New Castle beat Hampton in the title game last year and New Castle also beat Hampton in the Class AAA final in 2013. New Castle and Hampton will return to Class AAA next season.
As for this year, O'Neill said, "I think the hardest to do was the top two classes -- Class AAA and AAAA. In AAAA, it was really hard to figure out who should go where in the spots 4 through 11. That was very hard to do."
O'Neill said the committee is moving away from rewarding teams just because they won a section, when other teams that did not win a section might be stronger.
"We started doing that last year, and I think the rest of the committee is starting to buy into that," O'Neill said. "We want to reward teams that go out and play good [non-section] opponents and play in a tough section."
The other top seeds in the boys were Chartiers Valley (AAA), Seton-LaSalle (AA) and Lincoln Park (A).
Beaver Falls is the two-time defending WPIAL champ in Class AA and was given the No. 4 seed, despite finishing second in its section and despite losing top point guard Elijah Cottrill a few weeks ago with a knee injury.
"We know they are a different team without Cottrill, but didn't feel they should be penalized that much because of an injury because we feel they are still a strong team," O'Neill said.
The No. 1 seeds for the girls are North Allegheny (AAAA), Blackhawk (AAA), Seton-LaSalle (AA) and Vincentian (A).
The championships for boys and girls will be played Feb. 28 and March 1 at Palumbo Center.
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