Dan Bradley has been one of the most unusual coaches in the WPIAL the past two years, serving as a head coach in basketball and football, and doing it at two different schools.
But as great of a multi-tasker as Bradley is, his double duty ascended to a new level last week. At the same time Bradley was at Chartiers-Houston guiding the Avonworth basketball team to its first WPIAL playoff win in 13 years on Feb. 19, he was being hired as the new football coach at Ambridge.
One man. Two major accomplishments. Simultaneously. Thirty-five miles apart.
As Bradley put it, "It was a good night."
Avonworth, which earlier in the month won its first section title in 40 years, hammered Frazier, 80-43, in a WPIAL Class AA first-round game, the program's first postseason win since 2001.
The Ambridge Area School Board voted in Bradley as its new coach that same night. Bradley led Sto-Rox to a pair of WPIAL Class A title-game appearances in his two years as head coach there.
Bradley said basketball was his main focus last Wednesday, but added that his cell phone was full of congratulatory messages for both accomplishments when he looked at it after the game.
"For the most part I was anticipating the basketball game," Bradley said. "It was the last shot the seniors had of winning a playoff game. We hadn't had a lot of success here in the past. Being able to get a playoff win, we were looking forward to that. Once the game was over, I found out [about being named football coach]."
On the football field, Bradley hopes Ambridge will have a turnaround similar to the one Avonworth has undergone in his five seasons there as basketball coach. Ambridge, which competes in the ultra-competitive Class AAA Parkway Conference, has not finished above .500 since 2004.
"It's just a great opportunity," Bradley said. "It's a tough conference with so many traditionally strong teams with so many good coaches."
For now, Bradley's focus is on the hardwood. Avonworth fell to Aliquippa, 82-71, in a quarterfinal last Saturday. The Antelopes, though, could still qualify for the PIAA playoffs. Seven teams in WPIAL Class AA earn spots -- the four semifinalists, the two teams that lost to the finalists in the quarterfinals and the other quarterfinal loser on the champion's side of the bracket.
That means if Aliquippa advances to the championship game (the Quips played Greensburg Central Catholic in a semifinal last night) or Greensburg Central Catholic wins the championship, Avonworth's season will continue.
Avonworth (17-6) would love to claim another postseason win, particularly because of what took place in its previous game. Avonworth blew a 21-point first-half lead and was outscored, 37-18, in the fourth quarter en route to the loss to Aliquippa.
"The game was a roller coaster of emotions," Bradley said. "We got off to a great start and took a nice lead into halftime. Even then, we knew they were going to make a run. We just had to weather the storm. In the end, we didn't measure up to their intensity."
Two Class A powers fall
The Cardinal Wuerl North Catholic and St. Joseph girls teams both had visions of winning a WPIAL Class A title. North Catholic was the No. 3 seed and St. Joseph No. 4. Neither, however, will be lifting a trophy March 1. In addition, neither will likely make the PIAA playoffs.
Looking to reach the semifinals for the sixth year in a row, North Catholic (16-8) let one slip away against No. 6 California. North Catholic led, 41-36, with 1:10 left, but California stunned the Trojanettes by going on a 9-2 run to pull out a 45-43 win.
St. Joseph (19-5) was one of the hottest teams in Class A, taking an 11-game winning streak into its meeting with No. 5 Quigley. But after falling behind, 25-17, at the half, St. Joseph could not recover in what became a 49-39 loss. It was the second year in a row Quigley eliminated St. Joseph in the quarterfinals.
Going into Wednesday night's semifinals, North Catholic and St. Joseph -- both of whom compete in Section 2 -- were playing the waiting game. Only five WPIAL teams earn PIAA berths in Class A, so North Catholic needs California to win the title and St. Joseph needs Quigley to win it.
Looking ahead, North Catholic appears as though it will be strong again next season. The Trojanettes lose just one senior and return leading scorer Sam Breen (16 points per game).
Duplicating this season's success might be tougher for St. Joseph, which must replace Mallory Heinle (23 ppg), the second-leading girls scorer in the WPIAL.