Varsity Xtra: Right to the point — Scoring is up among boys teams across WPIAL

In particular, finalists


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The four WPIAL boys basketball championships this weekend might come down to a case of point/counterpoint.

Go back over the history of the championship games and you will have a hard time finding a group of finalists who made their points with such frequency during games as New Castle, Hampton, Chartiers Valley, Central Valley, Greensburg Central Catholic, Seton-LaSalle, Lincoln Park and Monessen have. They are the eight teams that will vie for WPIAL gold medals tonight and Saturday at the Palumbo Center.

Defense might be the backbone of some of these championship teams, but their eyes light up when they have the ball in their hands. And scoreboards light up, too.

Varsity Xtra: WPIAL championships at Palumbo

The PG's Mike White and Terry Shields talk about the WPIAL championship matchups and make a few predictions in this edition of "Varsity Xtra." (Video by Melissa Tkach; 2/27/2014)

Six of the eight finalists average more than 70 points a game and they average 72 points as a group. The leader is Lincoln Park at 83 a game. The lowest is Central Valley at 61 a game. New Castle averages 75, Hampton 74, Chartiers Valley 74, Monessen 73, Greensburg Central Catholic 71 and Seton-LaSalle 67.

If offense sells tickets, then the WPIAL should be looking forward to the crowds at Palumbo this weekend because the point of these title games will be points -- and lots of them.

Already in the playoffs, Monessen set a WPIAL playoff record for points with 110 against Vincentian in the semifinals.

Chartiers Valley set a WPIAL playoff record for 3-pointers with 21 in a first-round game against Mount Pleasant.

Lincoln Park has sophomore guard Maverick Rowan, who is averaging 32 points in the playoffs.

"Absolutely, I've noticed more teams trying to play faster and score more," Lincoln Park coach Mark Javens said.

Chartiers Valley coach Tim McConnell said: "I haven't really thought about the scoring going up, but I think what I've noticed from watching teams and scouting teams is that I think coaches are opening up their teams offensively more. I think it's a good thing, too, because it's fun to watch and fun to be part of."

As far as scoring goes, this could be a historical weekend. Since the WPIAL went to four classifications in the 1983-84 season, there have only been eight teams that have scored 70 or more points in every playoff game through the championships. This year, three have a chance to do it. New Castle, Chartiers Valley and Lincoln Park have all scored 70 or more in their first three playoff games.

But really, all this scoring is just an extension of a trend in the WPIAL the past two seasons. Scoring is up.

Heading into this weekend, 45 teams in the WPIAL were either averaging more than 60 points or had concluded their season with an average more than 60. That is the most in the past 10 years. Heck, in the three seasons from 2009-12, there weren't more than 32 teams averaging more than 60 in a season.

The WPIAL went through a period not long where scoring was way down, especially in Class AAAA. The WPIAL's largest-enrollment classification still has its share of games in the 40s, but 13 Class AAAA teams averaged more than 60 a game this season, the most in the past 10 years. There were only five teams that averaged more than 60 in the 2009-10 season and six in 2006-07.

So, what gives? Why the increase in scoring?

It seems more teams around the WPIAL are trying to play faster offensively. Some coaches believe the trickle-down effect of the "dribble drive" offense from colleges has something to do with more scoring. Teams are spreading the floor more, trying to drive or kick out for 3-pointers.

"We've always tried to run, score and play defense," McConnell said. "I don't know what the reason is, but I do see more teams trying to go more on offense and get the ball out as opposed to walking the ball up the floor."

But New Castle coach Ralph Blundo believes defense has played a big role in the increase in offense. More teams are pressing and trapping on defense, some of it due to a lack of size.

"I think the scoring is more directly related to the defense. I think teams that are able to generate offense from defense are scoring more and the defense lets you get some easy baskets," Blundo said. "I think the way coaches prepare their teams in this area, I think you're going to have a lot of trouble getting out of the 50s if you're just going to continue to walk it up and run sets.

"I also think more coaches might focus more on fundamentals these days and the ability to use the first step and do more things off the dribble."

Javens agrees that defense has played a role in the increased offense.

"Me personally, I'm never going to have a team walk the ball up the floor," Javens said. "But I think the more defense you play while you score, the better chance you have of scoring. Does that make sense? ... I think you have to play to your personnel, too, and we understand that. We have some kids who can run the floor, some who can play in the half court and some who can do both.

"Sure you can still win by not scoring a lot. If you win 30-29, that's still a win. But you have to be able to defend to make sure the other team can't score."

There are teams still successful without full-court pressing and scoring points in bundles. Montour won two of the past three WPIAL Class AAA titles and did it by winning a number of playoff games in the 40s or low 50s.

McConnell believes some coaches simply don't prefer to coach a fast-paced brand of basketball.

"I really think some coaches still hold people and teams back," McConnell said. "They have too much control. It's good to have control and you have to run offensive sets in certain situations. But I know some coaches who want to coach every pass. When you teach your kids where to be on the court and what to do, you don't have to coach every pass."

That 70s Show

Three teams in the WPIAL boys finals this weekend -- New Castle, Chartiers Valley and Lincoln Park -- have scored 70 points or more in every playoff game so far. Since the WPIAL went to four classifications in the 1983-84 season, there have been only eight teams that have scored 70 or more in every playoff game through the championships:

Yr. Team Points scored

2013 Vincentian 86, 82, 81, 106

2007 Aliquippa 73, 100, 95, 97

1998 New Castle* 75, 92, 60

1992 Blackhawk 75, 100, 95, 81

1991 Blackhawk 92, 81, 90, 84

1990 Washington* 70, 74, 76

1989 Cornell* 95, 75, 90

1986 Washington 90, 76, 75, 81

*-played three playoff games

WPIAL basketball championship facts and figures

The games: There will be three games played tonight and five Saturday.

Site: Duquesne University's Palumbo Center.

Tickets: Student tickets are $5, but only available by presale at the participating schools. No student tickets will be sold at Palumbo. Adult tickets are $10 and available at Palumbo. All seating is general admission. A ticket is good for one session and the games will be staged in three sessions -- three games tonight, three games Saturday morning/afternoon and two games Saturday night. The arena will be cleared out after Saturday afternoon's session.

TV: All games can be seen on Comcast (Xfinity) On Demand, beginning Monday. Games can be accessed by going to the "Get Local" folder, and then "Sports," "HS Basketball," "WPIAL Finals."

Radio-internet: Class AAAA boys WKST-AM (1200); Class AAA boys, Class A boys and Class AAA girls can all be heard on WBVP-AM (1230) and WMBA-AM (1460). ... Also, all eight games can be heard on the internet at www.msasports.net

History: Since 1992, all WPIAL boys title games have been played at Palumbo, with the exception of 1993 and '94, and two games in 2006. Although the first girls championship games were played at Palumbo in 1992, the WPIAL started playing all four girls games at Palumbo on a regular basis in 2000. The girls title games have played there since, with the exception of 2002 and two games in 2006. The first WPIAL title game played at Palumbo was Avonworth vs. Vincentian girls in 1992. The first boys championship played at Palumbo was on the same night in 1992 and matched Blackhawk against Aliquippa.

Great WPIAL Championship Games of Years Gone By ...

2006

Aliquippa's Herb Pope set a WPIAL championship game record for free throws made when he canned 19 of 22 in a 57-52 victory against Bishop Canevin at Pitt's Petersen Events Center. Pope broke the record of 17, set by Latrobe's Keith Fenton against Baldwin in 1985. Pope finished with 27 points as Aliquippa won the Class AA title for the third time in four years.

1998

Swin Cash, future NCAA champ at Connecticut, WNBA champ and Olympic gold medalist, had a performance for the ages when she scored 40 points to lead McKeesport to a 69-52 victory against North Allegheny in the WPIAL Class AAAA final at Pitt's Fitzgerald Field House. Cash's 40 points are still a WPIAL Class AAAA championship game record.

1989

In the highest-scoring game in WPIAL boys championship history, Cornell defeated Union, 95-88, in overtime in the Class A title game at Pitt's Fitzgerald Field House. Terry McDougald came off the bench to score 21 for Cornell and Roger Jones 20. Union came into the game with an undefeated record and the loss kept coach Mike Covelli, in his 33rd season, from winning his first title.

1974

Ralph Still of German Township High School set a WPIAL championship-game record for points when he scored 40 in a 68-58 victory against Edgewood in the Class A final at Trinity. Still, a 6-2 junior guard, made 18 of 26 shots. His mark was later tied by New Brighton's Hal Bentley in 1980 and Sewickley Academy's Tom Droney in 2009.

1971

In the first Western Pennsylvania Girls Athletic League championship (the precursor to the WPIAL in girls basketball), Montour defeated Upper St. Clair, 47-39, at Gateway High School. Carole Marks scored 11 and Bonnie McCormick 10 for Montour, which was coached by Jean Condo. It was the first season that girls teams played "full-court" basketball.

1955

Wampum's Don Hennon, a 5-10 senior guard, led the Indians to a WPIAL title and set a championship game scoring record with 36 points in a 75-63 victory against Bethlehem Joint at Pitt's Fitzgerald Field House. Hennon also became Pennsylvania's all-time leading scorer with 2,263 points, breaking the mark of 2,252, set only two nights earlier by a senior at Philadelphia Overbrook named Wilt Chamberlain.


For more on high school sports, go to "Varsity Blog" at www.post-gazette.com/varsityblog. Mike White: mwhite@post-gazette.com, 412-263-1975 and Twitter @mwhiteburgh

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