South Xtra: Rebels observe silver anniversary with a title of their own

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The 25th anniversary is always a special number in any significant event in life. Whether it is a birthday, wedding anniversary, or in the case of the Seton-LaSalle boys basketball team -- a WPIAL championship.

It was 1989 when the Rebels last won the WPIAL championship trophy so it was only fitting that they would do something special in 2014, 25 years later. The drought ended last Saturday when the Rebels hoisted the trophy once again after winning the WPIAL Class AA title against Greensburg Central Catholic, 52-51.

"It feels fantastic," third-year coach Mark Walsh said. "We are so excited to make it through the four games with the opponents we had. We are extremely excited to be WPIAL champions."

Walsh went on to add that this championship has a little more meaning to it.

"I think it is special because it doesn't happen that much," Walsh said. "It is challenging to do with so many good teams out there. I think it makes it feel a little extra special that we were the group of people to bring a title back on the boys side."

What makes it even more special, the boys team watched the Lady Rebels -- who have been a powerhouse in Class AA -- pick up another WPIAL title the day before.

"I wouldn't say added pressure but excitement," Walsh said. "We expected them to do very well. So many people were pulling for us because they wanted to see both teams win it."

This was only the 13th time in WPIAL history that a boys and girls team from the same school won in the same year, a stat Walsh takes pride in.

"They support us so much and we support them so much," Walsh said. "It is so cooperative how the two teams get along. I guess you can say it was lucky 13 for us. We will take lucky No. 13. It has been so great for our kids and our program for both teams and the student body. To bring so much joy to so many people. It is unbelievable the support we have received from us winning."

The Rebels still have work to do starting Saturday against Penns Valley at Penn Hills in the first round of the PIAA playoffs. With it being his first trip to the state playoffs, Walsh believes going in as a WPIAL champion will ease his players.

"Throughout the playoffs we felt like we have played extremely well. This is going to be an exciting week and bring a lot of attention to our kids. I think it is great coming in as the WPIAL champion. It will give the kids a sense of pride. I think that helps us. It keeps us more motivated that maybe we can make a run in this tournament."

Going into the season the Rebels set goals to win the section, WPIAL and PIAA championships. With two of those already checked off the list, Walsh credits each and every one of his players but especially the seniors who turned this program around three years ago.

"I think it is special," Walsh said. "When I first took the job, we met in a classroom and we set goals to win a section, WPIAL and state title. We thought this group had a chance to be really strong. We saw a sense of urgency with these guys throughout the regular season.

"It felt so good for those six kids. They have invested hundreds of hours since their sophomore year and to see them go out at midcourt and raise that trophy over their heads was really satisfying. To see them get to the end and be victorious is hard to describe in words."

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