Tim McConnell has coached Chartiers Valley to 483 wins and five WPIAL titles, but there have been some tough moments along the way, too.
One of them came last Friday at Palumbo Center, when McConnell walked into his team's locker room after a heartbreaking 70-69 double-overtime loss to Central Valley in the WPIAL Class AAA boys championship game.
"It was really hard. The guys were really down. It was really tough," a dejected McConnell said afterward.
In what McConnell called one of the toughest losses he has ever been a part of, Chartiers Valley on several occasions appeared to be in position to win the game, but Central Valley came through with a big basket each time. The final blow came when Tony Gates drove to the basket, was fouled and made one of two free throws with 0.6 seconds left in the second overtime to give Central Valley its first WPIAL title.
Chartiers Valley took a 55-53 lead with 23 seconds left in regulation, but Central Valley's Mike Sims scored with four seconds remaining to send the game to overtime. In the first extra period, Chartiers Valley led, 62-59, with 39 seconds left, but Central Valley rallied to send the game to a second overtime.
"We just came up on the short end of the stick," McConnell said. "It's tough to swallow. It's the championship game and we had a chance to win. We just didn't take care of business."
Jerrad Tuite continued his excellent postseason run for Char Valley, scoring a game-high 27 points. He was 18 of 22 from the free-throw line, making 15 of 18 in the fourth quarter and first overtime. Tuite scored 107 points (26 per game) in the WPIAL playoffs, second only to Lincoln Park's Maverick Rowan (121).
The Colts (24-2) open PIAA play Friday against Erie Strong Vincent (17-8) at Baldwin. The teams met in the first round last season -- also at Baldwin -- with Chartiers Valley winning, 71-54.
Monessen boys lose
Monessen stormed out of the gates to take a 7-0 lead against Lincoln Park last Friday in the WPIAL Class A boys championship. When Monessen coach Joe Salvino was asked after the game about the outcome, he couldn't help but show a little humor.
"I know that if we would have quit after the seven-point lead we would have been fine," he said.
For Monessen, it turned out to be no walk in the park against Lincoln Park. The much-taller and more-talented Leopards had their way on the inside and outside, and went on to throttle Monessen, 85-41. The margin of victory was the largest in WPIAL Class A history.
Monessen will try to quickly put that game behind it and shift its focus to the PIAA playoffs. The Greyhounds (20-6) play Erie First Christian (15-9) Friday at Chartiers Valley.
"We still have an opportunity to do things in states," Salvino said. "I've won two state championships. In those two years, we didn't win WPIAL championships."
Serra girls fall short
For the second year in a row, Serra Catholic saw its WPIAL Class A girls title hopes dashed by Vincentian, which defeated the Eagles, 66-46, last Saturday.
Serra pulled within two points early in the third quarter before Vincentian got a hot hand and eventually took a commanding 20-point lead heading into the fourth.
"We went ice cold and they didn't miss one," Serra coach Bill Cleary said. "That's how you secure championships. They stepped up and made the plays to win the ball game."
Serra (23-3) will play Cochranton (19-5) in a PIAA first-round game Saturday at Hempfield. The Eagles defeated Cochranton, 67-43, in last year's first round.
South Park girls take silver
Playing in the championship game for the third year in a row, South Park could not successfully defend its WPIAL Class AAA girls title, as the Eagles were defeated by Blackhawk, 62-55.
South Park, which had won 15 games in a row, battled back from a 17-point deficit to cut Blackhawk's lead to one with 1:45 left in the game, but Blackhawk soon pulled away again.
South Park (21-5) will take on Trinity (17-7) in a PIAA first-round game Saturday at Moon.
Fourteen teams from the South Xtra region will begin the PIAA playoffs this weekend.
Boys: Bethel Park, Chartiers Valley, Thomas Jefferson, Seton-LaSalle and Monessen.
Girls: Mt. Lebanon, South Park, West Mifflin, Elizabeth Forward, Trinity, Seton-LaSalle, Bishop Canevin, McGuffey and Serra Catholic.