Though there are a handful of local teams still playing in the state tournament, the district's high school basketball season is nearly completed in the West Xtra coverage area.
What has ensued over the past three months have been hundreds of games, a countless number of points and, from both of those, a number of great memories. So with the season all but completed (as we write this, the Central Valley, Beaver Falls, Aliquippa, Quaker Valley and Lincoln Park boys team and the Blackhawk, Bishop Canevin and Quigley Catholic girls were still alive in the PIAA playoffs), the opportunity to look back on those moments is here.
Who were the area's best players, the ones who performed night in and night out, always leaving fans with the impression that something big could happen anytime they were on the court?
On the bench, who were the top coaches, the ones who helped guide their teams to the kind of heights few, if any, expected?
Who were simply the best, those who helped contribute to the game and sometimes leave those in attendance in awe?
The games may be just about over, but there's still some time to reflect on the season that was. It's something I'll try to do here with some awards -- the second annual "Craig's List" for basketball -- which will honor the top players and coaches in the West Xtra coverage area, those who made this season memorable.
Boys Player of the Year: Maverick Rowan, Lincoln Park
When looking at the profiles of the top players in the area, Rowan passes every kind of litmus test. A prolific scorer? Absolutely, as his 25.4 points per game lead his team and put him among the top handful of players in the WPIAL. A key cog on an elite team? A resounding yes, as Rowan helped lead the Leopards to a WPIAL Class A championship, one in which they won games by an average of nearly 40 points. A top prospect beyond the high school ranks? As just a sophomore, he has already committed to play at Pitt.
There are a number of other qualified candidates for this distinction, including Rowan's teammate, Elijah Minnie, but Rowan has more than separated himself from that group.
Honorable mention: Minnie; Nick Miller, Western Beaver; Matty McConnell, Chartiers Valley
Girls Player of the Year: Chassidy Omogrosso, Blackhawk
A member of the Post-Gazette's Fabulous Five all-stars last season as a sophomore, Omogrosso has only added to her already-impressive resume this season. The individual success was always there for this Duquesne recruit and she only built on that this season, upping her scoring average to 25.1 points per game. She has not scored fewer than 15 points in a game this season and in all but six of the Cougars' games, she scored at least 20 points.
The team success, too, has come. With Omogrosso leading at point guard, Blackhawk won 24 of its first 26 games and captured the WPIAL Class AAA championship, the program's second in the past four years.
Honorable mention: Kiana Law and Seairra Barrett, Central Valley; Lexi Posset, Beaver Area
Boys Coach of the Year: Nick Lackovich, Aliquippa
Historically speaking, Aliquippa has been a strong program, so leading it to a section title and a berth in the WPIAL playoffs shouldn't be considered a huge feat, at least on the surface. But for Lackovich, it far from tells the full story.
In his first season with the Quips, this former Beaver Falls assistant helped lead his new team to a nine-win improvement (from 10-14 to 19-6) and a first-place finish in Class AA Section 2. Not only that, but he led the program to its first PIAA tournament appearance since 2009, where it won its first-round game last Saturday.
Honorable mention: Brandon Ambrose, Central Valley; Doug Biega, Beaver Falls; Joe Podolak, Western Beaver.
Girls Coach of the Year: Mark D'Alessandris, Aliquippa
It's a clean sweep for the Quips in this category. It's a situation I would generally like to avoid, but the respective turnarounds are simply too hard to ignore. After Aliquippa finished 3-18 last season, D'Alessandris helped lead it to a 13-11 record, a third-place finish in Class A Section 1 and a WPIAL playoff appearance.
Once they got there, the Quips won just their second WPIAL playoff game in the past decade.
Honorable mention: Doug Saklad, Moon; Tim Bonner, Carlynton; Jeff Homziak, Hopewell.
Craig Meyer: firstname.lastname@example.org and Twitter @CraigMeyerPG