Coming into this season, Chartiers Valley knew it had to replace its top scorer and its best true post player in at least a decade.
Players simply worked their way into bigger roles and the results remained outstanding.
Chartiers Valley put together yet another fine season, one which came to an end with a 68-64 loss to Lancaster Mennonite in a PIAA Class AAA second-round playoff game last week.
The Colts finished 25-3, continuing their long reign as one of the WPIAL's elite programs. The Colts went undefeated in Section 5 and finished as the WPIAL runner-up for the second year in a row.
Minus Michael Boulos -- he averaged 17.9 points per game last season -- and 6-foot-6 center Spencer Casson -- he averaged nearly a triple-double (points, rebounds and assists) -- it was still business as usual for Chartiers Valley, a result that made its longtime coach very happy.
"To be 25-3, the job that these kids did this year is something," Tim McConnell said. "I'm very proud of the way they performed and how hard they played. I just have to give these kids all the credit because they just worked so hard."
Chartiers Valley has now won at least 20 games eight seasons in a row. No other WPIAL team has done that. The Colts have gone 190-32 in that span, winning seven section titles and 28 playoff games. They've advanced to the WPIAL championship game five times -- winning one title -- and to the PIAA final once.
McConnell's "other son," Matty, made a name for himself this season with his scoring ability and all-around play. While older brother T.J. was helping the University of Arizona to a No. 1 seed in the NCAA tournament, his younger brother was leading all Class AAA players in scoring with 21.8 points per game.
A junior guard, Matty McConnell also averaged 8.9 rebounds, 4.5 assists and 5.1 steals per game. McConnell had a rare quadruple-double -- highlighted by 11 3-pointers and 46 points -- in a win against South Park late in the regular season.
The team's biggest breakout player was McConnell's cousin, Jerrad Tuite, a senior guard who missed the majority of his junior season with a severe knee injury. Tuite was second on the team with 16.9 points per game. He took his play to another level in the WPIAL playoffs when he averaged 26 points, scoring a game-high 27 in a 70-69 double-overtime loss to Central Valley in the championship game.
Tuite was joined in the starting lineup by the team's two other seniors, guards Haedyn Herzer and Kyle Westover. Both were key contributors to an offense that averaged 73.3 points per game.
Chartiers Valley will move up to Class AAAA next season, but expect the Colts to still be very good. In addition to McConnell, the Colts will return a strong group that includes sophomore forward Joe Antonucci and sophomore guard Eddie Flohr.
"I think we have a good nucleus coming back," said Tim McConnell, who could win his 500th career game next season (he has 483). "We go to Quad-A. I think size might be a problem again. But I like my young guys. I've got some good young guys who can shoot the ball. They're already eager to get in the gym."
TJ bids adieu
Thomas Jefferson also saw its season conclude in the second round of the PIAA Class AAA tournament, as the Jaguars were defeated by Central Valley, 61-51.
Central Valley rallied from a seven-point deficit halfway through the fourth quarter to claim the win. Two weeks earlier, the Warriors came back from six points down with 2:01 left to force overtime and defeat Thomas Jefferson, 68-59, in the WPIAL semifinals.
A veteran lineup guided the Jaguars (23-4) to the Section 4 championship and their first PIAA playoff win since 2006. Senior starters Charlie Scharbo, Zach Talley, Chase Winovich, Jason Horan and Eric Fairman were mainstays on Jaguars teams that won back-to-back section titles.
"I told them, 'You have the most wins in TJ history. The only teams you lost to were really good teams,'" coach Dom DeCicco said. "We won three playoff games. Obviously we would liked to have gone further, but I couldn't be prouder of them."
South Park girls fall
South Park entered the postseason as defending WPIAL and PIAA Class AAA champions, but the Eagles will have to wait another season before they can win any more hardware.
After falling to Blackhawk, 62-55, in the WPIAL championship game, South Park (22-6) was eliminated in the PIAA second round by Hickory, 55-54. Hickory made a buzzer-beating 3-pointer in overtime to leave the Eagles stunned.
Coach Reggie Wells must replace Halie Torris (17.3 ppg), who will graduate, but the Eagles return of a strong group headed by Allison McGrath (17 ppg) that should make the team a WPIAL title contender again.