PIAA Girls Basketball Championships: Royals return older, wiser

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Class A

A quick look at the Vincentian girls' basketball roster could lead to a misconception of the team's most critical piece.

Listed at the very bottom is 6-foot Brenna Wise, the sort of designation that would make someone think the tallest player on the team is nothing more than a lumbering block on the low post to whom teammates feed the ball.

As Wise has demonstrated for much of her career, and this season in particular, that's hardly the case.

A junior, Wise has been an all-important force on what may be the top Class A team in the state, one that will have a chance to solidify that status at noon Saturday against Old Forge in the PIAA championship. Wise has been able to diversify her game this season, something that has contributed to a breakout season in which she has established herself as one of the area's best players.

"She can do a little bit of everything," Vincentian coach Ron Moncrief said. "She's a complete player. She can play on both ends of the floor -- good defender, good on offense -- and she brings a lot of intensity to the team."

This season, Wise has averaged 19.4 points per game, ranking her among the top 10 players in the WPIAL.

Over her team's past five games, a stretch which began with the Royals' victory in the WPIAL championship against Serra Catholic, Wise has averaged 24 points per game. In Vincentian's 60-45 victory against Bishop Guilfoyle in the PIAA semifinals Wednesday, she poured in a season-high 38.

"She's worked very hard on her perimeter skills," Moncrief said. "She's always been a strong player, able to go down low and play in the post, but she's worked very hard on her ball handling and expanding her jump shot."

Wise's numbers and improvement have caught the attention of coaches at the next level. Moncrief said his star has "a great deal of offers" from Division I schools.

For all of her individual accolades this season, a single goal remains for her and her team -- a state championship.

The Royals made it this far last season only to fall short.

"That's kind of been our motivation all year, to get back to the PIAA championship game, and not only get there, but win it," Moncrief said. "Last year was our first time there, so this time, we'll be a little more prepared and know what to expect off the court and on the court."

Class AA

Seton-La Salle's run through the 2013-14 season has been nothing short of dominant.

The Rebels' average margin of victory is about 21 points. They've lost just one game against a WPIAL team, and that was to Class AAA West Mifflin. They have an abundance of next-level talent in Yacine Diop, Naje Gibson and Cassidy Walsh, all of whom are committed to Pitt.

Strangely enough, though, they'll likely be entering the PIAA Class AA championship as an underdog against a Neumann-Goretti team that enters the game 29-0.

The role will undoubtedly be an unfamiliar one, but it's also one that they've embraced.

"I think it's really good for us," Seton-La Salle assistant coach Whitney Jones said. "We've been playing the same teams in the WPIAL and the state playoffs.

"It's exciting to go, number one, play a new team and, number two, play a team where we're expected to lose, which is really not what we've been all year."

Class AAA

Like Seton-LaSalle, Blackhawk will find itself in an unfamiliar position in its PIAA championship match Saturday.

Throughout the season, the high-scoring Cougars have been a prohibitive favorite, winning 16 of their past 17 games. Saturday, however, they will face an Archbishop Wood team (25-3) that has laid claim to three of the past four PIAA Class AAA titles.

A victory would give Blackhawk its first PIAA girls' basketball championship since 2000.

Craig Meyer: cmeyer@post-gazette.com and Twitter @CraigMeyerPG

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