Wide-open field for WPIAL's Class AAAA boys basketball tournament
February 10, 2016 12:00 AM
Bethel Park's Brandon Thorsen, left, defends Penn Hills guard Jeremiah Ligon in a Class AAAA non-section matchup earlier this season.
By Mike White / Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
Penn Hills coach Dan Derose believes 11 or 12 teams have a legitimate chance to win the WPIAL Class AAAA boys basketball championship this season.
Hogwash? Coachspeak? Not really, if you listen to his comrades.
Chartiers Valley coach Tim McConnell believes eight teams have a legitimate chance to win it. Bethel Park’s Josh Bears six. Plum’s Ron Richards 10. Butler’s Matt Clement 10. North Hills’ Buzz Gabos eight.
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All the numbers talk point to this being one of the most open Class AAAA tournaments in a long time — maybe ever.
The WPIAL released playoff pairings and seedings Tuesday night and the tournament starts Friday. Unlike many years, there is not one or two teams that seem above the rest in AAAA.
“I never remember a [AAAA] field like this,” said Dan O’Neil, the chairman of the basketball steering committee for eight years and a committee member for 13. ”I think it’s a very unusual field because it is so balanced. If you look at it, I think there are probably nine to 12 teams that could win it if they got hot. There are seeds going down to 12 and 13 that are very good teams.”
Latrobe got the No. 1 seed and defending champion Chartiers Valley No. 2. Both are good, but not overwhelming. Latrobe comes from Section 1, which hasn’t had a champion since Norwin in 1988.
Penn Hills got the No. 3 seed, followed by Pine-Richland. Rounding out the top eight seeds are Central Catholic, Plum, North Hills and Bethel Park.
“Honestly, I believe the four teams from our section [Penn Hills, Plum, Gateway and Franklin Regional] all have a chance to win it,” Derose said. ”This could be the year that a couple of the top seeds lose in the first round.”
Plum’s Richards said, “Last year was kind of like this with the balance, but not as much as this year. I can’t remember it being this way before.”
North Hills’ Gabos said, ”The thing that stands out is the amount of close games for the section winners. Many years, a team may go 11-1, but they only played two close games. That’s not the case this season.”
But why so much balance and parity all of a sudden?
“I think it might be there isn’t those dominant players who can take over night after night,” McConnell said. ”There might be some that can take over one night, but not someone who can consistently carry the team.”
The other No. 1 seeds are New Castle (Class AAA), Aliquippa (AA) and Monessen (A). O’Neil said one of the hardest decisions for the basketball committee was the top seeds in Class AA after Aliquippa and No. 2 Lincoln Park.
“We ended up putting Quaker Valley third and Greensburg Central Catholic fourth,” O’Neil said. ”Quaker Valley is a second-place team in their section, but all of those teams in that section are good.”
In a matchup some might question, Bishop Canevin plays Brownsville in a first-round game. Both teams won section titles, but Brownsville was seeded No. 11 and Bishop Canevin No. 6.
“That’s a function of Brownsville’s section,” O’Neil said. “Brownsville had three losses and they weren’t bad. But if you go through their schedule, there was not any quality wins there. They never stepped out of [their section] and did well.”
Mike White: firstname.lastname@example.org, 412-263-1975 and Twitter @mwhiteburgh.
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