Pine-Richland hopes trip to the east helps against Carlisle in Class 6A semifinals
March 20, 2017 12:00 AM
Andrew Petcash of Pine-Richland drives against Jason Gray of Butler in a 64-55 win Saturday in McCandless.
By Mike White / Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
Pine-Richland coach Jeff Ackermann and his team took a summer trip to Philadelphia last year. Ackermann had on his mind a spring trip to Hershey this year.
Ackermann and Pine-Richland traveled to St. Joseph’s University to play six games in a team camp last summer. The games didn’t mean anything, but Ackermann wanted to face top teams in Eastern Pennsylvania because he had the 2017 PIAA tournament on his mind.
“I wasn’t guaranteeing anything, but I really liked the team we had coming back,” said Ackermann. “I wanted us to play good Catholic school teams or anyone we could. It was really to gauge things and see if we could hang. We went there purposely for this.”
“This” is the PIAA playoffs — and Pine-Richland has made it to the Class 6A semifinals. The Rams, champions of the WPIAL, play Carlisle at 7:30 p.m. Tuesday at Altoona. The winner moves on to the championship game Saturday night in Hershey.
WPIAL champs in the largest classification haven’t fared well against top eastern teams the past couple decades. Since 2000, only two WPIAL champions have made it to the PIAA title game in the largest class (New Castle in 2014 and Uniontown in 2002).
Eastern Pennsylvania teams sometimes have crushed WPIAL teams in the semifinals. But Ackermann believes last summer’s experience might prove beneficial.
“It was good because we got to see the level of athlete we might be playing,” said Ackermann. “We went 5-1. We beat Archbishop Carroll, North Penn, Strath Haven and two New Jersey schools. Archbishop Wood was the only one to beat us. We didn’t know what it would be like and we did OK.”
Now Pine-Richland (27-1) faces a Carlisle team that is 21-8 and the No. 5 team from District 3. A year ago, Carlisle defeated North Hills in the PIAA second round before losing to Allderdice in the quarterfinals.
Carlisle is led by senior guard Deshawn Millington, a super athlete who won a PIAA triple jump championship three years ago as a freshman. Millington averages 19 points a game. Junior guard Gavyn Barnes averages 13 and 6-6 senior forward Ethan Houston 12.
“After last summer, I knew if we got this far, we’re not going to be scared,” said Ackermann. “We’re not going to run away from anyone.”
Pine-Richland is in the semifinals for only the second time (the other was 2000). Carlisle is in the semifinals for the first time since 1988 when senior Billy Owens was one of the best players in the country. Carlisle won its fourth consecutive PIAA title that year.
A “Strong” opponent
New Castle defeated Quaker Valley twice this season — and Strong Vincent beat New Castle, 68-43, Saturday. So it’s easy to tell who is the underdog Tuesday when Quaker Valley (25-3) plays Strong Vincent (26-3) in a 4A semifinal at Slippery Rock University.
This is a strong Strong Vincent team, led by 6-foot-1 senior point guard David Morris, a Tennessee State recruit who averages 28 points a game and has 2,219 career points. Strong Vincent’s only losses are to St. Ignatius (Ohio), St. Michael Academy in the Bronx (N.Y.) and Kennedy Catholic.
Strong Vincent has faced three WPIAL teams in the PIAA playoffs and has held all three below 50 points.
The fourth time
Sewickley Academy (23-4) will meet Bishop Canevin (22-5) for the fourth time this season in the Class 2A semifinals at 7:30 p.m. Tuesday at North Allegheny. Sewickley Academy won two of the first three meetings.
“One thing that helps playing a team four times, as you try to make adjustments, is that you really get an idea of who they really are,” said Bishop Canevin coach Kevin Trost. “Sometimes you play a kid once, he makes four 3’s, but that might not be really who he is.”
Trost feels Sewickley Academy’s defense might be a key.
“I don’t think they get enough credit for how good they are on defense,” said Trost.
Monessen (21-7) will play defending PIAA champ Kennedy Catholic (24-2) at 7 p.m. Monday at Slippery Rock University. But Monessen will be without sophomore forward Lyndon Henderson — the team’s third-leading scorer — after he was given a technical and ejected in the third quarter of Saturday’s game against Saltsburg. That makes him ineligible to play against Kennedy Catholic.
Video by the Herald-Standard shows the call was highly questionable. A Saltsburg player locked arms with Henderson after a play. Henderson throws his arm to get away and the Saltsburg player flops to the ground. An official then ejects Henderson.
“If there was no video, we would have to take the official’s word for it because the official told me Lyndon shoved the kid with two hands,” said Monessen coach Joe Salvino. “Well, the video shows that didn’t happen. If you really didn’t see what happened, don’t kick a kid out of a game when the other kid flopped.”
Monessen appealed the ejection and sent video to the PIAA. But the PIAA informed Monessen Sunday that Henderson still can’t play. PIAA rules state the league will not hear an appeal on an ejection for a judgment call.
Mike White: email@example.com and Twitter @mwhiteburgh.
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