North Allegheny coach Jim Black won a state title as an assistant at Beaver in 1991, then won state championships as a head coach in 2006 at Pine-Richland and 2007 at North Allegheny.
But, because of the relationship he has with many of the players on this season's North Allegheny squad, it's tough to top the championship his team won Saturday.
The Tigers (19-4-2) rallied from a 2-0 deficit to defeat defending Class AAA state champion La Salle College High of Philadelphia, 6-2, and capture the second state title in school history.
"They're all very, very special," Black said. "But with my son on the team and all these other kids who I've coached for many years in amateurs, I'm just really happy for them. I consider all of them my kids. I worry about them every day."
Black goes way back with the senior class of the Tigers. He was an assistant for his son, Cody's mite team in 2002-2003.
Also on that team were Joe Griffin and Matt Fantaski. The three continued to play together under Black, and a few years later, they picked up Harry Kramer.
When Connor Cash and Charlie Johnson moved to Pittsburgh, they both joined the amateur team, too.
All six played key roles throughout the season for the Tigers.
"We know each other so well and most of us have been lined up together," Cody Black said. "We're just a good group that works really hard."
With so many talented seniors returning from a team that lost in the Penguins Cup quarterfinals in triple overtime to eventual Penguins Cup champion Bethel Park last season, the Tigers were viewed as the preseason favorite in Class AAA.
The Tigers did nothing to dispel those expectations when they won the championship of the St. Margaret's preseason tournament in October.
The one question mark for North Allegheny coming into the season was how they would replace goaltender Matthew Goda.
The Tigers had a few senior options returning, but junior goaltender Bradford Thornburgh had impressed Jim Black during a dek hockey game Thornburgh played for Black's team during the summer.
"We have the kids play for our team at Dek Star, which I own, and we were short-handed at goaltender, so I asked Bradford to play," Jim Black said. "I didn't really know him that well, just from what I saw when I watched him play junior varsity.
"But he stood on his head in the [dek hockey] game. His athleticism, it really opened my eyes. I know it was dek hockey, but the saves he made and the position he was in, it was incredible."
Thornburgh sewed up the job with a strong run at the St. Margaret's tournament, then went out and led Class AAA in goals-against and save percentage during the regular season.
He was even better in the playoffs, stopping 123 of 129 shots in the four games.
"Bradford played unbelievably," Cody Black said. "He was definitely the MVP of the playoffs, in my opinion. If it wasn't for him, we wouldn't be where we are."
While Thornburgh starred in net, Griffin provided plenty of offense. A senior forward, he scored eight goals in the Tigers' last three playoff games, including four in the state championship.
Griffin led the Tigers in points throughout most of the regular season, but then he sustained a rib injury toward the end of January. With the Tigers in first place in Class AAA at the time, Black and the coaching staff decided to play it safe and kept Griffin out for almost a month.
He returned for the last two games of the regular season, but the Tigers limped into the playoffs, having won just two of their final six regular-season games, and entered as the No. 3 seed.
"I think that's where having a good coaching staff and really thinking through things helped," Black said. "Just sitting him down when he was banged up -- Joe's a competitor and he wanted to play. But we knew that no matter where we were in the standings, we'd have to go through the best teams."
It wasn't just Griffin and Thornburgh, though, who led the Tigers. It took the whole group.
Cody Black scored the game-winner in overtime against Canon-McMillan in the quarterfinals and the game-winner against Bethel Park in the semifinals.
Black also teamed with Johnson and Cash to shut down Peters Township's top line of Trevor Recktenwald, Alex DeBolt and Adam Alavi in the Penguins Cup final. The trio also did the same to La Salle's top line.
On defense, Kramer and Shawn Baird were stalwarts. Dan Bostedo, a sophomore defenseman, sustained a dislocated shoulder a week before the playoffs but played through the pain wearing a shoulder brace.
A freshman, Christian Louria, stepped up early in the season when Kramer was out with a broken collarbone and became one of the team's best defensemen by the postseason.
"It was a full team effort," Jim Black said.
That team effort was led by the six seniors who have played most of their hockey careers in Pittsburgh together.
"It's just unbelievable to go out on top," Cody Black said.hsother