The Dribbler: 'Palumbo palooza' excites him
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Championship weekend is here. Let the Palumbo palpitations begin, allow the spirits of Lance Jeter, Herb Pope and Madison Cable to roam free, and give The Dribbler room to revel in the magnificence of it all.
Eight WPIAL title games -- four boys, four girls -- will be contested at Duquesne University's Palumbo Center. Four will be played today and four more Saturday, in the facility along Forbes Avenue at the foot of The Bluff, where there isn't a bad seat except in the media room.
The WPIAL, for the most part, has scheduled these championships at Palumbo for nearly two decades, and the memories of great games -- and great players -- are beginning to pile up.
Who can forget Beaver Falls' Jeter sticking daggers, and 3-pointers, in Aliquippa's title aspirations in 2005, including one launched seemingly from Oakland that forced ANOTHER overtime?
How about that fabulous Class AA final between Aliquippa and Jeannette, pitting Pope and Jonathan Baldwin against Terrelle Pryor, each seemingly taking turns upstaging the other two? Pryor, frequently playing point guard, looked as accomplished on the court as he does on the football field.
So did Bruce Gradkowski in Seton-LaSalle's championship game.
Who couldn't appreciate the all-around excellence and efficiency of Cable and her Mt. Lebanon teammates? Or Drew Schifino's ability to hit the 30-foot jumper that many Penn Hills fans, upon release, wished he wouldn't have tried?
And wasn't that out-of-nowhere Leechburg team remarkable?
The Dribbler is coming off a gargantuan week, going 17-4, giving him a season mark of 101-44, a .697 rate
Here are his gold-medal predictions:
(Class AAAA) Gateway vs. Central Catholic, Saturday, 9 p.m. -- The Gators, following an uneven regular season, have performed up to standard in the playoffs. And the standard, in their case, is reaching the championship game. This will be their third consecutive appearance ... and second title in a row. Winner: Gateway.
(Class AAA) New Castle vs. Hampton, Friday, 9 p.m. -- Hampton has a serendipitous blend of tradition and youth. The Talbots are making their fourth title-game appearance in six years with three sophomores and two freshmen among their first seven. No one, however, has been able to still the Red Hurricanes (25-0), who will continue to roil. Winner: New Castle.
(Class AA) Beaver Falls vs. Monessen, Saturday, 5 p.m. -- The Tigers and Greyhounds have been shampoo teams -- head and shoulders above the rest in their classification. Both have been impressive all season. Beaver Falls, led by Sheldon Jeter, has been fabulous in the tournament and will put on a gold-medal performance in the gold-medal game. Winner: Beaver Falls.
(A) Lincoln Park vs. Cornell, Friday, 5 p.m. -- Cornell (19-5) is a very small school having an enormous season. The Raiders, though, have had a heap of trouble with their Section 1 nemesis, losing to the Leopards by 11 and 24 points this season. The Leopards, in the WPIAL final for a third consecutive season, will prevail again. Winner: Lincoln Park.
(Class AAAA) Mt. Lebanon vs. Oakland Catholic, Friday, 7 p.m. -- This has become an interesting rivalry between powerhouse programs that should consider Palumbo a second home. Both are balanced, efficient and playing at a peak. The Dribbler loves Oakland Catholic, but in a title game, he refuses to pick against Dori Oldaker and the Blue Devils. Winner: Mt. Lebanon.
(Class AAA) Hopewell vs. South Park, Saturday, 7 p.m. -- Neither finalist is a surprise, both playing at a peak since early December. The Vikings have been exceptional of late, and though they won't find playing South Park to be a picnic, they will prevail. Winner: Hopewell.
(Class AA) Seton-LaSalle vs. Bishop Canevin, Friday, 3 p.m. -- Section 5 provided all four semifinalists, but these two have stood at the top all season -- in that section and the WPIAL The Rebels are 24-0, with two of their closest victories coming against the Crusaders (eight and 11 points). This one will be tight as well, and a Rebels triumph as well. Winner: Seton-LaSalle.
(Class A) North Catholic vs. Vincentian, Saturday, 3 p.m. -- These Section 2 rivals play some compelling basketball against one another. They split two close section games during the regular season, Vincentian winning by six, then North Catholic by two. This one will be tight as well, with the traditional powerhouse taking the title. Winner: North Catholic.
First Published March 2, 2012 12:00 am