2012-13 WPIAL Boys Basketball Championship Preview
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All those records set in football the past few years, all those gold medals won and all those historical milestones.
Apparently these Bears' bellies aren't full yet.
The Clairton Bears basketball team is in the WPIAL Class A basketball championship tonight at Palumbo Center against Vincentian. The entire Clairton team is made up of players from the football team, the one that finished this past season with a state-record 63-game winning streak. The one that has won five WPIAL titles in a row and four consecutive PIAA championships.
Now, Clairton is on the cusp of another championship in a different sport. Even Matt Geletko, the Bears' first-year basketball coach, admits he is surprised the team is in the title game. And a win could put the Bears in another elite status.
Clairton is trying to become only the 16th school in WPIAL history to win football and basketball titles in the same school year. The first was Donora in 1944-45. Three teams did the WPIAL "double take" in 2007-08 -- Serra, Jeannette and Central Catholic.
"Yeah, everything really has been quite a surprise, just because we haven't had all of our guys playing together except for a couple weeks," Geletko said. "People always ask if football success can translate to basketball. Well, it does.
"We were down 11 in the fourth quarter to [No. 1 seed] Lincoln Park [in the WPIAL semifinals] and these guys didn't panic or get tight late in the game."
Three of Clairton's five starters are Pitt football recruits -- Tyler Boyd, Terrish Webb and Titus Howard. The other two starters are Bryon Clifford and Armani Ford.
After beating Lincoln Park, Howard wrote on his Twitter account "didn't nobody believe in us everybody thought they was goin beat us by 30 I guess they forgot we #boutdat"
The "boutdat" has been Clairton's unofficial motto this year in football and basketball. Many of Clairton's athletes use "boutdat" and their jersey number for their Twitter accounts.
Due to football season lasting until mid-December, Clairton got a late start on the basketball season. Then Boyd missed a number of games to play in an all-star football game and also make college visits.
"These are good athletes and good basketball players," Geletko said. "I can't even imagine what we would be like if we would've been together like most teams, having workouts in October and November. But I guess I can't ask for too much more. We're in the championship game."
Clairton (16-6) will face a Vincentian team that is trying for its second championship in three years. The game could be fast-paced. Vincentian (24-1) leads the WPIAL in scoring at 83 points a game and the Royals are led by guards Tony DiNardo and Ryan Wolf.
Here is a look at the other title games:
New Castle beat Hampton in last year's WPIAL Class AAA title game. The two moved up in class this year and now meet in the AAAA final, at 9 Saturday night at Palumbo. This is only the ninth time in the history of the WPIAL that two teams have played for a championship two years in a row. The last time was Beaver Falls and Aliquippa in 2004-05.
New Castle (25-0) is winning by an average of 27 points a game, but Hampton (21-4) has legitimate reason to believe it can play with the Red Hurricanes. Hampton is the only team to come within 16 points of New Castle. In an early February game, Hampton lost to the Red Hurricanes by only 54-50.
"They had an eight-point lead on us in the third quarter," New Castle coach Ralph Blundo said. "They have so many good players and are well-coached. They're a really good team."
New Castle's full-court pressure on defense isn't quite as effective against Hampton because twin brothers Ryan (6 feet 8) and Collin Luther (6-7) use their size to see over traps. Ryan Luther has scored 58 points the past two games.
Montour (21-4) and Chartiers Valley (22-3) split two regular-season meetings and the rubber match will decide the WPIAL title. The two play at 9 tonight at Palumbo Center.
Chartiers Valley would like a fast-paced game while Montour would prefer a slower pace, letting point guard Devin Wilson control the flow. Both teams have good shooters.
Montour is trying for its second title in three years. Meanwhile, a win would put Chartiers Valley coach Tim McConnell in elite status. He is trying to become only the fifth coach in WPIAL history to win six titles. The others are Farrell's Ed McCluskey (11), Blackhawk's John Miller (8), Midland's Ed Olkowski (8) and Duquesne's Rich Moran (6).
"Coach McConnell is a future Hall of Famer," Montour coach Adam Kaufman said. "They're going to be tough to beat. It's one of those games where we kind of hope we make more plays.
"I heard Bobby Knight say the other day that in any game, but especially the playoffs, there is a time for players to run plays and a time for players to make plays. It's time to make plays now."
The two finalists certainly have different traditions. Beaver Falls (22-3) is the defending WPIAL champion and in the title game for the sixth time in 12 seasons, while Burrell (19-6) is in the championship for only the second time in school history. The last time was 1979. Burrell and Beaver Falls meet at 1 Saturday afternoon at Palumbo.
Burrell is a surprise finalist, knocking off No. 2 seed Greensburg Central Catholic and No. 6 Quaker Valley in the past two rounds.
Beaver Falls is a definite favorite. The Tigers, the No. 1 seed, are led by guards Drew Cook and Elijah Cottrill, but Burrell has some strength on the inside.
Cole Bush has been one of the main reasons for Burrell's success. A 6-2 forward and a football star, Bush didn't play basketball last season.
In the history of the WPIAL, only 15 schools have won football and basketball titles in the same school year:
Beaver Falls 1984-85
New Castle 1998-99
Shady Side Academy 1998-99
Central Catholic 2007-08
First Published March 1, 2013 12:00 am