North Xtra: Early PIAA games a bonus
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Losing in the quarterfinals of the WPIAL playoffs just might have a silver lining for some teams this season.
The past few seasons, the PIAA has added preliminary-round games to its tournament brackets. They are for teams that finished down the line in their district tournaments and the winners of preliminary-round contests advance to the first round.
First-round games in the PIAA tournament will not be played until Friday or Saturday. That means most teams in the PIAA field will have had to wait at least a week before returning to action after their district playoffs.
But teams involved in preliminary-round games got a jump on PIAA action. Those games were played Tuesday.
The Quaker Valley boys played a preliminary-round game in Class AA in the PIAA tournament, beating Chestnut Ridge, 88-49, at home. The Quakers are the No. 7 team from the WPIAL.
"Absolutely, I think it helps us to get a preliminary-round game," Quaker Valley coach Mike Mastroianni said on Monday. "It's a perfect fit, playing again on a Tuesday. I think it gives us an advantage going into the first round that we will have played a game."
Quaker Valley had not played since losing to Sto-Rox, 56-55, on Feb. 25 in the WPIAL quarterfinals. Mastroianni and his players then had to hope either Sto-Rox or Beaver Falls won the WPIAL Class AA title so they would be in the PIAA field.
All of the WPIAL Class AA quarterfinalists except one have spots in the PIAA playoffs. The odd team out this season happened to be Northgate, one of two teams to beat Beaver Falls this season.
"I'm glad we're in the situation we're in and playing [the preliminary round game] at home is a bonus," Mastroianni said. "At this time of year you've been together a long time as a team and I know the players would much rather have a game than another week of practice."
Quaker Valley will meet District 6 champion Bishop McCort from Johnstown at 6 p.m. Saturday at Pitt-Johnstown in the first round.
Other WPIAL teams that played in PIAA preliminary-round games Tuesday were Seneca Valley, Shaler Area and Butler in boys Class AAAA and Mars Area, Montour and Central Valley in Class AAA. Of those six, five of them won.
On the girls side, Pine-Richland, Baldwin and Upper St. Clair were involved in Class AAAA preliminary-round games, along with Greensburg Central Catholic in Class AA and Blackhawk and South Fayette in Class AAA. Of those six, four won.
The Perry and Oliver faculties were scheduled to play a game against the Steelers basketball team Wednesday night to celebrate the combining of the two City League schools. Perry boys coach Marco Corona plans to get players from the two long-time rivals together for action later this month.
"We're going to be in an undergraduate tournament at Laurel Highlands near Uniontown starting on March 17," Corona said. "I want to get started as early as I can getting the players together so they can adjust to what we want to do."
OK, so we are still charging into windmills -- or in this case basket supports -- but we still do not see why the WPIAL does not select an MVP from each of its championship games.
If we were handing out MVP awards, we would name them after the late, great Farrell High School coach Ed McCluskey. And if we were handing out those McCluskey Awards this year they would go to Gateway's Barnett Harris (13 points, 12 rebounds in the Class AAAA title game win against Central Catholic), New Castle's Shawn Anderson (24 points, 8 rebounds in the Class AAA win against Hampton), Beaver Falls' Sheldon Jeter (19 points, 11 rebounds in the Class A win against Monessen) and Lincoln Park's Trey Hosack (27 points in the win against Cornell).
On the girls side, our McCluskeys would go to Mt. Lebanon's Christine Ehland (16 points in Class AAAA final against Oakland Catholic), Hopewell's Shatori Walker-Kimbrough (25 points, 13 rebounds in Class AAA win against South Park), Seton-LaSalle's Naje Gibson (17 points, 11 rebounds in Class AA victory against Bishop Canevin) and Vincentian's Laura Primyon (13 points in Class A final).
WPIAL officials were pleased with the crowds that showed up at the championship quadrupleheaders Friday and Saturday at the Palumbo Center.
Tim O'Malley, WPIAL executive director, said there were 6,783 tickets sold for Friday's four games and more that 7,500 for Saturday's. He added that the walk-up sale on Saturday was 5,000.
In the past, the WPIAL has had three championship sessions at the Palumbo Center -- three games Friday, three Saturday afternoon and two Saturday night. That wasn't possible this year because the Duquesne University men's team had a game Saturday afternoon.
"Whether we would have done better [at the gate] with three sessions I don't know," O'Malley said. "We had nice crowds both days and no problems."
He added there was no issue with getting Duquesne fans out of the Palumbo Center and WPIAL fans in Saturday afternoon following the Dukes' game.
First Published March 8, 2012 12:00 am