USC boys draw No. 4 seed for WPIAL basketball playoffs
Despite winning a section title and sporting the second-best record in Quad-A boys’ basketball, the WPIAL seeded Upper St. Clair (19-3) fourth in its post-season tournament, scheduled to begin this weekend.
Undefeated New Castle (22-0) earned the No. 1 seed while North Allegheny (19-3) and Hampton (18-4) garnered the No. 2 and No. 3 slots. The Tigers and the Talbots competed in the same league as the Hurricanes and finished runner-up and third respectively in Section 3 with 11-3 and 10-4 marks.
Admitting that playoff seeding is “an imperfect science” WPIAL director Tim O’Malley told everybody assembled in the ballroom of DoubleTree Hotel in Greentree that they should leave knowing that the committee approached its task with the utmost “objectivity” and the goal was to arrive at the “four most qualified teams.”
The Panthers, winners of Section 4 with a 13-1 record will face Norwin (13-9) in a first-round game set for 1:30 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 16 at Gateway.
“I thought we’d be the two seed,” said USC floor boss Dan Holzer. “At least the WPIAL felt we were one of the top four teams. I respect that.
“I’m excited,” he added enthusiastically. “I like our team and the way we have been playing. They get ready to meet any challenge.”
Reaching the Quad-A finals set for Saturday, March 2 at the A.J. Palumbo Center on the Duquesne University campus will be a challenge for the Panthers’ section foes as well. While USC’s route would mean possibly playing the Hurricanes in the semifinals, should both continue to win, Mt. Lebanon and Canon-McMillan drew Hampton and NA respectively for their first-round playoff opponents.
Lebo plays Hampton at 3 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 16 at North Allegheny while the Big Macs play the Tigers on Wednesday, Feb. 20 at a site and time to be determined.
“This is a great opportunity for us,” said Lebo skipper Joe David. “We are happy to be here. If you want to win it all, you have to play the best (teams) all around.”
The Blue Devils finished third in Section 4 with a 7-7 slate. They are 10-12 overall heading into the playoffs.
Meanwhile, the Big Macs finished fourth in the division with a 6-8 slate. They are, however, 11-11 overall.
“We anticipated being a 15 or 16 seed,” said CM head coach Rick Bell. “We’d played Latrobe and we’d beaten them,” he added of the Wildcats, who drew New Castle.
“Obviously, NA is really good but the last couple of weeks we have been playing really well. We’ve been in a lot of close games and that is going to help us.
“We are playing our best basketball right now and that’s what you want to be doing this time of year. My kids have a lot of character and ‘no quit’ in them. We’ll show up,” Bell assured. “We’ll be prepared and we’ll play hard.”
At Chartiers Valley, that’s the MO of Tim McConnell-coached clubs. The Colts (19-3) drew the top seed in Class AAA. They are idle until Tuesday, Feb. 19 when they will play the winner of the Mt. Pleasant-Knoch game being contested at 8 p.m. Friday, Feb. 15 at Highlands.
While “pleased” with drawing the No. 1 seed, McConnell said, “it’s not going to be a walk to the finals.”
In looking at his half of the bracket, McConnell noted a potential quarterfinal match-up with section rival South Fayette (13-9) and a possible semifinal clash with Beaver (17-3), a team that beat the Colts.
“Initially I was surprised they put them in our bracket but they do what they have to do. We have some of the best teams and so does anybody else.”
After 25 years, Rich Bonnaure says that he has learned to “expect the unexpected” at the WPIAL pairings meetings. His South Fayette club will face West Mifflin in the Class AAA opener set for Tuesday, Feb. 19 at a site and time to be determined. The Titans beat the Lions in the second game of the season. At the time, South Fayette was without Zach Challingsworth. The Pitt recruit was recovering from a football injury at the time.
“We are a different team with him,” said Bonnaure. “That’s not to take anything from West Mifflin. They played well against us. They are a good team. I expect a great game, an even match-up.”
In Class AA, Seton-La Salle (20-2) earned a first-round bye. The Rebels will play Feb. 20 against the winner of the Mohawk vs. Serra game. That contest will be played at 3 p.m. Feb. 16 at Chartiers Valley.
Bishop Canevin (10-12) plays Charleroi at noon Saturday, Feb. 16 at Peters Township.
In other boys’ first round action, Bethel Park (17-5) will play McKeesport (14-7) at 3 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 16 at Baldwin. The two teams just met on Monday, Feb. 11 with the Tigers pulling off the victory.
In girls’ basketball, Mt. Lebanon (20-2) earned the top seed in Quad-A. The Blue Devils are idle until Feb. 19. They will face the winner of the Franklin Regional vs. Albert Gallatin game being played at 8 p.m. Friday, Feb. 15.
Bethel Park (19-3) also drew a bye as did North Allegheny (19-3). The Lady Hawks play Feb. 19 and they will face the winner of the Penn Hills-Norwin game being played at 6:30 p.m. Friday, Feb. 15.
Chartiers Valley (16-6), which finished behind Lebo and BP in Section 4, drew the No. 4 seed in the Quad-A girls’ tournament. The Lady Colts face Shaler (11-11) at 6:30 p.m. Friday, Feb. 15.
In Class AAA, South Fayette (14-7) battles Freeport at 1:30 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 16 at North Allegheny while Keystone Oaks (13-8) plays Mt. Pleasant at noon at Gateway.
In Class AA, Seton-La Salle (21-1) drew the top seed. The defending district and state champions play Feb. 19 against the winner of the Washington-Ford City contest being played at 6:30 p.m. Friday, Feb. 15 at Yough.
Bishop Canevin, last year’s WPIAL runner-up to the Lady Rebels, also drew a first-round bye and won’t play until Tuesday, Feb. 19. Their opponent will emerge out of the battle between West Shamokin and Neshannock at 6:30 p.m. Friday, Feb. 15 at Highlands.