Local Alle-Kiski coaches make playoff debuts
A quarter of the Alle-Kiski coaches in the WPIAL basketball playoffs are breaking new ground.
Five of the 20 qualifiers will make their postseason debuts with their respective programs — boys coaches Josh Shoop of Knoch, Bill Henry of Kittanning and Greg Hutcherson of Ford City; and girls coaches Aaron Epps of Kiski Area and Meghan Ziemianski of Burrell.
The playoffs are entirely new for Shoop, Henry and Hutcherson. Shoop also is the athletic director at Knoch but is in his first year as coach.
Hutcherson, a Kiski Area grad, has led the Sabers to the playoffs in his first season.
Henry has been at Kittanning for five years, but the program hasn't been to the playoffs since 1985.
"There are big smiles on people's faces," Henry said. "When you get to that point where you make the playoffs, you know then that all the hard work and all the time has paid off. So, we're just enjoying the moment, and we'll see where it goes."
Epps and Ziemianski previously coached teams to the playoffs at Butler and Highlands, respectively — Epps as an assistant to his mother, Dorothea, and Ziemianski as a head coach, with her father, Mark, an assistant. Mark Ziemianski also serves as an assistant now at Burrell.
Springdale girls coach Dan Ross and Freeport boys coach Mike Beale are in second stints with their teams and have previous playoff experience.
Ford City senior guard player Jon Shanty will look to add to his school record for 3-pointers in a season when the Sabers open the playoffs Saturday against Aliquippa at North Hills.
Shanty hit four 3s last Saturday at Westmont Hilltop to break the school's single-season record. He has 71 3-pointers this year.
Wilkinsburg's girls basketball team was disqualified from the WPIAL playoffs for using an ineligible player in two section games this season.
Springdale received an anonymous tip about the player, who attends Career Connections charter school, and informed Wilkinsburg, which, in turn, turned itself in to the WPIAL.
Wilkinsburg officials said they did not realize they were in violation of WPIAL rules.
The WPIAL will once again use the "follow-the-winner" format for PIAA playoff-qualifying.
In both the boys and girls tournaments, the WPIAL will send the following number of teams in the state playoffs: five in Class AAAA and Class A, and six in Class AAA and 7 in Class AA.
"They're going to enjoy (the postseason), because two weeks ago, they had us for dead." — Freeport girls basketball coach Bill Burkart, whose Yellowjackets won five of their final six games to make the WPIAL playoffs.