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WPIAL AAAA boys basketball tournament is wide open

Chris Harlan
| Wednesday, Feb. 16, 2011

Moon coach Jeff Ackermann was happy with a fourth-place finish in Section 4, and apparently, so was the WPIAL.

"There's a lot of history in this section," said Ackermann, whose Tigers were seeded No. 8 in the WPIAL Class AAAA playoffs, joining three others from the same section among the top eight seeds. Mt. Lebanon was second, Upper St. Clair was fifth and Chartiers Valley was sixth.

However, this year's seeds might carry less weight than usual. The path to the boys Quad-A title seems wide open.

"If anybody in the top nine wins it, would I be surprised?" Ackermann said. "I doubt it."

Shaler (21-1) was seeded No. 1, a ranking the Titans earned with a 21-game winning streak that ended Friday. But their coach, Paul Holzshu, wouldn't label his team the favorite.

"I don't think there is (a favorite)," Holzshu said. "It should be an exciting tournament. It should be one that anybody has a chance."

The WPIAL released brackets for the boys and girls basketball playoffs during Tuesday night's pairings meeting at the Radisson in Green Tree. The playoffs begin Friday with preliminary- and first-round games.

Joining Shaler as No. 1 seeds in the boys brackets were South Fayette (AAA), Greensburg Central Catholic (AA) and Rochester (A).

The top girls seeds were Mt. Lebanon (AAAA), Indiana (AAA), Seton-La Salle (AA) and Vincentian Academy (A), which could win a second consecutive WPIAL title. The Mt. Lebanon girls could win a third consecutive WPIAL title, as could the New Castle girls.

"Oh my goodness, we're not even looking at that," Mt. Lebanon coach Dori Oldaker said of a potential three-peat. "There are some phenomenal teams in the bracket. It would be difficult to even think about that yet."

Coach Joe David's Mt. Lebanon boys won the 2010 WPIAL Class AAAA title, and he thought the respect shown to Section 4 was well-deserved. That section has won six of the past seven Class AAAA titles.

"It was a tough section this year," David said, "and we had some really good teams. (The seeds) are deserving. Hopefully, we can represent ourselves well."

Consider that Section 1 winner Connellsville was seeded No. 7, below Chartiers Valley (No. 6) and Upper St. Clair (No. 5), and North Allegheny (No. 3), the second-place team in Section 3.

"When you look at Quad-A, it's not just one team that's dominant," Chartiers Valley coach Tim McConnell said. "I know Shaler is pretty good, but they showed they're vulnerable. I think there are many teams that can win this thing."

Preseason favorite Gateway, the Section 2 winner, was seeded third.

"I think the top four (seeds) are very interchangeable," Gateway coach Mitch Adams said, "but anything could happen."

wpial basketball tournaments at a glance


Class AAAA

Favorite: Shaler has the WPIAL's best guard tandem in senior J.T. Schwartz (16.2 ppg) and sophomore Geno Thorpe (17.7).

Contenders: 2010 champ Mt. Lebanon, with Evan Eaton, Luke Hagy and Paul Lang, might play the best defense in Quad-A. Anthony Dallier (25.2) and North Allegheny lost to only one WPIAL team — Shaler, twice. Connellsville, strong in Section 1, still seeks respect.

Don't overlook: Gateway, the preseason favorite, should have Tyler Scott (21.8) eligible again.

Prediction: Mt. Lebanon over Gateway.

Class AAA

Favorite: South Fayette hasn't slowed since winning the 2010 PIAA Class AA title with stars Mike Lamberti (19.2 ppg) and Pat Zedreck (15.1).

Contenders: West Mifflin's outlook depends upon the health of C.J. Hester (18.8), who missed the season's last three games due to a concussion. Casey Hope (15.3) has Greensburg Salem peaking for the playoffs. Section runners-up Mars and Montour looked like title contenders at times.

Don't overlook: Highlands could make a run with Micah Mason (33.8), the WPIAL's top scorer.

Prediction: South Fayette over West Mifflin.

Class AA

Favorite: Despite a tumultuous time, Greensburg Central Catholic spent all season ranked No. 1, led by Jesse Reed (16.9 ppg).

Contenders: Beaver Falls has won 11 in a row since Sheldon Jeter (22.0) returned from injury. Monessen has balanced scoring, with four players averaging between eight and 14 points. Demetrious Cox (16.7) and Jeannette could earn a rubber-match with GCC.

Don't overlook: Underrated Sto-Rox, led by Shawn Smith (21.2), could surprise in the playoffs.

Prediction: GCC over Beaver Falls.

Class A

Favorite: Rochester was strongly tested — its three losses were to South Fayette, Greensburg Central Catholic and North Allegheny.

Contenders: Chaquille Pratt (23.4 ppg) and Lincoln Park were WPIAL runners-up in 2010. Vincentian had won 19 in a row before a Feb. 11 loss to section co-champion North Catholic, the 2010 Class AA winner.

Don't overlook: St. Joseph and senior Brian Heinle (25.3) were unbeaten against teams not named Serra Catholic or Vincentian.

Prediction: Rochester over Lincoln Park.

Girls basketball

Class AAAA

Favorite: Mt. Lebanon and Madison Cable (17.4 ppg) won WPIAL titles in 2009 and '10, making the Blue Devils again the team to beat.

Contenders: Val McQuade (15.8) and strong defense helped Shaler earn its high seed. Bethel Park's Candace Martino (15.0) and Baldwin's Belma Nurkic (19.5) have one last chance to upstage Mt. Lebanon. North Allegheny and Oakland Catholic showed title-winning talent at times.

Don't overlook: Penn-Trafford, the Section 1 champ, won 13 in a row heading into the playoffs.

Prediction: Shaler over Mt. Lebanon.

Class AAA

Favorite: Indiana and Leslie Stapleton (17.2 ppg) have been almost unbeatable since last year's loss in the state title game.

Contenders: New Castle's Christina Talbert (18.1) and LaShauna Brothers (18.0) have softened the loss of injured star Kaylynn Waters. Led by Shelby Lindsay (17.3), South Park grew strong against tough nonsection schedule.

Don't overlook: Blackhawk's Alexis Graham (15.5) and Alexa Hayward (15.5) helped the Cougars win 14 of their last 15 games.

Prediction: South Park over Indiana.

Class AA

Favorite: Seton-La Salle has a bundle of lopsided victories, including one that drew extra attention.

Contenders: Avonworth has two scorers in Lauryn Mayernik (19.3 ppg) and Catherine Costa (18.2). Bishop Canevin's Erin Waskowiak (19.3) rates among the WPIAL's top sophomores. Deer Lakes, Charleroi, Jeannette and Riverside want to add to their section titles.

Don't overlook: Greensburg Central Catholic has a Division I talent in guard Tess Zufall (15.7).

Prediction: Seton-La Salle over Riverside.

Class A

Favorite: Vincentian has victories over playoff teams in Class A (North Catholic, twice), AA (Seton-La Salle), AAA (South Fayette) and AAAA (Oakland Catholic).

Contenders: Monessen's Geena Shrader (18.4 ppg) has kept the Greyhounds unbeaten. Aliquippa seeks its first WPIAL title since winning four in a row (1987-90). Fort Cherry proved itself with solid nonsection victories.

Don't overlook: North Catholic and senior Kendall Hoffman were 2010 WPIAL runners-up.

Prediction: Vincentian over North Catholic.

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