WPIAL committee has tough call on seeding Section 3-6A rivals
After climbing a ladder and cutting down the net Friday night following a thrilling 76-75 home win over Penn Hills that secured a three-way share of the Section 3-6A title, Latrobe's boys basketball team is wondering where it will be seeded in the new-look WPIAL playoffs, which will include six classifications for the first time.
The Wildcats are not alone.
Playoff pairings will be announced Tuesday night at the DoubleTree Hotel in Green Tree, and the WPIAL basketball committee will reveal the conclusion of a conundrum that landed in its lap: where to seed Latrobe (19-3), Penn Hills (19-3) and Fox Chapel (19-3), all of whom finished 12-2 in section.
“Not real certain how the committee will see it,” Latrobe coach Brad Wetzel said. “Are we 2, 3, 4? It's hard to say what they'll do. Every team in the field is good.”
The consensus is that Pine-Richland (21-1) will be No. 1, but Latrobe's win Friday upset the apple cart and forced the committee to decide who is No. 2 ... and 3 and 4.
Latrobe, which has won three straight section titles, split its season series with Penn Hills and Fox Chapel, and Fox Chapel and Penn Hills also split. With only 12 playoff teams this season, compared to the traditional 16, there will be four first-round byes, which could go to Pine-Richland and the Section 3 teams. Mt. Lebanon (14-8) is the Section 2 champion, so it could make an argument for a top-four seed.
“It's going to be tough,” Penn Hills coach Dan DeRose said. “You wonder what they'll look at. How did everyone do against the rest of the conference? How did everyone play out of conference? You look at us, we beat Lincoln Park, New Castle and Allderdice on the road (and McKeesport at home).”
Latrobe and Penn Hills were semifinal teams last year in Quad-A. Fox Chapel is enjoying its first section title in a decade.
“It's going to be exciting, you know that,” Fox Chapel coach Zach Skrinjar said. “The WPIAL will do their due dilligence. To be honest, I think it will be Pine-Richland 1, Latrobe 2, Penn Hills 3, and Fox Chapel 4. But who knows? What happens, happens and you have to deal with it.”
Only boys 3A and girls 5A will have traditional 16-team brackets. As for the others, all but 5A and 2A boys (13 teams), Class A boys (14) and Class A girls (13) will have 12-team brackets.
Greensburg Central Catholic (22-0) is the likely No. 1 seed in boys Class 2A. The Centurions, ranked No. 3 in the state, have had rousing success in recent seasons, making the semifinals four of the last five times, but never have won a WPIAL title in basketball.
A strong nonsection schedule has the Centurions ready for the playoffs and the committee.
“I try not to predict the seedings and brackets because I am surprised yearly,” Greensburg Central coach Greg Bisignani said. “Last year, we finished the regular season 21-1, with our only loss being by five points to Penn-Trafford, a team in the highest classification, and undefeated in our section and got a fourth seed. We have played some higher-classification teams to give us a better feel for playoff-type games.”
Bishop Canevin (18-3) and Sewickley Academy (17-4) are other boys teams held in high regard in 2A.
Coaches do not like to predict seedings in the playoffs because they fear they are setting themselves up for disappointment. Even coaches who have won back-to-back Quad-A championships, like Norwin girls coach Brian Brozeski. Norwin (16-5) finished second in Section 2-6A behind likely top-four seed Penn Hills (20-2) and could be in the conversation for a first-round bye.
“I honestly don't spend a lot of time predicting brackets,” Brozeski said. “I've tried in years past and have been way wrong, so I devote the time to watching film and trying to make our team better.
“I don't worry about things I can't control like seeding.”
The GCC girls (17-5), who were a perfect 14-0 in section play, are anticipating a first-round bye as they try to make another run to the title game.
“We're hoping for a 1 or 2,” GCC coach Joe Eisaman said. “You look at what we did last year, making the finals. They should take that into consideration. And our schedule has been brutal. We have made huge improvements from the Pine-Richland game (Dec. 15) until now.”
GCC was a No. 14 seed when it left a trail of upsets on the way to the Pete last year.
The Monessen boys should be the No. 1 seed in Class A.
All playoff games are played at neutral sites. The WPIAL finals will be spread over three days, March 2-4, at Pitt's Petersen Events Center.