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Freeport boys earn No. 7 seed in WPIAL Class 4A playoffs

| Tuesday, Feb. 14, 2017, 11:15 p.m.
Erica Dietz | for the Tribune Review
Freeport’s Kevin Lynch breaks through defense by Indiana’s Taylor Hudzicki (15) and Benjamin Bianco (55) during the third quarter of the basketball game at Freeport Middle School on Friday, Jan. 27, 2017.
Erica Dietz | for the Tribune Review
Deer Lakes reacts to their victory against Freeport during the basketball game at Freeport Middle School on Friday, Feb. 10, 2017.
Erica Dietz | for the Tribune Review
Freeport’s Ben Beale attempts to score past Valley’s Nijal Rogers (23) and Justice Ray (10) during the second period of the basketball game at Valley High School on Friday, Jan. 20, 2017.
Sidney Davis | Tribune-Review
Highlands Mitch DeZort scores in the paint against Franklin Regional's Nate Lepold during the game at Highlands High School on Tuesday, Jan. 3, 2017.The Rams lost the game, 84-81.
Michael Swensen | For the Tribune-Review
Kiski Area's Jon Bracy (right) blocks the shot of Greensburg Salem's Marvel McGowan in the second half of a game at Kiski Area High School Friday, Jan. 6, 2016
Sidney Davis | Tribune-Review
Burrell's Donavan Russell splits Apollo-Ridge's Jayson Sowers (1) and Bobby Mangan (22) while going to the hoop during the Vikings 64-51 loss to the Bucs on Tuesday, Jan. 17, 2017.
Louis B. Ruediger | Tribune-Review
Leechburg's John Miskinis drives around Springdale's Sam Carey in the second half of their game Tuesday Jan 10, 2017, at Leechburg High School.
Sidney Davis | Tribune-Review
St. Joseph's keeps the ball away from Winchester Thurston's Eli Harrison during the WPIAL Boys Class A game at Walter Dlubak Athletic Center in Natrona Heights on Tuesday, Jan. 31, 2017.

Freeport began its season with uncertainty after replacing four starters. Over the course of the campaign, however, the Yellowjackets' previously untested roster coalesced into a group that posted the school's best record since 2010 and reached the playoffs for the first time since 2012.

They now will attempt to extend that success into the postseason. Freeport (15-7) drew the No. 7 seed in the WPIAL Class 4A boys basketball playoff brackets, which were revealed Tuesday.

“I asked my team Monday if they thought on Nov. 17 that they'd be sitting here in this position, and they all shook their heads ‘no,' ” Freeport coach Mike Beale said. “We kept our noses to the grindstone, and here we are.”

One of three Alle-Kiski Valley playoff qualifiers from Section 1-4A — the others being Deer Lakes and Valley — the Yellowjackets will play No. 10 South Fayette at 8 p.m. Wednesday in the first round.

“We're where we expected to be,” Beale said. “We didn't anticipate this type of break ‘till next Wednesday. We're looking forward to the challenge, and we'll be ready to go.”

The highly touted Section 2-4A received the top four seeds and first-round byes in the WPIAL playoffs, with Section 3-4A champion Belle Vernon getting the fifth seed and Section 1-4A champ Indiana the sixth. Freeport was the second-highest second-place team.

Valley, which finished third in the section, drew the No. 9 seed in its first playoff appearance since 2011. The Vikings (11-11) will play No. 8 McGuffey (17-5) at 6:30 p.m. Tuesday at Baldwin, with the winner advancing to play No. 1 New Castle.

Deer Lakes (12-10), in the postseason for the first time since 2013, received the No. 12 seed and will play No. 5 Belle Vernon (16-6) at 8 p.m. Wednesday at Gateway.

“We wanted to (make the playoffs) the first year, but we'll take getting into the dance this year,” second-year Deer Lakes coach Terence Parham said. “We're finally getting healthy, and the kids are starting to mesh at the right time. It's no time for error, and we're getting in against a tough competitor in Belle Vernon.”

Coming off a run to the WPIAL championship game last season, Highlands faces an uphill climb in Class 5A this postseason.

The No. 9 Golden Rams (12-10) will face No. 8 Laurel Highlands (17-5) in the first round Tuesday, with a potential quarterfinal matchup against former section rival Mars looming.

“We're excited to be in the position we're in,” Highlands coach Tyler Stoczynski said. “We have a couple of days of practice to get ready. We want to make a statement.”

Kiski Area (10-10), meanwhile, got the No. 12 seed and will play No. 5 Hampton (13-9) in the first round. The Talbots finished fourth in Section 2-5A, which claimed the top three seeds and byes.

“I figured we would get a dominant team from that section,” Kiski Area coach Joey Tutchstone said. “They were a dominant section. By rights, they proved they deserved better seeds, and so we figured we would get them or Char Valley.”

In Class 3A, Burrell received the No. 14 seed and will play No. 3 Cardinal Wuerl North Catholic (17-5) at 1:30 p.m. Saturday at North Hills. The Bucs (8-14) played a demanding nonsection schedule and rebounded from a 1-10 start to make the playoffs.

“Obviously, we've got to go out and prove ourselves to some people,” Burrell coach Shawn Bennis said. “I think playing the schedule we did, nobody can really throw anything at us that we're not prepared for.”

Leechburg (9-10), which clinched its playoff berth on the final night of section play, received the No. 13 seed in Class AA and will play No. 4 Chartiers-Houston at 8 p.m. Tuesday at North Allegheny.

St. Joseph, back in the playoffs after seeing its 13-year postseason streak end in 2016, got the No. 10 seed in Class A. The Spartans (13-9) will play No. 7 Rochester (15-6) at 8 p.m. Friday at Fox Chapel — the opponent St. Joseph coach Kelly Robinson predicted.

“For once, we got it right,” Robinson said. “This is such an inexact science. We've been down here enough (where) you think you're seeded better, you think you're seeded worse. Sometimes you think you're seeded properly, but you're not playing the team you thought you'd play. We kind of expected Rochester, and that's who we got.”

George Guido contributed. Doug Gulasy is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach him at dgulasy@tribweb.com or via Twitter @dgulasy_Trib.

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