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Alle-Kiski Valley teams hoping for good playoff seeding

| Tuesday, Feb. 12, 2013, 12:01 a.m.
Deer Lakes' Cody Keenan (left) attempts to block a shot by Burrell's Pete Spagnolo during their game at Deer Lakes High School on Friday February 8, 2013. Erica Hilliard | Valley News Dispatch
Valley News Dispatch
Deer Lakes head coach John McKay reacts to a call against his team as they take on Apollo-Ridge during their game at Deer Lakes on Tuesday, January 29, 2013. Jason Bridge | Valley News Dispatch
Kiski Area's Joe Brungo eyes two for the Cavaliers during the first half of their Feb. 5, 2013 contest versus Hempfield Area in Hempfield Township. Eric Schmadel | Tribune-Review

Only a select few — be it a coach, athletic director or team supporter — get to make “the walk” at the WPIAL basketball playoff pairings meeting.

After pleasantries and formalities, the league opens its annual get-together with the crowning of section champions, announcing one-by-one the section numbers and the winning schools.

Hold the applause until the end.

When Tuesday night's meeting begins at the DoubleTree Hotel in Green Tree, several representatives of Alle-Kiski teams will make their way to the front of the ballroom to collect their hardware.

All told, three local boys teams and two girls teams captured or shared section titles, and coaches hope the reward is a good draw in the tournaments.

“I don't worry about the (seed) number so much as I do ... being a section champ, I think we've earned enough not to have to go through the No. 1 or 2 seed to get to the final four,” said Kiski Area boys coach Harry Rideout, whose Cavaliers shared the Section 1-AAAA title with Hempfield. “I see us in the 4-5-6 range. But you never know. Connellsville was 20-2 a few years ago and got the No. 7 seed.”

Burrell feels the same way. The Bucs (15-6) played a challenging non-section schedule and shared the Section 1-AA title with Deer Lakes.

“I think this section should get more respect,” Burrell coach Rob Niederberger said. “We think, with the schedule and the (co-) section title, that should help our seeding a lot. The (WPIAL) has to look at that. Class AA is more open than in past years.”

Burrell beat Class AAA playoff teams Central Valley (16-6) and Steel Valley (12-8), as well as District 6 team Hollidaysburg.

The Bucs, section champs for the first time since 2004, have been powered by an athletic group of seniors. So has Deer Lakes.

Deer Lakes' boys have gone 21 years between section titles. It remains to be seen if the WPIAL Basketball Steering Committee will let sentimentality affect where it puts the Lancers (16-6) in the Class AA bracket.

“We played the schedule we had and have been sucecesful in doing that,” Deer Lakes coach Jon McKay said. “We played a lot of other playoff teams.

“If we don't get a great seed, there will be zero whining and complaining from us. No excuses. We'll play who we get.”

Burrell's girls team should get the area's top seed. Burrell is one of those “buzz” teams that comes around every so often, a team that has opposing coaches talking about lengthy playoff runs for the next several years. Some coaches believe Burrell, without a senior in the lineup, can make the finals this season.

That thinking, however, doesn't mean a high seed or easy draw. Burrell (20-2) is ranked No. 2 in Class AA by Trib Total Media, but that doesn't guarantee a No. 2 seed to match. One thing's clear: The Bucs hope to be on the opposite side of the bracket from two-time defending champion Seton-La Salle (20-1), the favorite in double-A.

The Rebels, who went 30-0 last year and also won the state title, have been in the WPIAL final four straight times. They are 77-4 across the past three years.

“We think 20-2 is a fantastic record,” Burrell coach Meghan Ziemianski said. “We've played teams like North Catholic and a pretty strong schedule. It doesn't matter where you're seeded; it's out of your control.”

Burrell has nonsection wins against Class AAA playoff teams Hampton and Indiana, and Class A power North Catholic. Its losses are to Class AAAA Shaler and Class AAA Keystone Oaks, both playoff teams.

The Fox Chapel girls (16-5) won just three games last year but surge into the postseason, like Burrell, with a number of underclass players who keep improving. The Foxes, who shared the Section 2-AAAA title with Gateway, could be the team no one wants to face with its mixture of guards and size.

Kiski Area finished the season by winning 11 of 12 games, with the only blemish a 51-44 loss to Hempfield. Rideout doesn't think the defeat will hurt the Cavaliers' seeding.

“We watched that film for two hours,” Rideout said. “We had 19 preventable points. We needed to play a little better defensively.”

McKay hopes the Lancers can surprise some teams in the playoffs. But first, formalities.

“It will be an honor, no doubt,” McKay said of being recognized at the pairings meeting. “But it won't be as special as (Feb. 1) at West Shamokin. We were down seven in the fourth quarter and came back to win and clinch a share of the section. The celebration in the locker room was great.”

All playoff games will be played at neutral sites.

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