WPIAL awards Section 3 top three seeds in Class AAAA
All four of Hampton's losses came against Section 3-AAAA opponents. All three of North Allegheny's defeats also came in section play.
And when that section is ruled by a New Castle team that just finished its second consecutive 22-0 regular season, it was more than enough ammunition for the WPIAL basketball steering committee to seed New Castle, North Allegheny and Hampton 1-2-3 when the Class AAAA brackets were released Tuesday at the DoubleTree in Green Tree.
“I know a lot of people are surprised, upset, mad or whatever about it, but those are three very good teams,” said Upper St. Clair coach Danny Holzer, whose team got the No. 4 seed despite going 19-3. “I am just happy that the WPIAL considered us one of the top four seeds in the playoffs.”
New Castle joins the other top seeds on the boys' side: Chartiers Valley (Class AAA), Beaver Falls (AA) and Lincoln Park (A).
It might be a moot point in Class AAAA because of New Castle. The Red Hurricanes are trying to become the first WPIAL team to win back-to-back titles in different classifications. New Castle won the Class AAA championship last year.
New Castle coach Ralph Blundo isn't interested in looking past first-round opponent Latrobe.
“The only thing that matters in the bracket is who we play next, and that's Latrobe,” Blundo said. “In terms of last year and the success we had is completely irrelevant in what we are doing this year.”
New Castle blew through the regular season, averaging 80 points and beating opponents by nearly 30 points per game. The Red Hurricanes defeated 21 of their 22 opponents by at least 16 points and will be looking for their eighth WPIAL title.
“You can't ignore the fact that we had two 22-0 regular seasons, and that's special for our kids,” said Blundo, who has a 67-9 record in three years with New Castle. “But it doesn't mean a darn thing going into these playoffs.”
In Class AAA, Chartiers Valley's five WPIAL titles since 1997 went a long way in determining the top seed over Mars (19-3), despite the Colts' losing two of their past five games after a 16-1 start.
For Chartiers Valley coach Tim McConnell, there's a big difference being the top seed and No. 2 — most notably, being on the opposite side of the bracket of Section 5 foe Montour.
“We played Montour twice and to stay away from them, yes, it was big getting the No. 1 seed,” McConnell said.
Montour beat Chartiers Valley (19-3) two weeks ago. Montour got the No. 3 seed and could face Mars in the semifinals.
“If you put Mars in the section with Montour and South Fayette, I don't know if they go undefeated,” McConnell said.
Mars is coming off an 18-8 season in which the Planets won a WPIAL and PIAA playoff game. Mars' three losses this year were by a combined 10 points.
Defending champion Beaver Falls (19-3) heads a strong Class AA bracket, along with Greensburg Central Catholic (21-1), Seton-La Salle (20-2) and Jeannette (17-4). The top four seeds are a combined 77-10.
Defending Class A champion Lincoln Park (17-5) is followed by Vincentian Academy, North Catholic and Union.
In girls' Class AAAA, Mt. Lebanon (20-2) is coming off its sixth-straight section title and is going for its fourth WPIAL title in the past five years. The Blue Devils have won 13 consecutive games heading into the postseason.
Blackhawk (22-0) is the only girls team that finished the season undefeated, and did it in impressive fashion. The Cougars beat opponents by 30 points per game during the regular season. Section 2-AAA foe Hopewell got the No. 2 seed.
Seton-La Salle (21-1) is going for a third straight WPIAL title but the first for coach John Ashalou, and Vincentian is aiming for back-to-back WPIAL titles under Ron Moncrief.
The WPIAL championship games will be held at A.J. Palumbo Center on March 1-2.