Valley News Dispatch WPIAL basketball playoff capsules
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WPIAL PLAYOFF CAPSULES
Class AAAA: First round
• No. 8 Kiski Area (16-5) vs. No. 9 Gateway (15-5)
8 p.m. Wednesday at Plum
Winner plays: No. 16 Latrobe (12-10)/No. 1 New Castle (22-0) winner, Saturday at a time and site to be determined
Notable: Kiski Area heads into the playoffs with a slight chip on its shoulder having anticipated a better seeding and hoping to avoid a potential second-round game against No. 1 New Castle. But the Cavaliers can't let that take away their focus from two-time defending champion Gateway. Kiski Area has shown its can play with most teams offensively, but its defense will need to be just as effective if there is to be any playoff success. The team hasn't played since Feb. 6, but coach Harry Rideout believes the extra time will benefit the Cavaliers. ... Forget its seeding: Gateway still is a formidable threat, and some consider the Gators a title contender once again. Remember, they were the No. 11 seed last year when they won their second consecutive WPIAL title. Only New Castle has won three straight titles in Class AAAA (1997-99). This season, the Gators have had a knack for winning close games, including five by two points or fewer. Gateway has 81 wins across the past three-plus seasons.
No. 7 Hempfield Area (17-5) vs. No. 10 Fox Chapel (16-6)
8 p.m. at Gateway
Winner plays: No. 15 Canon-McMillan (11-11)/No. 2 North Allegheny (19-3) winner, Saturday at a time and site to be determined
Notable: Hempfield shared the Section 1 title with No. 8 seed Kiski Area, and a No. 7 seeding shows the WPIAL is giving the section at least lukewarm respect. The Spartans won nine of their final 10 regular-season games. Coach Jim Nesser led Jeannette to three straight WPIAL Class AA championship game appearances before coming to Hempfield. The offense starts with sophomore guards Kason Harrell and Tony Pilato. Harrell is 6-foot-3 and could provide matchup issues. ... Fox Chapel has flown under the radar in what has been a strong year for the Class AAAA talent pool. The Foxes aren't the tallest team in the bracket but have been efficient with a guard-oriented group that plays sound, organized defense. Junior guard Matt D'Amico is one of the WPIAL's top scorers at 22.7 ppg. Brian Papich and Billy Urso provide complementary scoring. The Foxes defeated Hempfield in the Montour holiday tournament, 67-65.
Class AA: First round
Apollo-Ridge (16-7) vs. No. 5 Sto-Rox (14-8)
6:30 p.m. at North Allegheny
Winner plays: Aliquippa (10-13)/No. 4 Jeannette (17-4) winner, Saturday at time and site to be determined
Notable: Apollo-Ridge had to hold off a late charge to get past Neshannock, 66-64, in the preliminary round Saturday at Highlands. The win was the Vikings' first in the postseason since 2003. Apollo-Ridge has shown it can run with teams, but has been improving in half-court sets of late. Much of the team's success depends on its 3-point shooting, particularly early in games. Starting sophomore guard Tre Tipton is expected to play but is scheduled to have a concussion test before the game. He was injured when he hit his head on the court in the Vikings' last game. ... Sto-Rox has played a challenging out-of-section schedule that includes losses to Class AAA No. 1 seed Chartiers Valley, Class AA No. 2 Greensburg Central Catholic and Class A No. 1 Lincoln Park. Lenny Williams, the Vikings' quarterback in the fall, is one of the team's better scoring threats and leaders.
Burrell (16-6) vs. Washington (17-6)
8 p.m. at Hempfield Area
Winner plays: Northgate (14-9)/No. 2 Greensburg C.C. (21-1) winner, Saturday at a time and site to be determined
Notable: Burrell, fresh off its first playoff win since 2006, is out to prove it can compete with the top-tier teams in the WPIAL. Coach Rob Niederberger has been adamant about this being a toss-up type of year in Class AA with a number of teams capable of making a run. He considers his one of them, especially with several athletic seniors leading the way. Senior forwards Cole Bush (6-2) and Matt Hess (6-3) provide size inside, while guards Pete Spagnolo and Alex White have been dependable in the backcourt. Burrell breezed in the prelims but will face a much quicker team this round. ... Washington, which returned all five starters from a playoff team, finished second in Section 4 behind No. 3 seed Seton-La Salle. Senior two-guard Josh Wise, the quarterback in football, averages 22 points. He and senior teammate Jaylin Kelly are three-year starters. Senior 6-3 forward Jordan Drew should provide an interesting matchup for Bush or Hess. Drew averages nine rebounds.
— Bill Beckner Jr.
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