Westmoreland County teams seeded lower than expected in WPIAL basketball playoffs

| Tuesday, Feb. 11, 2014, 9:30 p.m.

A first-year coach, Mark Marino isn't a stranger to the Mt. Lebanon boys basketball team.

Now the coach at Hempfield, Marino's stint as a Lycoming College assistant led him to scout former Blue Devils forward Grant Latus — long before he would have to for the WPIAL Class AAAA playoffs.

Playoff brackets were released Tuesday at the Green Tree DoubleTree, and Hempfield, the Section 1-AAAA champion, was seeded sixth, a Feb. 19 first-round game with No. 11 Mt. Lebanon upcoming.

“Mt. Lebanon has a very good tradition,” Marino said. “I'm looking forward for a chance to compete.”

The championships are scheduled Feb. 28-March 1 at Palumbo Center.

Hempfield finished the regular season at 20-2, but the Spartans' were seeded lower than many thought.

New Castle, Hampton and North Allegheny were the presumed top three teams. Plum and Upper St. Clair took the next two slots.

Turns out the basketball steering committee wasn't impressed with Section 1-AAAA.

“There was great discussion about Hempfield, Plum and Upper St. Clair — which one belongs where?” committee chairman Dan O'Neil said. “There are some people who still question that league out in Westmoreland County. How strong is that?

“We probably spent more time on those three spots than any other particular spot in a bracket. We spent a lot of time on those three.”

The Norwin girls received the same treatment. Despite finishing the regular season on a 10-game winning streak, the Knights (16-5) received the No. 6 seed and will open with No. 11 Penn Hills on Tuesday.

Bethel Park, the defending WPIAL Class AAAA champion, lost four in a row before Monday's win over Seneca Valley and was seeded fourth.

“We view it as we're playing Penn Hills,” Norwin coach Brian Brozeski said. “We don't look at where anyone else is at. We have to take it one game at a time. You can get in trouble if you look too far ahead or worry about things outside of your control.”

The Indiana girls were seeded fifth and drew a familiar playoff opponent: West Mifflin. The teams met three consecutive years between 2007-10 and will again next Wednesday, site and time to be determined.

“They're a team we always seem to somehow match up with,” Indiana coach Dave Woodall said. “We'll see what happens this time.”

Although it went 19-1 and tore through Section 3-AAA, Uniontown slipped to the No. 5 seed and opens with the winner of Friday's pigtail game between Ambridge and Keystone Oaks.

Greensburg Central Catholic coach Joe Eisaman had one objective Tuesday: avoid Seton-La Salle, which has three Pitt recruits.

Lucky for Eisaman, GCC landed as a No. 3, will open with Laurel or Ford City and faces a possible semifinal matchup with Burrell.

The Centurions (17-4) played a tough nonsection schedule — with losses to Blackhawk (twice), Upper St. Clair and Serra Catholic — and closed by winning 13 of 14.

“The most recent games tell you what kind of team we are now versus what kind of team we were in November,” Eisaman said.

Staff writer Chris Harlan contributed. Jason Mackey is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach him at jmackey@tribweb.com or via Twitter @Mackey_Trib.

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