Armstrong County schools could cross top seeds in basketball playoffs
If Section 1-AA is to repeat its two-semifinalist performance from last year's boys basketball tournament, its teams will need to take out top seeds early.
Section champ Summit Academy received only the No. 8 seed, as Apollo-Ridge and West Shamokin will open with preliminary-round games in the WPIAL Class AA bracket released Tuesday night at the Doubletree Hotel in Green Tree.
Apollo-Ridge is seeded 10th and will face California at Elizabeth Forward at 1:30 p.m. Saturday. No. 15 West Shamokin will face Laurel at 3 p.m. Saturday at North Allegheny. A win for the Vikings sets up a meeting with No. 7 Quaker Valley, while the Wolves would advance to face No. 2 Greensburg Central Catholic in the first round.
“I didn't have Laurel in my original group of teams we might play, but when I revisited it, I thought that might be a team we play,” West Shamokin coach Mike Nagy said. “Last year our section surprised a lot of people, and even though we didn't win, we were very competitive. I hope we can keep that tradition going and gather a little more respect for our section.”
For the Vikings, who reached last year's semifinals, a repeat performance will require contributions from players who have been there before, such as junior guard Tre Tipton, but also from newcomers such as freshman Duane Brown.
“On one hand, I do (have experience). On the other hand, we have a lot of guys who don't have any playoff experience,” Apollo-Ridge coach Matt Gourley said. “So it will be something new for them. We have a couple of guys who have never been in this. Hopefully they handle it well.”
With a first game against California before a potential showdown with the run-and-gun Quakers, the Vikings are making sure not to take anyone lightly.
“I'm pretty pleased with (the matchup). They're all going to be tough games. We've just got to take them one at a time and hope for the best,” Gourley said.
In Class AAA, Kittanning will play a preliminary-round game against Mt. Pleasant at 8 p.m. Friday at Hempfield. The winner moves into a first-round game against top-seeded Chartiers Valley.
“That's almost exactly what we thought would happen,” Kittanning coach Bill Henry said. “We had a chance to see Mt. Pleasant in person at Highlands. They're a big, strong, physical team. They have shooters, especially one guy that we saw, and they just look like a strong, well-coached team.”
On the girls' side, Kittanning could run into Class AAA's No. 1 seed, Blackhawk, if it wins an opening-round game. The Wildcats will face Greensburg Salem in the preliminary round at 3 p.m. Saturday at Plum.
Earlier on the same day at Plum, Freeport will play its preliminary-round game against West Mifflin at noon. The winner advances to face No. 5 Indiana.
In Class AA girls, West Shamokin could be the third area team to face a No. 1 seed if it wins a preliminary-round game against Riverview at 6:30 p.m. Friday at Plum. The winner faces top-ranked Seton-La Salle.
The Ford City girls face Laurel at Butler, and Apollo-Ridge will face Our Lady of the Sacred Heart at Northgate in the preliminary round. Both of those games are scheduled to start at 6:30 p.m. Friday.