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Trib Cup: Central Valley boys gain momentum heading into playoffs

Christopher Horner | Tribune-Review
Central Valley's Michael Sims splits the Blackhawk defense between Tyler Nicholson (left) and Logan Frye during their game Tuesday Feb. 5, 2013 in Center.

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Class AAAA

1. North Allegheny 171

2. Peters Township 152

3. Upper St. Clair 106

4. Mt. Lebanon 102

5. Penn-Trafford 92

6. Fox Chapel 87

7. Canon-McMillan 83

8. Bethel Park 75

9. Pine-Richland 73

10. Moon 72

11. Seneca Valley 69

12. Franklin Regional 65

Class AAA

1. Mars 125

2. Quaker Valley 111

3. Central Valley 94

4. South Fayette 89

5. Hopewell 86

6. South Park 67

7. Belle Vernon 61

8. West Allegheny 59

9t. Beaver 57

9t. Thomas Jefferson 57

11. Indiana 56

12. West Mifflin 55

Class AA

1. Greensburg C.C. 142

2. Shady Side Acad. 80

3. Bishop Canevin 77

4. Burrell 71

5. Seton-La Salle 67

6. Neshannock 61

7. Avonworth 53

8t. Bentworth 51

8t. Riverside 51

10. Chartiers-Houston 49

11. Washington 44

12. Charleroi 43

Class A

1. Sewickley Academy 111

2. Clairton 64

3. OLSH 60

4. Aliquippa 54

5. Serra Catholic 49

6. Vincentian 48

7. Riverview 40

8t. California 39

8t. Springdale 39

10. Jefferson-Morgan 35

11. North Catholic 34


Section victories: 1 point

Playoff berth: 1

Playoff victory: 2

WPIAL/PIAA runner-up: 5/15

WPIAL/PIAA title: 10/20

Results for fall sports, basketball, spirit and wrestling.

+ Classification based on PIAA enrollment figures

Not including Thursday's games.

Top high school sports
By Brian Graham
Thursday, Feb. 7, 2013, 11:42 p.m.

There's always a moment in a season when a coach can look at his team and emphatically say this is when the season turned around.

For Central Valley boys basketball coach Brandon Ambrose, that moment came after a pair of losses.

“After losing to Ambridge and Beaver Falls, I was very impressed with how they approached the game after them, and I can say that turned the season around and showed them we can compete and play every night,” Ambrose said. “We responded with adversity when we could have laid down, but we didn't do that. … I think our confidence grew out of that loss.”

With their impressive win total this season, the Central Valley boys basketball team is the focus of this week's Trib Total Media/WPXI High School Sports Award feature. The Warriors are a major reason why Central Valley High School is in third place in the Class AAA standings.

Since the pair of losses, the Warriors have won three consecutive games, moving to 15-6 overall and 9-2 in Section 2-AAA heading into Friday night's section finale against Hopewell (3-17, 2-9). Central Valley enters the game tied for first with Beaver (16-3, 9-2), which dealt the Warriors their other section loss this season Jan. 4.

During the three-game winning streak, the Warriors avenged the loss to Beaver, 74-53, and beat third-place Blackhawk, 66-56, on Tuesday.

“Blackhawk is a good team and with a good tradition and they're always ready to play,” Ambrose said. “One thing I can say is we don't always play perfect, but we compete, and (Tuesday) night was no different.”

Central Valley's switch to an up-tempo offense has keyed the team's run to a WPIAL playoff berth. The Warriors' offense differs from the “grind-it-out” system Ambrose implemented in years past. Ambrose made the adjustment to fit his personnel, noticing the players' styles have changed.

“These guys want to get up and down and run and pressure and create turnovers,” Ambrose said. “They have good instincts in understanding rotations and where players are going to throw the ball.

“I think a big reason why is because we are a lot deeper. Instead of playing six or seven guys, we're playing nine or 10, and there's no drop off.”

Ambrose's starting five includes juniors Brian Kolich (13 ppg), Michael Sims (10 ppg), Jake St. George (100 steals) and Matt Kline, as well as sophomore Chris Anastas. The deep bench includes senior Ryan Michaels, junior Tony Gates and sophomores John George and B.J. Powell. Ambrose said having capable players coming off the bench has been an advantage and has allowed the team to play aggressive defense without worrying about foul trouble.

“They all play good defense by getting down and guarding, creating turnovers, and we can trap,” Ambrose said. “On the offensive side, we've been able to execute well in a motion offense. And the thing is, it's a different guy every night. … Everyone has contributed at some point each game.”

Ambrose said he is certain his team's mentality will not change heading into the postseason, and the principles he's taught them all year will be vital.

“Keep guarding people and executing on offense,” Ambrose said. “A lot of it is a match up thing. … It's a matter, in my opinion, of keep practicing hard and do the things that got you in the playoffs, and hopefully you play and shoot well when you're there.”

The Warriors will find out their seed and opponent for the Class AAA playoffs after the pairings meeting Tuesday night.

Brian Graham is a freelance writer.

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