Trib Cup: Winter sports leaders have plenty of pride for success
Punxsutawney Phil may have gotten the end of winter wrong, but the WPIAL schedule shows it's time for the spring sports season.
With two-thirds of the WPIAL high school sports year wrapped up, the races for the Trib Total Media/WPXI High School Sports Award championship trophies are heating up.
North Allegheny (Class AAAA), South Park (Class AAA), Beaver Falls (Class AA) and Vincentian (Class A) used successful seasons to score the most points in their classifications this winter.
The schools' athletic directors reflected on the success of their winter sports.
This winter, the North Allegheny boys basketball team won a school-record 22 games and qualified for the PIAA playoffs for the first time in four years. The boys and girls swim teams broke individual records in the pool, and the wrestling team continued its dominance.
“We have great student-athletes and, academically, they are excellent in the classroom,” North Allegheny athletic director Bob Bozzuto said. “Their performance in their athletic arena is something we are proud of, and, on top of that, it's nice to see we've had success in all areas.”
Team titles and individual awards have become synonymous with North Allegheny athletics and, according to Bozzuto, the coaches and volunteers deserve credit for altering the mindset of the student-athletes.
“We've always stated success breeds success,” he said. “When you have people that are high achievers you tend to get the best from them, and I think we've seen that throughout this whole school year.”
Reggie Wells has coached in five championship games as a boys and girls coach at South Park. This season, his girls team captured WPIAL and PIAA titles and gained a community following in the process.
“It was fantastic. It brought the community together,” South Park athletic director Bill DaBaldo said. “You could see the attendance at the games the further we went, it kept increasing, which was great.”
South Fayette was a close second in the Class AAA standings after jumping from Class AA to AAA in several sports. The seamless transition was no surprise for athletic director Joe Farkas.
“The last four or five years, we've really gone over the top,” Farkas said. “What I'm seeing now is our kids are seeing programs being successful and now they're working hard to be a part of something special.”
The Beaver Falls boys basketball team continually stunned opponents with a blend of skilled play at the offensive end and relentless defense. Few expected the Tigers to have success after graduating the WPIAL's top player, Sheldon Jeter, but they raised WPIAL and PIAA trophies with a large contingent of fans behind them.
“Anytime you have success like that, it brings the school together, it brings the community together,” Beaver Falls AD Jim Carbone said. “We witnessed that with how many people came to the games and how many people came to Hershey. It is a sports community.”
Close behind were Bishop Canevin and Burrell. Canevin's success in the winter months put the small private school on the local map.
Athletic director Dan Bowman welcomes the attention. Bowman said the school's athletic success will hopefully open the public's eyes to what can come from a Bishop Canevin education and athletic career.
“The president of Robert Morris said (after the win over Kentucky in the NIT) something along the lines of athletics is the front porch of the school,” Bowman said. “When people see that and have success in athletics they are then intrigued by what else is there. It lets people know what Bishop Canevin is and what it has to offer.”
Burrell AD Brian Ferra views the community around the school district like a family. He said this year, more than in years past, the gym has been filled to capacity.
“In a small community like Burrell, it brings people together,” Ferra said. “To see the people attending the games and the going out to Hershey to watch wrestlers, the fan base and support has been great.”
Vincentian first-year AD Steve Boyd had two basketball teams make deep playoff runs. Boyd said he will not be surprised to see the Royals succeed next year.
“Both basketball boys and girls are fun to watch,” Boyd said. “Both teams are relatively young, and they play a pressure-style basketball. I'm looking for better things next year.”
Brian Graham is a freelance writer.