Guido: Looking back at memorable basketball season
After some nice basketball playoff runs by local teams — particularly the Burrell girls — it's time to put the lid on what turned out to be an outstanding local hoops season.
About all that's left is Saturday night's Cager Classic XVII at Highlands High School.
Nineteen teams made the WPIAL playoffs and three qualified for the PIAA tournament.
• The Burrell girls went to the PIAA quarterfinal round for the first time and equaled the 1993-94 team's record of 24-4.
• The Burrell boys made the WPIAL title game for the first time in 34 years.
• Apollo-Ridge, seeded 12th in the WPIAL Class AA tournament, reached the semifinals and qualified for the PIAA tournament for the first time since 1988.
• Kittanning's boys won two playoff games for the first time since Calvin Coolidge's presidency.
• The Deer Lakes girls continued their masterful run, compiling a 75-18 record over the last four seasons.
• Not to be outdone, the Lancers boys won their first section title since 1992.
One of the most difficult tasks is to decide on this year's awards — difficult because there were so many high points. But without further delay:
Most Memorable Moment
After becoming only the third player to score over 1,000 career points in almost 100 years of Kittanning basketball, Sterling Henry raced into the stands to hand over the game ball to his parents.
Sticking with Henry, the Kittanning senior drove the length of the court with less than 7.0 seconds left and hit the game-winner as the Wildcats beat Knoch, 68-67, on Dec. 18.
Stat of the year
Last season, Highlands' Micah Mason made 88 3-pointers. This year, the entire Highlands team finished with 87.
Lifetime Achievement Award
Tuesday night, Chester High School played in the PIAA semifinals for the 27th time.
Comeback of the year
Tim Jaczesko of Deer Lakes. After rehabbing from leg injuries that would have ended many careers, the Lancers senior returned to post one of the top seasons in school history.
Finishing with a flourish
On Feb. 15, St. Joseph senior John Arcuri hit the 1,000-point mark on the final shot of his scholastic career.
Best student section
Kittanning's Jubilation Nation, a group that brought excitement to accompany a program that has struggled much of the past 20 seasons.
Quote of the Year
Shaler coach Paul Holszhu, retiring after 40 years, took an irresistible swipe at AAU basketball and the perceived lack of team orientation and game planning by the group best known for summer travel: “It should be A-A-me instead of AAU.”
The media, among others, will miss the quotable veteran coach, never known to pull any verbal punches.
Outlook for 2013-14
All of the classifications will stay the same. It will be easier to formulate the Section 1-AA boys schedule, which left two open dates for teams after Elderton High School was closed. ... With the St. Joseph girls job opened by the school, Dan Slain, a quality coach, is available. Don't be surprised if another school quickly jumps on the Slain Train. ... Could the Ford City girls make it 19 consecutive years in the WPIAL playoffs, extending the all-time local record? ... Burrell should have enough girls to form a junior varsity team next year, adding depth to a program that is now among the WPIAL's elite.
George Guido is a Valley News Dispatch scholastic sports correspondent. His column appears Wednesdays.