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It's awards time for basketball

| Wednesday, March 9, 2005

ABC-TV sportscaster Al Michaels likes to use the word "alacrity" when describing a sudden or "brisk" turn of events on Monday Night Football.

It can now be said that the local scholastic basketball season ended with extreme alacrity last Friday when the Riverview girls, the Knoch boys and the St. Joseph boys were eliminated within minutes of each other at three different venues on the opening night of the PIAA tournament.

The postseason started off well with a number of teams making it through the preliminary round and the first round.

Still, it was a memorable season as St. Joseph made it to the WPIAL Class A boys finals for the first time. The Riverview girls won 18 in a row at one point, and the Apollo-Ridge girls finished at 22-3, with the only two losses in the regular season coming to WPIAL runner-up Greensburg Central Catholic.

Ford City's Lizzie Suwala became the all-time girls basketball scoring leader in Alle-Kiski Valley history, and Josh Robinson became the leading scorer at St. Joseph in a tradition that started more than 80 years ago.

Knoch had ascended to the No. 3 spot in the state rankings and had a great season. Leechburg's boys became a major player under first-year coach Damian Davies.

The local season will conclude with Saturday night's Cager Classic IX at Highlands High School as the girls game will take place at 6 p.m. and the boys following at 8.

But before the focus shifts to Saturday night, it's time to pass out this year's awards.

Most Memorable Moment: Without a doubt, the Lance Jeter, 3-point buzzer-beater as Beaver Falls knocked off Aliquippa for Class AA honors at the Palumbo Center. Those who are calling it the best game in the 93-year history of the WPIAL tournament aren't exaggerating.

Aimless Fact of the Year: This was the first time since 1977 that no local teams made the WPIAL Class AA boys playoffs.

Juiciest Matchup Award: In the PIAA Class AA girls last Friday, the North East Grapepickers beat the Cranberry Berries, 56-39.

Worst Planning Award: The North Hills boys and the West Allegheny boys are typical of so-called football schools that usually don't go far in hoops. But both schools had their basketball banquets scheduled Feb. 20 while the teams were still alive in the basketball postseason.

Nolo contendre: On Dec. 23, Mount Alvernia pummeled Elderton, 54-8. It was one of 12 times where the poor Elderton girls scored under 20 points.

Doobie Brothers Award (Long train running): The Monessen boys were in the WPIAL playoffs for the 24th straight season while the Kennedy Catholic boys are in the playoffs for the 17th consecutive season.

Norfolk Southern Award (Long train derailed): Oakland Catholic had its 77-game section winning streak snapped by Gateway on Jan. 31.

Quote of the Year: Reshaun Tarver, Beaver Falls reserve wearing his gold medal after two second-place finishes during his career: "I was getting allergic to silver."

Size isn't everything: On Dec. 21, St. Joseph, a school with 52 boys in the top three grades, defeated Pittsburgh City League's Taylor Allderdice, a school with 12 times the enrollment. In fact, the Spartans beat teams in all four enrollment classifications.

Right place, right time: When the Greensburg Central Catholic girls defeated Riverview last Friday, it marked the 28th consecutive season that the WPIAL runner-up won its opening round PIAA Class AA girls contest.

Strangest pre-game: On Feb. 1 at Knoch, the Valley boys were called for a technical foul before the game even began because the team circled the entire court after it emerged from the locker room.

Strangest pre-game (runner-up): At the St. Joseph-Geibel game on Feb. 19, a Geibel fan came out of the stands to greet the team with chest bumps and other methods. The fan accidentally bumped and broke the lip of star Kellen Holmes, who received treatment and had almost no warm-up time. Holmes took a while to get untracked, but not before St. Joseph had the game under control.

Farewell to a class act: Harry Jenkins has stepped down after 25 years as Fox Chapel head coach. Two WPIAL finals appearances and more than 300 victories and a deep caring for his athletes made his recent shabby treatment by parents and school board members unwarranted. All you need to know about Jenkins is that before the first round of the 1998 PIAA playoffs, he suspended his star player for disciplinary purposes or, as he put it, "making a bad decision."

Same goes for Kiski Area girls coach Tom Pipkins Sr., the first black head coach of a major sport in A-K Valley history.

Getting the most from less: On Dec. 23, the Greensburg Central girls finished the final portion of a junior varsity game with four players on the floor. It didn't stop a fourth quarter comeback against Apollo-Ridge.

Outlook for 2005-06: The enrollment classifications will stay the same in the second phase of a two-year cycle. The Knoch boys will have three starters plus an 18-2 junior varisty team coming aboard. ... We already know there will be new coaches for the Burrell boys and girls, the Fox Chapel boys and the Kiski Area girls. ... A talented group of sophomores should make basketball interesting for the next couple of seasons. ... The Highlands and Kiski Area boys could each be starting a freshman.

George Guido is a Valley News Dispatch scholastic sports correspondent. His column appears Wednesdays.

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