By: Conor Pederson –
On Friday, February 13th, the Boys WPIAL Basketball Playoffs began with 73 teams from four classifications started to extend their already successful seasons. The ultimate goal for every team, is to win a WPIAL Championship on February 27th and 28th. These championship games will be played at the Petersen Events Center, homecourt of the Pitt Panthers. As this February Madness tips off, the games begin, tension and electricity builds.
In each classification (AAAA, AAA, AA, and A), each matchup is bound to have intense competition and incredible talent. In AAAA, North Allegheny possesses the top seed and is on a tear on their a path to the Pete. So far upsets are a recurring theme, with powerhouses Hempfield and Mount Lebanon falling in the quarterfinals. A fan favorite, the two-seeded Chartiers Valley looks to gain a Quad A title after coming up short in last year’s AAA Championship. Led by senior, Matty McConnell, son of coach Tim McConnell. Matty is the WPIAL’s leading scorer, averaging. with 30.5 points per game and has the Colts on his back making a run to the title. Matty will be attending Robert Morris University to continue his basketball career. Chartiers Valley will be taking on North Hills in the semifinals. The winner will take on the victor from the other semifinal matchup between North Allegheny and Fox Chapel on Saturday.
For AAA, not as many upsets, yet one that made everyone’s jaw drop to the floor. Top-seeded Mars was upset by Ambridge by one point last Friday in the quarterfinals. Mars had an edge the entire game, but the Bridgers clawed their way back into the game to take a one point lead in the final moments. Mars had a shot that would have won the game, rim out, and left the Planets stunned. The bracket has played out now, and this Friday, Beaver Falls will take on the Little Indians of Indiana down in Oakland for the AAA title.
Skipping over the class of AA (where the Seton-La Salle Rebels reside), single A is full of excitement. Again, the top seed fell in Single A with an upset of Sewickley Academy by Eden Christian in the quarterfinals. On the other side of the bracket, Monessen and Vincentian Academy handled their respective opponents prior to their semifinal showdown. These two explosive squads battled Tuesday with Monessen escaping with a win in a 85-73 contest. The Monessen Greyhounds will be at the Pete Friday where they will play the Jeannette Jayhawks led by star point guard Julian Batts.
Now, to AA where the Rebels of Seton-La Salle will take on Quaker Valley Wednesday to decide who gets a spot in the championship this Saturday afternoon. To the surprise of many, Quaker Valley defeated the Lincoln Park Leopards in an entertaining fashion. Opposite of the Rebels, top-seeded Aliquippa will face, defending runner-up, Greensburg Central Catholic to also see who will earn a spot in Oakland this weekend.
Christian Del Greco, a returning starter from last year’s championship team, when asked how much another title would mean to him personally and the school, he simply replied, “So much. So much.” Christian will not be able to participate in the semifinal matchup with the Quakers Wednesday due to an ejection against OLSH in the quarterfinals, but he has all the faith in the world in his teammates.
For the Rebels, their seniors, Christian Del Greco, John Marzina, Ryan Norkus, Drew Rodgers, and Adam Turzak are focused as their clock of high school basketball slowly runs down. The team is looking at nothing short of a back-to-back championships. Despite the fact that the majority of the team has had a chance to experience the sensation of a title, transfer Sophomore guard, Paris Ford, has never won the title but says, “There’s nothing more important than that to me. That’s why I play. That’s why we play.”
So far, the WPIAL Playoffs haven’t disappointed on the entertainment side one bit. As the final days approach for the teams that have survived, the hardware is the only thing that is of value in the gargantuan Petersen Events Center.