Jason Mackey Column

Thoughts on the WPIAL basketball tourney

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Mark Gaither scanned the WPIAL Class AA bracket, and Washington High School’s boys basketball coach pointed to two things.


First Seton-La Salle. Then Beaver Falls. Neither has been challenged this season.


And neither – top-seeded Beaver Falls located in the upper-left portion of the bracket, No. 3 Seton-La Salle in the lower right – was anywhere close to Wash High.


“I’m happy with where we are,” Gaither said. “I like our draw.”


As he should.


Wash High was one of the teams that was plenty pleased when the WPIAL Basketball Tournament pairings were released Tuesday night at the Hilton DoubleTree in Green Tree.


After a play-in game with Jefferson-Morgan Saturday that the Prexies should win, it’s either Burrell or Beth-Center, a pair of teams the Prexies can beat. And a quarterfinal game against Greensburg Central Catholic isn’t bad, either, especially considering the Centurions, located in the upper-right corner of the bracket, aren’t Beaver Falls or Seton-La Salle.


As for other impressions, here are seven things I think after taking a closer look at the brackets.


1. South Fayette will need to find a consistent source of offense against No. 8 West Mifflin. At times, the Lions have been a three-point shooting team. Other times dribble-drive. They’re also athletic.


But the Titans are allowing a Class AAA-best 46.2 points per game, with guards capable of frustrating South Fayette’s shooters.


2. The Wash High girls should get reimbursed for travel expenses. No, not because the Prexies have to travel 45 miles to play Ford City at Yough. Ford City has to travel 54 miles. Apparently no one on the basketball committee has the new Google Maps app.


But because should Wash High win, it draws top-seeded Seton-La Salle. Maybe GetGo will develop a PointPerks program that gives the Prexies a 40-point head start on the Rebels.


3. California head coach Phil Pergola has forgotten more about basketball than I’ know, though I question whether he’s seen this before – even though he insisted he wasn’t surprised. Win Section 5-AA … and get a play-in game? Doesn’t make sense.


But the Trojans are averaging 71.8 points per game, best in Class AA. Figure they’ll handle Brentwood with relative ease Saturday, then get either Shady Side Academy (6-6 in section) or Deer Lakes (split 1-AA title with Burrell, which lost four in a row at one point this season). Not too bad of a draw there.


4. Don’t be shocked if Charleroi beats Bishop Canevin Saturday at Peters Township. The Cougars have two great guards in Jim Diaz and Matt Indorante, plus an athletic big man in Eric Johnson.


The Crusaders had only one section win against a playoff-bound team – and that was Wash High in the midst of the Prexies’ three-game losing streak that looks like a distant memory now.


5. Chartiers-Houston girls basketball coach Veronica Sansom lamented the Bucs’ win Monday over McGuffey not counting for much. I’d disagree.


The Bucs drew Beaver, which enters the tournament on a three-game losing streak. Additionally, the Bobcats are averaging just 42.3 points per game.


McGuffey, meanwhile, might’ve felt the pain from that loss, tossed in a four-team grouping that includes Burrell; the Bucs have won 10 in a row, scoring 50 or more points eight times.


6. I would hate this schedule if I were a coach, especially in Class A. The Monessen boys have a very winnable game against 8-12 Sewickley Academy, the No. 10, then wouldn’t play again for seven days if the Greyhounds won.


Four of our Class A girls teams – Avella, Carmichaels, California and Monessen – face a Saturday-and-Saturday first-round-to-quarterfinals schedule, a tough week of practice and period of waiting for any coach this time of year.


7. I got a text message yesterday morning from a good friend who follows high school sports and whose opinion I respect a great deal. It read, “26 teams in AA hoops playoffs? Does everyone get a trophy?”


Sure seems that way doesn’t it? And the Class AA boys aren’t even the worst offenders. Check this out: 26 of 43 teams in that classification made the playoffs. That’s 60 percent, fourth-lowest among boys and girls classifications. Class A boys teams made the playoffs at a 71-percent clip (17 of 24), followed by Class A girls (69 percent, 18 of 26), Class AAA boys (63 percent, 22 of 35) and Class AAAA girls (62 percent, 18 of 29).


Why? Four teams from each section make it, even though some sections only have six teams. Also the refusal to break ties.


I understand wanting kids to play games. In high school, our football team closed the season with back-to-back losses, missed the playoffs and never played a final, exhibition game. Our baseball team played a section-only schedule. Both still bother me.


But this has gotten out of hand.


The toughest place to make it this year was Class AAAA for boys hoops, where 52 percent (16 of 31) went. That’s barely less than the NHL or NBA, where 53 percent (16 of 30) advance. The NFL and MLB are at 38 and 33 percent, respectively, by the way.


There should be a sense of pride with making the playoffs. Or frustration with not making them. Believe it or not, sometimes the latter turns out to influence the former.



Jason Mackey can be reached at jmackey@observer-reporter.com


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