Of the 42 girls and boys basketball teams within the Observer-Reporter’s coverage area, just three have won a playoff game each of the past two seasons, with the Monessen girls possibly becoming the fourth Wednesday against Rochester.
Think you can name all three? One of them may come as a surprise.
A shock, even.
The West Greene girls basketball team, which topped Clairton, 50-26, Saturday at West Allegheny, won a playoff game for the second consecutive season after earning the first playoff victory in program history last year.
“Everybody looks at us like we’re no good because we’re West Greene, but we have some good players on our team,” said junior forward Madison Raber, the team’s leading scorer at 19 points per game. “It’s a group effort.”
Winning back-to-back playoff games, ironically, has involved multiples of two: twin sisters getting double-doubles most every night, basically everyone doubling last year’s production as a way to account for the loss of six key players.
Start with the Rabers, Madison and Alyssa, identical twins who are actually ‘mirror image’ twins – essentially what it sounds like, exact opposites in everything. While Madison shoots with her left-hand, Alyssa is a righty. They even have dimples on opposite sides of their faces.
“When we look at each other, we see ourselves,” Madison Raber said. “It’s pretty cool.”
Madison Raber has more than doubled her point total from last year and also averages 11.6 rebounds per game. Alyssa, meanwhile, leads the team in rebounding at 12.6 per game and contributes 7.1 points per contest.
The two are on the same AAU basketball team – the 4SportsBreakers out of Washington – and have been playing with the rest of West Greene’s team since fourth grade.
“We read each other and play all the time together,” Alyssa Raber said. “The chemistry is there.”
While Madison doubled her point total and Alyssa did the same with her rebounding, Emily Courtwright has seen a two-fold increase in her production, up to 8.8 points and 6.4 rebounds per game. Same for Emily Stoll (5.2 ppg).
It’s been essential, too, considering West Greene lost 595 of 1,034 points (58 percent) from last year’s team.
“With everything we lost from last year, we said that our top four players are basically going to have to double their totals from last year,” said Pioneers head coach Jordan Watson. “They all had to step up to equal that success.”
West Greene, which hadn’t been to the playoffs since the 1999-2000 season before beating Frazier, 51-31, in the WPIAL Class A preliminary round last year, got 25 points and 15 rebounds from Madison Raber against Clairton, 13 points and 14 boards from her sister – just the way the Pioneers want it.
“The first year we went to the playoffs, that was a big deal,” Madison Raber said. “Then to go and beat Clairton – of course we’re the underdogs again – was pretty awesome.”
West Greene (13-9) assumed the No. 16 seed, which means it will play No. 1 Vincentian Wednesday, a 6:30 p.m. tip at Chartiers Valley.
And while the Pioneers know they’re a long shot to upset the Royals, there’s no denying that West Greene already holds a rather interesting distinction among areas teams.
“No one ever says, ‘They actually can play. They made it back-to-back years to the playoffs. They’ve won two games. They go hard every game.’” Alyssa Raber said. “I just wish everybody would realize that West Greene does have heart, and we do have passion to play the game.”