When the McGuffey girls basketball team was eliminated from the WPIAL Class AA playoffs by Burrell on Feb. 22, Highlanders coach Amanda Burchett smiled and delivered a line that turned out to be a bit ironic.
“All good things have to come to an end,” Burchett said.
While nobody will argue what McGuffey accomplished this season – the program’s first section title since 1990, 20 wins, including the first playoff victory anyone currently associated with the team can remember – was impressive, it hasn’t quite come to an end.
Not after one monumental upset.
McGuffey advanced to the PIAA Class AA playoffs as a No. 7 seed Friday after Bishop Canevin scored an upset over Seton-La Salle, 56-47, in the WPIAL final, one so unlikely that McGuffey didn’t even practice for states, expecting the Rebels, winners of 66 straight against WPIAL competition, to roll.
Now, the Highlanders have a first-round game against Erie’s North East, the District 10 champion, Friday, site and time to be determined.
“I was shocked,” said sophomore Sammie Weiss, who’s averaging 26.5 points per game. “I couldn’t believe that Bishop beat Seton. I wasn’t expecting that. But I was pretty happy because we all missed basketball.”
McGuffey (20-3) will resume practice today, but Weiss doesn’t think rust will be an issue.
“We really have nothing to lose,” Weiss said. “Just go out there and have fun.”
The South Fayette boys also advanced to the PIAA Class AAA tournament, though the Lions, unlike McGuffey, expected to be there.
They never stopped practicing – outside of a weekend off after a WPIAL Class AAA quarterfinal loss to Chartiers Valley – and learned Friday they would play Montour, which beat Chartiers Valley, 47-40, in the WPIAL final at Palumbo Center.
South Fayette point guard Evan Bonnaure attended the Chartiers Valley-Beaver semifinal round game, knowing the Lions needed a Colts win to advance.
“It was nerve-racking at first,” Bonnaure said. “Just going to the game, knowing there’s nothing we can control was tough; I just had to sit and watch.”
It was also difficult given the way South Fayette (14-10) went down: leading Chartiers Valley by nine with five minutes to go, only to squander the lead down the stretch.
“It was a big disappointment losing the way we did to Chartiers Valley,” South Fayette coach Rich Bonnaure said. “I think they felt if they won that one, they would have a good chance to win it all.”
Rich Bonnaure said sixth-seeded South Fayette has changed its practices, making them shorter and more intense, and the Lions will scrimmage Lincoln Park and Quaker Valley Tuesday to simulate a typical Tuesday-Friday schedule.
There’s also confidence to be derived from opening with Montour, a team the Lions beat, 53-46, Jan. 11.
“I didn’t want it to end, especially because I felt that last game we played might have been the best game we played together as a team all year,” said Evan Bonnaure, who’s averaging a team-best 16.5 points per game. “We were definitely hitting our stride. We thought if we could get in the state tournament, we could make some noise.
“And getting to play Montour in the first round is even more special; we wanted another shot at them.”