Coach of the Year: Boys and girls basketball

April 22, 2013

It was an up-and-down season for local basketball teams: up the court and down the court.

Six area coaches made those trips not only effective but exciting, guiding their teams to winning records and spots in the postseason.

That’s why Rich Bonnaure of South Fayette, Phil Pergola of California and Don Williams of Carmichaels are the Coach of the Year finalists in boys basketball, and Amanda Burchett of McGuffey, Lisa Fairman of Belle Vernon and Jim Matalik of Avella are the finalists in girls basketball.

These coaches will be honored – and a winner chosen in each category – at the Tri-County Coach of the Year Banquet at 5 p.m. Sunday at the DoubleTree by Hilton, Meadow Lands.

Tickets for the banquet are $35 each and can be purchased by calling Burgettstown High School athletic director Jon Vallina at 724-947-8109. Proceeds benefit Tri-County Special Olympics.

Bonnaure took South Fayette basketball to a spot most of the Tri-County teams couldn’t reach this past season: the PIAA playoffs. South Fayette used an early three-game winning streak and a late two-game surge to finish third in Section 5-AAA.

The Lions knocked off Jeannette in a thrilling first-round playoff game, 49-47, but dropped a heartbreaker to Butler, 56-53, in the quarterfinals. In the state tournament, South Fayette was defeated by Montour.

Pergola guided California to the Section 5-AA title with a 13-1 record. The Trojans edged out Charleroi by one game. The Trojans won 12 of their final 14 regular season games and earned a berth in the WPIAL playoffs.

In a tight game, California’s season ended with a 56-50 loss to Brentwood. The Trojans averaged 71 points per game, the most in Class AA and was fifth-best in the WPIAL.

Williams coaxed a three-game winning streak out of the Mikes at the end of the season to secure second place behind powerful Clairton in Section 3-A. Carmichaels finished the regular season with a 7-3 section record and earned a spot in the WPIAL playoffs.

The Mikes were defeated in the first round by Wilkinsburg and finished with a 17-5 record.

Burchett guided the Highlanders to their first section title since 1990 with a perfect 12-0 record. The Highlanders had an average winning margin of 34.5 points. McGuffey won the Section 5-AA title by two games over Charleroi and four games over Washington.

McGuffey breezed to a first-round win over Riverside but fell to Burrell in the quarterfinals. The Highlanders qualified for the state tournament and dropped an opening-round game to North East.

Fairman coached the Leopards to a seven-game winning streak that secured a second-place finish and a playoff berth in Section 4-AAA. Belle Vernon finished the section season with a 9-3 record, three games back of Elizabeth Forward.

In the first-round of the WPIAL Class AAA playoffs, Belle Vernon knocked off Greensburg Salem. The Leopards’ run came to an end with a loss to Blackhawk in the quarterfinals.

Matalik led the Eagles to the Section 3-A title with a 9-1 record. Avella had a midseason four-game winning streak and captured four of the last six games to earn the title. The Eagles lost key forward Olivia English the last week of the season and first round of playoffs from injuries suffered in an auto accident.

Avella lost its first-round WPIAL playoff game to St. Joseph High School.

Joe Tuscano has been with the Observer-Reporter since 1980. He has covered all sports for the newspaper, including the Steelers, Pirates, Pitt football, local college football and wrestling. He has worked for the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, the Jeannette News-Dispatch and North Hills Record. He graduated from Duquesne University in 1980.

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