Mystery ends for WPIAL basketball playoff teams

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GREEN TREE – Thirty playoff appearances in 30 seasons. No one is as familiar with the WPIAL basketball tournament pairings meeting as Monessen boys coach Joe Salvino.


When the pairings were announced Tuesday night, it did not matter to Salvino who the Section 3-A champion Greyhounds (17-5) would have to play. The long-tenured coach views the pairings meeting as simply an excuse to grab dinner and soak in the atmosphere. The Greyhounds did not lose a game to a Class A opponent during the regular season and felt their playoff status was left to fate.


Fate treated the Greyhounds well as they grabbed the No. 4 seed in the Class A bracket. Monessen will face Eden Christian (9-12), the No. 14 seed, at 8 p.m. Friday at Chartiers Valley High School.


“I’ve been doing this for 30 years, and you come to this thing to enjoy yourself, more than anything,” Salvino said. “I don’t know much about Eden Christian, but I’ll go home, watch their tape and I’ll come up with something.”


Monessen was expected to grab a top-four seed after sweeping their section schedule and handing Class AAA Uniontown its lone loss of the season. The Greyhounds finished the year with five-straight victories and are focused on climbing the Class A ranks one game at a time.


“I think we are playing our best basketball,” Salvino said. “I’ve said this before, but we want to be mentioned with Lincoln Park and Vincentian. We believe we have accomplished enough to be mentioned with those teams. It’s time to see what we’re made of.”


Also from Section 3-A boys, Mapletown (7-12), the No. 16 seed, will play top-seeded Lincoln Park (21-1) Friday at Keystone Oaks, and Carmichaels (15-5) plays Western Beaver (14-6) Friday at Moon.


Peters Township (11-11), which defeated Canon-McMillan to claim the final playoff spot in Class 4-AAAA, will play No.2 Hampton (19-3) Saturday at 1 p.m.


South Fayette (12-9), which finished as the third-place team in Section 5-AAA, has a play-in game Friday against Greensburg Salem (10-12) at Peters Township. The winner plays No.3 Elizabeth Forward (19-3).


In the Class AA boys bracket, Wash High (16-6) was given the eighth seed and drew an intriguing opponent in Burrell (6-15). Last season, the Prexies were ousted from the WPIAL playoffs in the second round by Burrell, 61-50. The schools will meet again in the preliminary round noon Saturday at Chartiers Valley. While the players in each team’s starting lineup is different, the goal is the same. The winner will face Summit Academy (15-5) Feb. 19 at a site and time to be determined.


“The seniors will definitely be excited to play them,” Gaither said. “We are excited in the sense that we can try to right that loss last season. You have to play good teams to advance, so it’s no surprise.”


Also in Class AA, California (10-12) has a play-in game against Apollo Ridge (18-3) with the winner facing Quaker Valley (20-2) Feb. 19 at a site and time to be determined. Chartiers-Houston (16-6) and Charleroi (13-7) will meet 3 p.m. Saturday at Chartiers Valley with the winner playing No. 4 Aliquippa (16-5). Washington and Chartiers-Houston lead the boys teams in Washington and Greene County with 16 wins each.


Chartiers-Houston coach Eugene Briggs, who is a friend of Charleroi coach Bill Wiltz, is very familiar with his opponents’ coaching style. The Bucs will be looking to win the first playoff game in program history.


“It’s a fair pairing,” Briggs said. “I know Bill, so this won’t require a lot of research. We have gotten better and better as the season has progressed and it’s time to see how our kids respond in the spotlight.”


California girls coach Chris Minerd has led an unexpected reclamation of the Trojans’ program this season. After losing a strong group of seniors, Minerd was counting on freshmen to lead California to the playoffs. The experiment ended with a Section 3-A title – the program’s first since 1982.


Despite an undefeated record in section play, the Trojans (17-3) received the eighth seed and will face Cornell (12-10), which finished fourth in Section 1-A, Saturday at Elizabeth Forward.


“Looking at their roster, it’s definitely going to be a good matchup,” Minerd said. “To be in this position, to compete in a playoff game, is a huge step for our program.”


Also in Class A girls, Carmichaels (7-14) has a play-in game against Monessen (4-16) Saturday for the right to face top-seeded Vincentian (18-3). Jefferson-Morgan (12-10) plays No.4 St. Joseph (18-4) Saturday in a first-round game, and West Greene (11-10) meets No.7 Quigley Catholic (16-5) Saturday at Peters Township. The Pioneers are hoping a strong non-section schedule, combined with playoff wins the past two seasons, can help them surprise Class A.


“With our non-section schedule, playing Avonworth, Serra Catholic and Wash High, we’ve basically faced everything we’re going to see,” West Greene head coach Jordan Watson said. “We’ve played the best teams around, and Quigley will definitely be a huge challenge for us.”


In Class AAA girls, Ringgold (11-9) will play South Fayette (12-10) in a preliminary round game to see who will face No. 3 Hopewell (18-3). Trinity (16-6) will play No.8 Hampton (14-8) Feb. 19 at a site and time to be determined.


In Class AA, Wash High (13-8) plays Shady Side Academy (10-12) Friday for the chance to meet Neshannock (21-1), while Charleroi (17-5) will face Shenango (12-9) with the winner advancing to play No. 2 Burrell (22-0), the only undefeated girls team in the WPIAL. Also Friday, Fort Cherry (14-6) plays Avonworth (12-9) at Chartiers Valley.


The historic run for McGuffey’s girls team has been highlighted by the Highlanders (19-3) winning 25-straight Section 5-AA games. Back-to-back section titles have resulted in favorable seeding for coach Amanda Burchett’s team. The Highlanders will face the Brentwood-Freedom winner Tuesday at a site and time to be determined. If McGuffey is successful in its first game, a potential rematch with Burrell could be on the horizon. The Bucs eliminated the Highlanders from last year’s playoffs.


Burchett and McGuffey will take the break to scout their potential opponent by attending the Brentwood-Freedom game Friday at Keystone Oaks.


“It’s better to watch your opponent live than to rely on film,” Burchett said. “Last year’s experience is huge for us. We had such a young team, and to have that whole experience under our belt will definitely pay off. They know what to expect.”


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