Great bounces for boys, girls basketball coaches

April 11, 2014

The bounces went the right way for most of the season, and that helped craft a playoff résumé for six basketball coaches.

Chris Minerd of California, Amanda Burchett of McGuffey and Laura Grimm of Ringgold each guided their girls basketball teams into the postseason. Eugene Briggs of Chartiers-Houston, Joe Salvino of Monessen and Rob Kezmarsky of Uniontown reached new heights with their boys basketball teams.

These coaches are the finalists for the Girls & Boys Basketball Coach of the Year awards.

All will be honored, and the girls and boys winner will be announced, at the Tri-County Athletic Directors Coach of the Year Banquet, 5 p.m. Sunday, April 27 at the DoubleTree by Hilton in Meadow Lands.

Tickets for the banquet are $35 each and are on sale at Washington High School, 201 Allison Avenue, Washington, Pa., 15301. Reservations can be made by calling athletic director Joe Nicolella at 724-223-5085, ext. 2091.

All proceeds from the banquet benefit Special Olympics.

Minerd led the Trojans to a 10-0 record and the Section 3-A title. It was the first section championship for California since 1982. The Trojans downed Cornell in the first round of the WPIAL playoffs and, the program’s first playoff win since 1993, and followed with a victory over perennial power North Catholic.

California advanced to the semifinals, where it fell to Serra Catholic.

The Trojans advanced to the state playoffs for the first time in school history and lost to Kennedy Catholic in the first round. The Trojans’ finished with a 19-5 record.

Burchett led the Highlanders to a second consecutive trip to the PIAA playoffs. The Highlanders, paced by O-R Player of the Year Sammie Weiss, finished with a 12-0 record in Section 5-AA and a 20-5 overall mark.

McGuffey advanced to the quarterfinals of the WPIAL playoffs before losing to Burrell. A first-round matchup against Bellwood-Antis in the state tournament ended with a heartbreaking one-point loss.

Grimm led the Rams to a fourth-place finish in Section 4-AAA and a strong performance in the WPIAL playoffs. The Rams opened with a win over South Fayette in the preliminary round, then pulled off one of the bigger upsets in the Class AAA postseason when the 13th-seeded Rams stopped No. 4 Hopewell, 37-30, in overtime. Ringgold’s run ended with a loss to West Mifflin in the quarterfinals.

Grimm coaxed a strong season from Marlena Schmidt, a 6-6 junior center headed for West Virginia University, who was a second-team selection on the O-R’s All-District Team. Schmidt averaged 11 points per game and helped the Rams become one of the best defensive teams in Class AAA with her rebounding and shot-blocking abilities.

On the boys side, Uniontown came up just one win shy of a perfect regular season. Kezmarsky guided the Red Raiders to nine straight wins before losing 74-70 in a non-conference game against Monessen. Undeterred, the Red Raiders won their next 10 games to finish 12-0 in Section 3-AAA for an eighth title.

Uniontown downed Ambridge and Elizabeth Forward in the WPIAL playoffs before falling to Chartiers Valley. In the state playoffs, Uniontown routed Punxsutawney before losing to Farrell to finish at 20-3.

Kezmarsky raised his career record to 188-88 in his 12 years as head coach. The Red Raiders are 54-14 over the past three seasons.

Backed by the superb play of Clintell Gillaspie, the O-R’s Boys Player of the Year and a first-team All-District selection, Monessen won the Section 3-A title with a 10-0 mark and rolled to the WPIAL championship after a thrilling 110-99 overtime victory against Vincentian. Monessen lost to Lincoln Park in the final.

In the state tournament, Monessen defeated Erie First Christian, 87-78, in double overtime in the first round then was stopped by Bishop Carroll, 69-65, to finish with a 21-7 record. It was the 30th-straight playoff appearance for Monessen under Salvino.

Briggs led Chartiers-Houston to a historic season with a program-best 17 victories. Win number 16 came in the regular-season finale against Carmichaels, 59-49, and No. 17 came in the preliminary round of the WPIAL playoffs, 66-60, against Charleroi.

The Bucs finished third in Section 4-AA with an 8-4 record that earned a spot in those WPIAL playoffs. Aliquippa ended the Bucs season with a 59-41 win in the first round.

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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