George Guido: 17 A-K Valley basketball teams set for WPIAL playoffs

Tuesday, February 12, 2019 | 9:30 PM

The 107th WPIAL basketball tournament is set to begin Friday.

There are 17 Alle-Kiski Valley teams in this year’s playoffs: nine boys teams and eight girls teams.

First in the water will be the Class 2A Riverview girls at 6:30 p.m. Friday against South Side Beaver at Hampton.

“With all the injuries we had during the season, I’m thankful we’re here,” Riverview coach Keith Stitt said.

Also in action Friday will be Section 3-A champion St. Joseph boys facing West Greene at Mt. Lebanon in an 8 p.m. encounter.

Leechburg’s boys will square off against Bishop Canevin at Fox Chapel at 8 p.m.

Here are some sidelights involving local playoff teams:

• Springdale and Freeport are in the playoffs for the 34th time. They are still far behind the local record of the Ford City boys making the postseason 49 times before the school was dissolved in 2015.

• The Deer Lakes boys are in the playoffs for the third straight season, the first time that’s happened since 1990-92.

• The Lancers girls are in for the ninth time in 10 seasons.

• Valley’s boys are in three straight seasons for only the second time in 25 years.

• Shady Side Academy’s boys won on the final night of the regular season to sustain their streak of 15 straight playoff berths.

• Gateway’s boys streak, however, ended at nine as the Gators slipped to 3-9 in Section 1-5A.

• North Catholic’s girls extended their streak to 44 consecutive years in the playoffs. The Trojans boys are at 16 in a row.

• Avonworth’s girls are in for the 28th consecutive season.

The 58-percent factor

Of the 260 boys and girls basketball schools in the WPIAL, 150 — or, 58 percent — made the playoffs.

Forty-three schools had boys and girls teams qualify, including Freeport, Knoch, Leechburg, Deer Lakes and Fox Chapel.

Bracketing was tough since there are few sections in each enrollment class, and the WPIAL tries to avoid putting teams from the same section in an opening-round game.

‘Remember the Titans’ star

Julius Campbell Jr., a former Alexandria, Va., high school football star depicted in the movie “Remember the Titans,” died. He was 65.

Campbell died Jan. 25 of organ failure, according to the Washington Post.

After Alexandria high schools integrated, upperclassmen attended T. C. Williams High School in 1971. The movie portrayed the Titans’ success that season amid the city’s racial tensions, as they won the Virginia Class AAA state championship.

“Julius was very, very instrumental on that team at simply getting kids to just talk to one another, kids who never talked to kids from another race their entire lives,” Titans coach Herman Boone told The Post. “By doing so, they learned many things about each other that were not passed down to them, and for that, the world owes Julius a debt of gratitude.”

Campbell is credited with coming up with the phrase “one vision, one heartbeat” to describe what was needed to come together and win.

Campbell went to Ferrum Junior College with plans to transfer to a major program, but his athletic career was ended by an ankle injury that never properly healed, and he returned to Alexandria to care for his ill father.

In the movie, Wood Harris portrayed Campbell and, of course, Denzel Washington portrayed coach Boone.

Campbell worked for animal control departments in Alexandria and Prince Georges County, Md. Later, Campbell spoke about the team’s journey to overcome racial barriers and about bullying, but health problems forced him to stop.

Oddly enough, after the 1971 season in a national poll conducted by the St. Paul (Minn.) Pioneer Press, T.C. Williams finished third, and WPIAL champion Kiski Area (12-0) finished fifth.

George Guido is a Valley News Dispatch scholastic sports correspondent. His column appears Wednesdays.

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