George Guido: Lots of fond memories from basketball season

Tuesday, March 17, 2020 | 6:20 PM

This is the week when we usually wrap up the local high school basketball season and advise everybody to take in the Cager Classic Saturday night at Highlands.

But that fine event and most everything else has been scrubbed right now.

The coronavirus epidemic has closed schools, derailed sports and most everything else.

Before that, however, we had an extremely interesting basketball season, and the crowds were great, particularly in the regular-season finale, where Fox Chapel fell short in recording its first undefeated regular season in school history against Upper St. Clair.

The place was packed, and a few fans started sitting in the aisles.

Highlands became the first local team to win a WPIAL title since Leechburg in 2007.

Freeport’s girls team was on its way to pulling off an upset for the ages in the PIAA playoffs until North Catholic prevailed.

Springdale’s boys won their first section title since 1993 and bring everybody back next year.

Some new stars came to prominence this season such as Demitri Fritch of Springdale, Dylan Cook of Leechburg and Reece Hasley of Deer Lakes.

But one thing that nasty coronavirus won’t do is delay passing out this year’s awards.

So there!

Best rivalry

Springdale vs. Apollo-Ridge. In the last two seasons, all four games went down to the last 30 seconds.

Toughest schedule

Highlands. Of the 27 games the Golden Rams played, 21 were against playoff teams.

Stat of the Year

Mt. Lebanon’s Jake Hoffman scored exactly 30 points in his first three games this season.

Aimless Fact of the Year

Highlands played basketball in seven counties: Allegheny, Westmoreland, Beaver, Lawrence, Butler, Cuyahoga and Erie.

Buzzer Beater of the Year

With the section title on the line, Gateway junior forward Dynasty Shegog converted a layup at the buzzer, completing a full-court rush coming out of a timeout, to lift the Gators to a 31-29 victory at Plum and thus deny the Mustangs their first section title in school history.

Quote of the Year

Southmoreland coach Brian Pritts, whose Scotties made their first WPIAL finals appearance, first PIAA tournament and won their first PIAA game: “Every night when I kneel by my bed, I think about how grateful I am to be a part of this team … and the community. I’m blessed to have been a part of (the four seniors’) careers. They gave it all they had.”

Milestone attained

Uniontown became the first WPIAL school to reach 1,800 all-time victories with a Jan. 20 win against Washington.

Jim Boeheim Award

Ray Bartha, Apollo-Ridge athletic director. The Vikings girls played 10 of 11 games at home between Dec. 27 and Jan. 23, leaving the friendly confines of Spring Church only for a game at Highlands — or about as often as the Orange leave the Carrier Dome early in the season.

Best sustained performance

The Monessen boys made the playoffs for the 39th consecutive season, and the North Catholic girls were in the postseason for the 45th straight season, or, every season that the program has been a WPIAL member.

The Hindenburg Award

WPIAL Class 5A boys basketball. On the opening night of the PIAA playoffs, all six schools — Laurel Highlands, Penn Hills, Mars, Thomas Jefferson, Chartiers Valley and South Fayette – lost their games.

Biggest surprise

On Feb. 4, Leechburg battered Clairton, 85-40. Not so much that Leechburg won the game, it was with the ease it was done, holding the Bears to 30 points under their per-game average. Connor McDermott hit three 3-pointers in the first 90 seconds of the game, and he would have had a fourth had he not been ruled out of bounds by shooting from the Hyde Park footbridge.

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