Late-season success pays dividends for A-K Valley boys basketball teams
By: Doug Gulasy
Tuesday, February 12, 2019 | 10:39 PM
St. Joseph boys basketball coach Kelly Robinson wondered early Friday evening about the potential ramifications of the Spartans’ game that night against Leechburg.
A win and St. Joseph would win the outright Section 3-A championship and a better WPIAL playoff seed. A loss would mean a three-way tie for first with Leechburg and Greensburg Central Catholic and a worse spot in the playoffs.
The Spartans rallied from 22 points down to win in overtime, and they reaped the rewards Tuesday when the WPIAL revealed them as the No. 5 seed in the Class A playoffs, which begin Friday night. St. Joseph will play No. 12 West Greene at 8 p.m. at Mt. Lebanon.
“That game changed a lot of things down the road,” Robinson said. “That’s a huge swing. I think for a lot of teams, one game doesn’t mean as much, but in Class A, where we were before that Leechburg game and where we finished, that meant everything.”
Nine Alle-Kiski Valley boys basketball teams learned their first-round playoff matchups Tuesday night at the WPIAL’s annual pairings meeting in Green Tree, and one common theme held true: late-season success paid dividends.
Robinson said he thought a loss to Leechburg probably would get St. Joseph seeded lower than GCC and Leechburg. Instead, St. Joseph got the best seed of the three along with its outright section title.
Leechburg, meanwhile, drew the No. 9 seed and a matchup with No. 8 Bishop Canevin at 8 p.m. Friday at Fox Chapel.
Highlands and Knoch provided another test case, as they split their regular-season games against each other along with the Section 1-4A title. The WPIAL slotted Highlands as the No. 5 seed and Knoch as No. 6 after Highlands beat Knoch, 54-45, in the teams’ second matchup.
“I think the most recent meeting was the deciding factor in who got the higher seed,” said Highlands coach Tyler Stoczynski, whose team will play No. 12 Belle Vernon at 8 p.m. Feb. 20 at North Hills. “We have the utmost respect for Knoch. (Coach Ron McNabb) does an awesome job with them, and both are good teams and I expect us to do well in the playoffs.”
Knoch will play No. 11 South Park at 8 p.m. Feb. 20 at Fox Chapel.
“It was what I expected,” McNabb said. “We have a week to go over things, and we’ll take some time to get rested up. We’re happy they looked at our body of work over the season.”
Freeport, which finished tied with Derry for third place in Section 1-4A, received the No. 8 seed and will play No. 9 Ringgold at 8 p.m. Feb. 20 at Gateway.
Deer Lakes also won an outright section championship, taking the Section 3-3A title, and got the No. 6 seed in the Class 3A bracket and a first-round matchup with No. 11 Charleroi at 3 p.m. Saturday at Keystone Oaks.
Lancers coach Terence Parham said a difficult final week — Deer Lakes dropped two of its final three section games after winning its first nine — might have had an effect on the seeding, but he thought his team ended up about where he expected.
“In this field, there’s no night off,” Parham said. “You’re going to have to face some tough teams no matter what. We’ll take the sixth seed, and we’ll try to prove the prognosticators wrong by getting this win.”
Valley, which finished third behind Deer Lakes and Shady Side Academy in Section 3-3A, was seeded 14th and will play No. 3 North Catholic at 3 p.m. Saturday at Fox Chapel.
Springdale earned its way into the playoffs with two comeback section victories in the final week of the season. The Dynamos got the No. 11 seed in Class 2A and will play No. 6 Jeannette at 2:30 p.m. Saturday at Gateway.
Fox Chapel rounded out the Alle-Kiski Valley’s playoff qualifiers, and the Foxes might have had the most interesting week of any local team. They beat one of Class 6A’s top teams in Upper St. Clair last week, then suffered an overtime loss to nonqualifier Central Catholic in their regular-season finale Monday.
The WPIAL seeded Fox Chapel sixth in the Class 6A bracket, and the Foxes will play No. 11 Seneca Valley at 8 p.m. Tuesday at North Allegheny.
“I thought we’d be between four and six,” Fox Chapel coach Zach Skrinjar said. “You are where you are, and you’re going to have to play everyone at some point. I’m kind of excited to actually get going a little bit early on Tuesday. It’s a tough team … so we’re looking forward to the challenge.”
Doug Gulasy is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Doug at email@example.com or via Twitter @dgulasy_Trib.