Latrobe boys garner No. 2 seed, 1st-round bye in Class 6A playoffs

Tuesday, February 12, 2019 | 9:59 PM

Latrobe felt like it was put under a microscope at Tuesday night’s WPIAL basketball playoff pairings meeting.

The boys basketball Section 3 champions figured they did enough to earn a top-three seed in Class 6A, yet had created some conversation and speculation about where they should go in the tournament because of some close games against nonplayoff teams.

Then, a sigh of relief.

When the playoff lineup was revealed at the DoubleTree Hotel in Green Tree, it was clear the WPIAL saw fit to place the Wildcats (18-2) No. 2 in the bracket.

A first-round bye also is a nice reward for a regular season that saw Latrobe linger as the No. 1-ranked team for a large portion of the year, play a challenging out-of-section schedule and average 71.4 points.

Latrobe coach Brad Wetzel wasn’t going to gnash his teeth or crush a basketball — although, the WPIAL did give each team an official playoff game ball, sans air.

Latrobe, though, was not deflated.

“I thought with the section title, 1, 2 or 3 would have been fair,” Wetzel said after the elbow-to-elbow meeting in a packed hotel ballroom. “After that, it’s in the committee’s hands. There was a sense of calmness with us because I felt there wasn’t much more we could do. We battled out some tough ones, and we played about as well as we can play in the regular season.”

Some thought Latrobe might slip a spot or two because of a few one- and two-point wins to Section 3 teams. Still, the Wildcats went 10-0 in section play.

Pine-Richland is No. 1 in Class 6A, Mt. Lebanon is No. 3 and Upper St. Clair is No. 4.

Latrobe won’t play until Feb. 23, when it takes on the winner of No. 7 Canon-McMillan and No. 10 North Allegheny in the quarterfinals.

Franklin Regional (16-6) made the WPIAL 5A final last season, and a strong follow-up regular season landed the Panthers a No. 6 seed. They will play Thomas Jefferson (11-10) at 8 p.m. Monday at Norwin in the first round.

If it wins, Franklin Regional will get No. 3 Moon in the quarterfinals.

“If we beat Plum, we’re probably a four,” Panthers coach Steve Scorpion said. “But we didn’t so I thought we got what we deserved. Thomas Jefferson will be a tough out, but we have to get ready to go.”

Mars, which beat the Panthers for the WPIAL title and won the Section 3-5A title ahead of them this year, is the No. 1 seed again.

Also in Class 6A, Penn-Trafford (14-8), back on the postseason after a two-year absence, is seeded eighth and will take on No. 9 Peters Township at 8 p.m. Tuesday at Mt. Lebanon.

Derry (12-7), back in the playoffs for the first time in 12 seasons, will open against No. 7 Blackhawk (9-13) in the Class 4A bracket. The Trojans are the No. 10 seed.

Derry coach Tom Esposito thought his team would get Ringgold (13-8) and thought the committee might seed the Trojans ahead of Freeport, the team it tied for third in Section 1-4A.

“The brackets we thought we had drawn up seemed pretty realistic,” Esposito said. “We’re playing one of the most historic programs in the state of Pennsylvania. As always, we’ll be very well-prepared and do the best we can.

“I am happy for the kids. We’re in the dance, and we’re going to go dance the best we can.”

Other area matchups:

• Belle Vernon (8-14) is the No. 12 seed in 4A and faces No. 5 Highlands (15-7) at 8 p.m. Wednesday at North Hills.

• In Class 3A, No. 13 Southmoreland (12-9) meets No. 4 Seton La Salle (17-4) at 1 p.m. Saturday at Gateway.

• Jeannette (12-10), which finished second in Section 2-2A behind No. 2 seeded Serra Catholic (18-3), opens against Springdale (12-8) at 2:30 p.m. Saturday at Gateway.

• In the playoffs for the 38th straight time but under a new coach (Dan Bosnic), Monessen (14-8) earned the No. 4 seed and a first-round bye in Class A.

Also in that bracket, Greensburg Central Catholic (16-6) is back in the postseason after seeing a 17-year streak end last season. The No. 7 Centurions will play No. 10 Geibel at 8 p.m. Friday at Charleroi in the first round. The winner gets No. 2 Cornell.

Bill Beckner is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Bill at [email protected] or via Twitter @BillBeckner.

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