Latrobe boys hoping for top seed when WPIAL releases basketball playoff pairings
By: Likitha Janga
Monday, February 11, 2019 | 7:15 PM
Latrobe has been in a number of close games. Like, let’s-take-this-and-run games.
All the while, the Wildcats have spent the majority of the boys basketball regular season as the No. 1-ranked team in WPIAL Class 6A.
They have not lost to a WPIAL team since last year’s quarterfinals. They have played a challenging out-of-section schedule and remain one of the league’s highest-scoring teams.
On Tuesday night in Green Tree, Latrobe (18-2) will find out if the WPIAL is just as impressed with its accompanying resume. The annual playoff pairings meeting will reveal if Section 3 champion Latrobe is worthy of a top-four seed and an opening bye.
“My personal feeling has always been that the winners of sections get the top seeds,” said Latrobe coach Brad Wetzel, whose team completed its first undefeated section title Friday. “As for us, there are three sections, so I would hope that we would be one of the top three seeds. I feel this way because of the grind night-in and night-out that a section title requires. To dismiss this and put second-place teams ahead of first-place teams unfairly diminishes the section title.”
While Latrobe has run roughshod over teams at home, it has been tested on the road.
It barely beat Hempfield, 58-56, nipped Connellsville, 65-64, and survived Norwin, 59-57. Two of those opponents did not make the playoffs.
Still, there are plenty of quality wins, like two over Fox Chapel and another over Canon-McMillan, both Class 6A playoff teams, and others over Class 5A No. 3 Penn Hills and a good Kiski School team.
The Wildcats held off good teams at a tournament in New York — Seton Catholic and Elmira — while playing with a shot clock.
Latrobe’s losses are to City League power Allderdice and Virginia stud St. Stephen’s & St. Agnes, also at the Elmira tournament.
Pine-Richland, Mt. Lebanon and Upper St. Clair also are expected to do well in the WPIAL committee’s eyes.
Other area boys teams set to enter the playoffs: Penn-Trafford (13-8) in 6A; Franklin Regional (16-6) in 5A; Derry (12-7) and Belle Vernon (8-14) in 4A; Southmoreland (12-9) in 3A, Jeannette (12-10) in 2A and Greensburg Central Catholic (15-6) and Monessen (14-8) in Class A.
Franklin Regional was the runner-up to Mars last season. Mars is the likely No. 1 seed with Moon lurking close behind.
The Panthers mostly have handled business on their schedule and have played strong nonsection teams, such as 6A higher-up Kennedy Catholic and Pine-Richland. A section loss to Plum looms, but that bruise seems to have healed.
“We’ve shown all year we’re one of the top five teams,” Franklin Regional coach Steve Scorpion said. “We could be anywhere between four and six.”
Girls teams from Norwin (20-1) in Class 6A, Franklin Regional (16-5) in 5A and Greensburg Central Catholic (18-3) in Class A also could draw favorable seeds from the steering committee.
GCC has made the playoffs 19 straight times, and Norwin has a 17-year postseason streak. Both appear to be headed for No. 2 seeds.
Norwin won back-to-back Class 4A titles in 2015 and ‘16 and has reached at least the quarterfinals every year since ‘13.
Peters Township, Norwin and North Allegheny should garner the top three spots in 6A.
“We’re just happy to get a trip to the dance and have to focus on winning Round 1 no matter who you play,” Norwin coach Brian Brozeski said. “The Class 6A field is tough and deep. If you don’t come ready to play, you will find yourself on the wrong side of the scoreboard. There are a lot of great players and a lot of great coaches who, given time to prepare, will find and exploit weakness. We must stay humble, hungry; ready and willing to improve. ”
West Greene is the favorite to win Class A, but GCC is expected to get the No. 2 seed.
Other local girls qualifiers are Penn-Trafford (13-9) in 5A, and 4A teams Southmoreland (17-4), Greensburg Salem (11-10) and Belle Vernon (14-8).
“I think we played a pretty competitive and tough schedule,” Southmoreland coach Brian Pritts said. “I see us somewhere in the middle like a six, seven, or maybe even a five. I think North Catholic is a lock for the one, and Blackhawk, Central Valley, and EF are your next three in some order. Freeport is very good, too.”
All playoff games will be hosted by neutral sites. The 12 championship games will be played March 1-2 at Pitt’s Petersen Events Center.
Bill Beckner is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Bill at email@example.com or via Twitter @BillBeckner.