Loaded semifinals matchups around the WPIAL on Wednesday

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Tuesday, February 25, 2020 | 10:32 PM


It could be said these two legendary WPIAL basketball coaches have a sixth sense.

They also have six district championships each and are two wins away from seventh heaven.

Joe Salvino of Belle Vernon has 667 wins, and Ralph Blundo of New Castle has 240 wins.

Both coaches have a golden history as they prepare to square off in a WPIAL Class 5A semifinals game Wednesday at North Allegheny.

This is Salvino’s second season as coach of the Leopards after winning six WPIAL championships in more than 30 years at Monessen.

Last year, Ralph Blundo became the first WPIAL boys basketball coach to win a third straight district championship for a second time.

If you believe the seeding, neither team was supposed to be here.

Belle Vernon is the No. 6 seed and upset No. 3 Quaker Valley, 66-61, in the quarterfinals, ending the Quakers three-year run in the championship game.

New Castle is the No. 7 seed and after rolling past Mt. Pleasant in the opening round, the Red Hurricanes edged No. 2 Knoch, 56-50, in the second round.

Rematch or fresh faces

The debut of high school basketball at Robert Morris’ UPMC Events Center takes place with a Class 6A boys basketball semifinals doubleheader with Mt. Lebanon against Central Catholic and top-seed Butler versus Upper St. Clair.

In last year’s WPIAL championship game, Mt. Lebanon defeated Butler, 62-57. Sean Loughran led the Blue Devils with 21 points, and Jake Hoffman had 19.

Butler’s Ethan Morton led the Golden Tornado with 21 points and 14 rebounds.

So while those two teams are looking for a repeat performance, it has been a while since Central Catholic and Upper St. Clair played for WPIAL gold.

The Vikings lost to Gateway, 49-39, in the 2012 finals, four years after winning the their only district championship.

The last time Danny Holzer guided his Panthers to the title game was 15 years ago when USC knocked off rival Mt. Lebanon, 57-55.

Section 1 supremacy

In the WPIAL girls basketball Class 5A and 3A semifinals, three of the four teams in each class are from the same section.

And both are Section 1.

In 5A, Chartiers Valley won the section by three games over Thomas Jefferson, with Trinity four games back.

On Wednesday, the Colts and Jaguars lock up for the seventh time in two years with the Colts having won all six previous showdowns, including last year’s WPIAL title game, 64-48.

The Hillers play Section 2 champion Woodland Hills.

In 3A, Beaver and Mohawk were co-champs and ended up as the No. 1 and No. 2 seeds. Avonworth finished in third place, only a game behind.

The Bobcats faces the Antelopes for a third time this season after splitting close, defense-dominated games in the regular season. The Warriors take on Section 2 champion Carlynton.

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