Quartet of Alle-Kiski Valley girls basketball teams hopeful for PIAA playoff spot

Sunday, February 23, 2020 | 5:13 PM

Despite losses in the WPIAL quarterfinals, Fox Chapel, Riverview, Freeport and Knoch remain alive for the PIAA girls basketball playoffs that begin March 6.

The four teams have gained rooting interests as they need help under the WPIAL’s follow-the-winner format for determining state qualifiers. Each of the six classifications has PIAA slots available beyond the four automatic spots earned by the semifinalists.

“The girls want an opportunity to play again and see how far they can go,” said Freeport coach Fred Soilis, whose team battled No. 2 Southmoreland (23-0) to the wire Thursday before losing 54-52.

“Obviously, we’re disappointed with the outcome. The girls felt they had the ability to be in the top four and had a good shot of getting to the finals.”

Soilis said the Yellowjackets (17-7) will not practice until they know if they qualified for the state playoffs.

“The time off will give them a chance to rest a little bit,” Soilis said. “It’s been a long season.”

WPIAL Class 4A sends seven teams to the PIAA tournament, and three will qualify this week.

Freeport and Knoch have different rooting interests Monday in the semifinals between Southmoreland and No. 3 Central Valley.

While Freeport lost to Southmoreland, Knoch (17-7) came up short against Central Valley, 52-47, in overtime.

If Southmoreland wins, the Yellowjackets are in the state playoffs. If Central Valley wins, the Knights gain entrance. The other will wait and see who wins the WPIAL title, which will decide the seventh and final berth. The Class 4A championship is Friday at Pitt’s Petersen Events Center.

Knoch coach Chris Andreassi said after the Central Valley loss that his team played with toughness and confidence.

“We practiced Friday, and I think it took them coming together and practicing together to really start to come around to the fact they still have a chance. It will be tough, but they are hopeful,” Andreassi said. “Southmoreland is 23-0 for a reason. For both us and Freeport to make it, someone probably will have to beat (top seed) North Catholic.

“(Freeport and Knoch) were a couple of seconds away from playing again, and I think it would’ve been great for girls basketball in our area.”

Riverview, which suffered a 66-41 loss to No. 2 Bishop Canevin on Thursday in the Class 2A quarterfinals, needs the Crusaders to beat No. 6 Ellis on Monday at West Allegheny to punch its ticket to states. Ellis toppled No. 3 OLSH in overtime Thursday.

Six teams advance in Class 2A, including the two who lost to the eventual finalists in the quarterfinals.

Raiders coach Keith Stitt hopes his team, especially his six seniors, get another chance to play.

“This is a tough group of kids. They didn’t quit against a really good Bishop Canevin team,” Stitt said. “I think the way they have played, they deserve another shot.”

Fox Chapel (13-10) is in the same position as last season. It needs top seed Bethel Park, which defeated the Foxes, 33-29, Friday at North Hills, to win the WPIAL title. Five teams in Class 6A advance.

Bethel Park (20-2) meets No. 4 seed Mt. Lebanon on Tuesday at Canon McMillan. The Class 6A final is Saturday evening.

“We executed our gameplan, and the girls played tough,” Fox Chapel coach Marty Matvey said about his team’s performance against the Black Hawks.

“You never want to lose a game, but momentum-wise, this is good building block for the program.”

Last season, Fox Chapel, also the No. 8 seed, lost to Peters Township in the WPIAL quarterfinals. The Indians won the WPIAL championship, lifting the Foxes into the state playoffs.

“The girls are still reflecting a little bit on how close they were to upsetting the top seed,” Matvey said. “There is a lot of parity in 6A, and any one of the four left has a good chance at winning the title.”

The WPIAL went to a play-in format to decide additional PIAA qualifications in 2014-15 and 2015-16, the final two seasons before the PIAA instituted the six-classification system and went back to follow the winner.

Burrell, the No. 2 seed in the 2016 Class AA playoffs, suffered a loss to Carlynton in the quarterfinals. But the Bucs bounced back and earned a trip to states by routing Riverside in the play-in semifinals.

That same season, Class A had one PIAA spot up for grabs among four teams, and Riverview stayed alive in the play-in bracket with a win over Ellis. But the Raiders were eliminated by Winchester Thurston, 39-34, in the play-in finals.

Michael Love is a Tribune-Review Staff Writer. You can contact Michael by email at mlove@triblive.com or via Twitter .

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