Southmoreland girls nab No. 2 seed in WPIAL Class 4A postseason

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Tuesday, February 11, 2020 | 9:42 PM


Southmoreland cut down the nets Monday night.

On Tuesday night, the upstart Scotties climbed another ladder — to respect and, perhaps, some due regard.

Southmoreland (22-0), fresh off its first section title in girls basketball since 2007, was awarded the No. 2 seed in the WPIAL Class 4A playoffs.

Some expected the Scotties to drop as low as No. 4 because of their nonsection schedule, which did not seem to impress the masses despite wins over Class 6A Baldwin and Mercyhurst Prep and two section wins over McKeesport.

But the WPIAL was impressed by their perfect record and saw fit to reward the Scotties with the seed and a first-round bye.

“I am grateful to the committee. The girls’ hard work paid off,” coach Brian Pritts said from a crowded DoubleTree Hotel ball room in Green Tree. “I kind of broke the 12 teams down into four quadrants, and I figured we were in the top four. I’m happy they looked as us this way.”

While a No. 1 seed was a pipe dream with three-time defending champion North Catholic (21-1) assuming its usual top spot, Southmoreland knew a No. 2 was its best-case seed. And as a bonus, the Scotties get to avoid North Catholic, which is on the opposite side of the bracket.

Southmoreland will be off until Feb. 20, when it plays the winner of No. 7 Freeport (16-6) and No. 10 Belle Vernon (16-6).

“We’re in a good spot,” Pritts said. “But we haven’t done anything yet. We need to go out and prove we’re the No. 2 seed.”

The next two 4A seeds went to No. 3 Central Valley (17-3) and No. 4 Blackhawk (19-3), the former of which lost to Class 3A Mohawk on Monday to conclude the regular season.

The other No. 1 seeds are Bethel Park (19-2) in 6A, Chartiers Valley (22-0) in 5A, Beaver (19-3) in 3A, Serra Catholic (16-3) in 2A and Rochester (21-1) in Class A.

Six additional teams from Westmoreland County shined a light on their playoff paths as the WPIAL revealed brackets in all six classifications.

Norwin (16-4) was tabbed the No. 3 seed in Class 6A. Speaking of wanting to avoid a team, the Knights hoped North Allegheny would be on the opposite side of the eight-team bracket.

The Section 1 co-champs could be on a collision course for a semifinal rematch from a year ago.

Norwin opens against Upper St. Clair (13-7) on Feb. 21 at a time and site to be announced.

“Come playoff time, you know you’re probably going to have Norwin and NA on one side and Bethel Park and Mt. Lebanon on the other,” Norwin coach Brian Brozeski said. “We’re happy to be able to extend our season, but nothing will come easy. There are no chalk games at this point. It’s the Elite 8 of the WPIAL.”

In Class 5A, Penn-Trafford (15-7) is seeded No. 11 and will play No. 6 Gateway (16-5), a section champion, in the first round 6:30 p.m. Tuesday at Norwin. The Warriors upset the then-No.2-ranked Gators, 59-58, early in the season.

Belle Vernon (16-6) joins Southmoreland in the Class 4A tournament. The young but skilled Leopards open against Freeport at 6:30 p.m. Monday at North Hills.

Sixth-seeded Derry (14-8), back in the playoffs for the first time in three years under first-year coach Gene Brisbane, will face No. 11 Freedom (14-8) in the Class 3A first round 6:30 p.m. next Wednesday at Fox Chapel.

“It’s always nice to be back here,” said Brisbane, who had not attended a pairings meeting since his final year at Hempfield in 2010. “It was our team’s goal to get here. Now everyone here wants to put the icing on the cake. Now it’s time to go to work.”

Derry has two injured starters, but Brisbane is not speculating on when or if they will be ready.

“It’s like hockey,” he said. “One has an upper-body injury, and the other has a lower-body injury.”

Section 3-A co-champion Greensburg Central Catholic (14-7) and resurgent Monessen (15-7) will open the Class A playoffs Tuesday with games that are part of a rare weekday tripleheader.

GCC, the No. 5 seed, will play No. 12 California (12-10) at 8 p.m., and Monessen, led by 300-win coach Janine Vertacnik, takes on Aquinas Academy (9-11) at 5.

“I have a lot of respect for California and their program,” GCC coach Sam Salih said. “It’s going to be a tough first-round game, but we are looking forward to the challenge.”

Monessen is the No. 8 seed, so No. 1 Rochester (21-1) would await the Greyhounds, who have not been to the playoffs since 2013-14.

“It feels good to be back,” said Vertacnik, who won a WPIAL title when she coached at Jeannette in 2010. “It’s exciting and fun for our girls. I feel like we played a strong schedule to get us prepared. We just have to overcome that initial nervousness.”

The WPIAL finals will be Feb. 27-29 at Petersen Events Center.

Bill Beckner Jr. is a Tribune-Review Staff Writer. You can contact Bill by email at bbeckner@tribweb.com or via Twitter .

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