Unbeaten Southmoreland girls highlights WPIAL playoff field from Westmoreland County

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Saturday, February 8, 2020 | 8:06 PM


Twenty-one up, 21 down.

Southmoreland has pieced together a perfect regular season — with one game to go — for the finest pre-playoff run in the history of its girls basketball program.

Now, the Scotties will put their playoff path in the hands on the WPIAL.

“This is something that is out of our control,” said Southmoreland coach Brian Pritts, whose team is 21-0 heading into Monday night’s home game against South Park.

“I would hope our body of work is strong in the eyes of the committee, and our team is rewarded for the season we are having.”

The WPIAL will reveal its playoff brackets Tuesday night at the DoubleTree by Hilton Hotel in Green Tree.

North Catholic is expected to get the No. 1 seed in Class 4A but the Scotties, with their Section 3 title and classification-leading 30.5 defensive scoring average, should not be far behind.

“I’ll go out on a limb and say North Catholic is No. 1,” Pritts said of the defending WPIAL champion and PIAA runner-up Trojans. “I think 4A is really strong, a lot of really quality teams.

“Across the board there are going to be some very good games and matchups. I’m excited to see what the committee comes up with.”

Southmoreland’s best seed in the WPIAL tournament was No. 4 in 2007, the last time the Scotties won a section. The team never has made it past the quarterfinals and a PIAA playoff berth would be its first.

They lost to Blackhawk, another solid team in 4A, in last season’s quarterfinals.

Norwin (17-4) also is expected to draw a favorable seed in Class 6A. The Lady Knights have been ranked Nos. 1, 2 and 3 in recent weeks but were upset last Tuesday by Class 5A Penn-Trafford (14-7), another local playoff team that clinched with a 44-40 win over Latrobe on Thursday.

Norwin reached the WPIAL semifinals last season and lost to North Allegheny. The Knights also made the state quarterfinals. Coach Brian Brozeski expects another competitve tournament.

“It is always exciting to enter into the playoffs, but the beauty of sports is that on any given day, anyone can beat anyone,” Brozeski said. “Honestly, that is why the majority of the public watch sports: to see the upset or the unpredictable. It is important to stay focused on the moment. Each game, quarter and possession is important in the playoffs, and we will need to approach each as such.”

Section co-champion Greensburg Central Catholic (14-6) also should get a top-five seed in Class A.

One storyline for several Westmoreland teams is a much-anticipated return to the postseason. The Hempfield and Mt. Pleasant boys, and the Derry girls have not been to the WPIAL’s big dance since 2015-16.

Derry (14-8), under new coach Gene Brisbane, has been battling injuries but still finished second in Section 3-3A.

It’s been an even longer drought for the Monessen girls (14-7), who last appeared in a playoff game in 2013-14 — a preliminary round game, at that.

“It means a lot,” Mt. Pleasant coach Allan Bilinsky said of making the playoffs. “That was one of our team goals this year. This group loves to play basketball. They committed themselves to get better in the offseason.”

Bilinsky thinks the Vikings (12-10) will get respect from the steering committee because of their strong section, which houses potential top-three seeds in Highlands and Knoch.

Hempfield (12-9) put together a four-game win streak to slide into second place in Section 3-6A, which is capped by Fox Chapel (20-1), a candidate to get the No. 1 nod in the largest classification. Six seniors on the Spartans roster have been longing for a playoff appearance.

Hempfield has not had a winning season since 2014-15.

“It is a great feeling,” senior guard Drew Coletta said. “Us seniors have worked so hard putting countless hours in the gym. Now it’s paid off, and we get a chance to make a statement in the playoffs.”

The Derry boys returned to the postseason last year for the first time since 2008 but still are trying to win their first playoff game in program history. The Trojans (7-14), lumped with Mt. Pleasant in top-heavy Section 1-4A, have not made back-to-back playoff trips since … gulp … 1958.

“I commend all our guys. They played their hearts out,” Derry boys coach Tom Esposito said after last year’s playoff loss to Blackhawk. “We’ll be back.”

The Norwin, Southmoreland and Greensburg Central Catholic girls won or shared section titles.

Jeannette (15-7) and Greensburg Central Catholic (16-5) are the only local boys section champions.

Belle Vernon, Greensburg Central Catholic, Southmoreland, Derry, Monessen and Penn-Trafford have their boys and girls teams in the playoffs.

Tournaments are expected to begin play Friday and Saturday.

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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