Westmoreland boys basketball notebook: Everyone going to playoffs

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Thursday, February 18, 2021 | 7:10 PM


All 18 boys teams from Westmoreland County will enter the WPIAL basketball playoffs.

The WPIAL is having an open tournament this year where all teams are invited to compete. The league deadline to opt in was 3 p.m. Thursday.

Southmoreland was undecided going into Wednesday night’s game against Geibel but chose to enter the postseason.

Kiski Area also is in after debating the idea.

That means the local breakdown is as follows for playoff qualifiers:

• Class 6A: Greensburg Salem, Hempfield, Norwin, Penn-Trafford

• Class 5A: Franklin Regional, Kiski Area, Latrobe

• Class 4A: Belle Vernon, Burrell, Derry, Mt. Pleasant, Southmoreland, Yough

• Class 3A: Ligonier Valley, Valley

• Class 2A: Greensburg Central Catholic, Jeannette, Monessen

The WPIAL will reveal playoff brackets Tuesday, and the playoffs will begin next weekend.

Higher-seeded teams will get home games through the semifinals as long as their gyms meet WPIAL criteria.

The finals are March 12, 15 and 16 at high school gyms to be determined.

Latrobe improving

Latrobe’s season has been one of steady improvement, highlighted with close calls and electric finishes. All in all, a fun sort of debut season in Class 5A.

Senior guard Ryan Sickenberger thinks it has something to do with continuity.

“We have been able to play longer than some teams,” said Sickenberger, who made a winning 3-pointer Wednesday in a 56-53 victory over Franklin Regional. “Coach has been able to put in new plays, defensive plays and we have worked on them every day. It has made us more consistent.”

Neither covid-19 nor winter storms have interrupted the Wildcats, who take a 6-5 mark into Wednesday’s home game against Ligonier Valley. That could be the team’s final test before the WPIAL playoffs.

“We’ve been so blessed and fortunate,” Latrobe coach Brad Wetzel said, knocking on a wooden door. “(Shutdowns) have been in the back of our minds. We have had a number of guys step up and play key roles for us. It’s been an interesting year.”

Release the Hounds

Monessen will resume practice Thursday after a 14-day shutdown because of covid-19 protocols.

The Greyhounds (7-6) will have four practices and return to game action Monday at Frazier.

Monessen will enter the WPIAL Class 2A playoffs.

Jeannette healing

Junior Anton Good returned to the Jeannette lineup last Friday at Clairton, his first action of the season. Good scored a game-high 19 points two games later as the Jayhawks defeated Valley, 65-40.

Sophomore forward Shane Mickens and freshman Brad Birch could also be back soon from injuries.

Birch appears to be healthy again. He has been competing in 7-on-7 football competitions and helped Team 412 Elite to a recent tournament title, throwing scoring passes to Jackson Pons, a former Norwin player who transferred to Central Catholic.

He could play Friday night at Serra Catholic.

Birch on Wednesday received his first football scholarship offer, and it was a big one. Oregon reached out to the 6-foot-2, 190-pound quarterback.

Unmasked

Yough decided to relax its face mask mandate so its teams could enter the WPIAL basketball playoffs. The WPIAL asked teams to comply for postseason inclusion.

During the regular season, Yough required opponents to wear masks at all times, even during play.

But like many schools that opted into the postseason, Yough decided to lift its rule.

Mt. Pleasant would not play the Cougars in section play because of the guidelines.

Derry paused

Derry shut down its boys program this week, but school officials would not confirm if the stoppage is because of covid-19.

Athletic director Brett Miller said the team can resume activities Sunday.

The Trojans will be in the WPIAL Class 4A playoffs.

Layup lines

Jeannette has played in four, two-point games. It lost to Seton LaSalle and Springdale, both by 52-50 scores, and beat Mt. Pleasant (32-30) and Greensburg Central Catholic (47-46). GSS is averaging 70.3 points, second-most in 2A behind OLSH (76.1). … Latrobe was scheduled to play at Woodland Hills Friday, but the game has been canceled. Woodland Hills had to shut down over covid issues. … Class 4A No. 1 Belle Vernon has 10 straight wins, by an average of 19.8 points. … Penn-Trafford junior forward Ben Myers has 30 blocks this season. … Latrobe and Franklin Regional combined to shoot 46 free throws Wednesday. Latrobe was 16 of 21, Franklin Regional 16 of 25.

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

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