Westmoreland boys, girls basketball teams prepare to adjust to new sections

Monday, May 18, 2020 | 4:00 PM

It is like the bell is ringing in the hallways for the Greensburg Salem basketball programs.

It’s time to change classes.

Both teams will move up in classification next season. The WPIAL released new section alignments last week. and Westmoreland coaches have mixed feedback on the changes, most of which were a result of enrollment numbers.

The Greensburg Salem boys, however, chose to jump to Class 6A to play more local opponents. The girls team, meanwhile, is moving up one class to 5A.

Boys Section 3-6A will be a good one. Now, two Allegheny County schools, Central Catholic and Fox Chapel, are in the mix with Westmoreland teams Greensburg Salem, Hempfield, Norwin and Penn-Trafford.

“The sections turned out like I expected,” Golden Lions boys coach Mark Zahorchak said. “I had heard that Pittsburgh Central was going to be moved from the North, so I was not surprised by that. I’m excited to play section games against Hempfield, Penn-Trafford and Norwin. It’s going to be exciting to have some local rivals in our section again. That is what has been missing from basketball since the PIAA and WPIAL went to six classifications.”

Greensburg Salem girls coach Rick Klimchock will begin his fourth season with the Golden Lions but in a third different section.

“There’s a lot of homework to do,” he said. “Who knows when we can get together with team and start training for next season? That also makes it tough. We have to raise our level in this new section for sure.”

Franklin Regional, Gateway, Latrobe, Greensburg Salem, McKeesport, Penn Hills, Woodland Hills make up Section 4-4A.

Fans will notice Latrobe missing from the 6A boys section. That is because the Wildcats dropped to 5A and are grouped with Franklin Regional, Gateway, Kiski Area, McKeesport, Penn Hills, and Woodland Hills in Section 3.

Latrobe coach Brad Wetzel said he will have a better handle on the Wildcats’ new surroundings after a season.

“I know one thing,” Wetzel said. “It certainly will be a difficult section to compete in night in and night out.”

“Thrilled” would not be the word to describe Derry boys coach Tom Esposito’s reaction to his team being separated from Mt. Pleasant and Yough.

WPIAL runner-up Highlands moved to 5A and out of Derry’s section, and defending WPIAL 3A champ North Catholic moved in, providing no bargain. Derry now is with Burrell, Deer Lakes, Freeport, Keystone Oaks, Knoch and North Catholic in Class 4A, Section 1.

Esposito called the new section “mind-boggling.”

”We embrace the challenge, and we’ll do the best we can,” he said. “But the travel is just ridiculous. We will lead the WPIAL in miles traveled. Our closest section opponent and only county team, Burrell, is just about an hour bus ride. Freeport, Deer Lakes and Knoch are about an hour and 15 minutes and then there’s Keystone Oaks and North Catholic; that will be an hour and a half or more, especially during rush hour traffic.”

Section 3 looks like it would be a better fit for Derry. It houses Belle Vernon, Elizabeth Forward, Mt. Pleasant, South Park, Southmoreland, Uniontown and Yough.

South Park and Derry trading spots seems more practical.

“The only thing we have control of is our team and being ready to play every night,” Esposito said.

Speaking of Southmoreland, the Scotties had begun to take root in boys Class 3A but were bumped up.

“I would have liked to have stayed in 3A,” coach Frank Muccino said. “I think we fit well in that class. We were able to be competitive year after year. Class 4A will be a challenge but one we look forward to giving our best effort to. I do like the section: a lot of local teams, less travel and it brings back section rivalries with Mt Pleasant and Yough.”

Another team to move to the largest class is the Penn-Trafford girls. They are now in Class 6A, and while the Warriors will play rival Norwin twice a year, the competition level will sharpen.

“It will definitely have a much different feel,” Penn-Trafford coach John Giannikas said. “There are teams in the section that we haven’t played in many years. The travel for the away games is much greater than most section games we have played in the past. With all these new teams we are going to see, plus being back in the same section with Norwin, every game will be a challenge.”

Joining Penn-Trafford in Section 1 are Butler, reigning WPIAL champ North Allegheny, North Hills, Norwin, Pine-Richland, Seneca Valley, and Shaler.

Giannikas said he hopes to work some county teams into the nonsection schedule.

Hempfield is the Westmoreland outlier in Section 2. The Spartans were not separated from the teams they played the last two seasons and not spared any miles. They will play Baldwin, Bethel Park, Canon-McMillan, Mt. Lebanon, Peters Township and Upper St. Clair.

The Derry girls move from 3A to 4A and join Alle-Kiski Valley-heavy Section 1.

Jeannette and Greensburg Central Catholic will reunite as section opponents in boys and girls sections in Class 2A. Monessen’s boys also are in 2A now.

WPIAL first-year member Ligonier Valley will be in Class 3A for boys and 4A for girls. The Rams are moving from District 6.

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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