Westmoreland County basketball playoff preview capsules: Games of Feb. 19, 2020

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Tuesday, February 18, 2020 | 4:25 PM


Wednesday’s games

Boys

Class 4A

First round

No. 11 Derry (7-14) vs. No. 6 Belle Vernon (16-6)

8 p.m. at Fox Chapel

Winner plays: No. 3 Quaker Valley (17-5) Saturday in quarterfinals

Coaches: Tom Esposito, Derry; Joe Salvino, Belle Vernon

Points scored/allowed: Derry 56.0/65.2; Belle Vernon 70.6/62.5

Players to watch: Aidan Bushey, Derry (Sr., G); Devin Whitlock, Belle Vernon (So., G)

About Derry: The Trojans are making back-to-back WPIAL playoff trips for the first time since 1957-58. They never have won a playoff game but gave Blackhawk a run in the first round last year. Four starters are back from that game, including Bushey (17 ppg), senior Tanner Nicely and junior Ryan Bushey. Derry has allowed the most points in 4A.

About Belle Vernon: Monessen transfer Whitlock (20.5 ppg) has meshed well with a talented group that also features senior guard Cam Nusser, who had nine 3-pointers and 37 points in a game, and athletic forwards Thomas Hepple and Mitchell Pohlot, both of whom can finish fast breaks with dunks. Salvino was a playoff regular when he coached Monessen, but can he guide the Leopards past the quarterfinals for the second time in three seasons?

No. 10 Mt. Pleasant (12-10) vs. No. 7 New Castle (15-7)

8 p.m. at North Allegheny

Winner plays: No. 2 Knoch (19-3) Saturday in quarterfinals

Coaches: Allan Bilinsky, Mt. Pleasant; Ralph Blundo, New Castle

Points scored/allowed: Mt. Pleasant 50.3/56.0; New Castle 65.5/55.5

Players to watch: Jake Johnson, Mt. Pleasant (Sr., G); Mike Wells, New Castle (So., G)

About Mt. Pleasant: The Vikings returned to the WPIAL playoffs for the first time since 2015-16. The Vikings’ last win in the postseason came against Kittanning in 2014. Johnson (18 ppg) is a 1,000-point scorer and had a 43-point game against Derry. The Vikings are hoping for a third shot at Knoch, a section opponent.

About New Castle: Three-time defending champion New Castle is one of the more up-tempo teams in the playoffs, and the Red Hurricane love to pressure the basketball, which has led to six titles in eight years. Wells leads all scorers among 4A playoff teams at 21.1 ppg, but Sheldon Cox (17 ppg) also is a key scorer. New Castle lost by five to No. 3 Quaker Valley in their second meeting.

Girls

Class 3A

First round

No. 6 Derry (14-8) vs. No. 11 Freedom (14-8)

6:30 p.m. Wednesday at Fox Chapel

Winner plays: No. 3 Carlynton (14-8) Saturday in quarterfinals

Coaches: Gene Brisbane, Derry; John Kaercher, Freedom

Points scored/allowed: Derry, 50.6/43.5; Freedom, 44.0/43.4

Players to watch: Kam Kelly, Derry (Sr., F); Karissa Mercier, Freedom (Jr., G)

About Derry: The Trojans finished strong by winning four of their last five games to secure a postseason berth after missing the playoffs by one game last year. They finished second in Section 3. Kelly averages 12 points and nine rebounds. Sophomore Tiana Moracco leads the Trojans in scoring at 14 points per game. Moracco and senior Hannah Wedow are questionable with injuries. Derry’s girls and boys teams never have made the playoffs in the same season. First-year coach Brisbane had a successful 20-year tenure at Hempfield, where the Spartans made the playoffs 16 times, including two semifinal trips.

About Freedom: The Bulldogs had their first winning season since 2008. They won only 12 games in the previous three years combined. Freedom finished fourth in Section 1. The Morhbacher sisters, Jules and Renae, are standouts on Freedom’s soccer team but are also key contributors on the basketball court. Freedom took fourth in a strong Section 1 that includes No. 1 seed Beaver and No. 2 Mohawk.

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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