Westmoreland County boys basketball notebook: Few teams have playoff sports locked up

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Thursday, February 2, 2023 | 11:01 AM


With just over a week to go in the WPIAL regular season, the Westmoreland County playoff picture is coming into greater focus.

Only four county teams had secured spots at the beginning of the week: Burrell and Yough in Class 3A, Greensburg Central Catholic in 2A and Monessen in Class A.

County teams still in the mathematical hunt include Norwin and Hempfield in 6A; Franklin Regional, Kiski Area, Latrobe and Penn-Trafford in 5A; Belle Vernon, Southmoreland and Greensburg Salem in 4A; Derry, Ligonier Valley, Valley and Mt. Pleasant in 3A; and Jeannette in 2A.

Section plays ends Feb. 11 and the playoff pairings will be announced Feb. 13.

The playoffs are set to start Feb. 17.

GS streak snapped

While Greensburg Salem first-year coach Cam Auld is not looking for moral victories, he will gladly take an on-court victory that stomps out a stretch of futility.

The Golden Lions (5-14) upended Indiana, 75-70, to break a 25-game section losing streak Jan. 27.

Their previous section win came Feb. 4, 2020, 65-52 over Laurel Highlands, when Rodney Gallagher was a freshman. The Mustangs went on to win the WPIAL Class 5A championship.

“It’s nice to get the win,” Auld said. “It didn’t matter when it came. It shows we’re making progress, but we don’t want to stop and celebrate it.”

Tough stretch

You won’t find many more grueling stretches of basketball than what Belle Vernon recently faced.

The Leopards (9-9) will have played five games in eight days when they take the court Friday night against Laurel Highlands.

That includes three games in three days last Friday, Saturday and Sunday.

“I’ve never had that happen like that with three in a row,” Leopards coach Joe Salvino said. “We’ll have to go a little lighter at practice (Monday) … maybe.”

The rest of the five-game run includes Southmoreland, Franklin Regional, North Hills, and Uniontown.

Waiting game

Usually, R&R means rest and relaxation.

At Franklin Regional, it means Rowell and Rankin.

And the team hopes the duo’s rest is over soon.

The boys basketball team’s top two scorers were still out with injuries when the Panthers took on Belle Vernon in the Shootout at Seton Hill on Jan. 28.

They had missed three games in a row.

Still, the Panthers gave talented Belle Vernon a game before falling, 66-52.

Fin Hutchison stepped up and found his shooting touch, making seven 3-pointers and scoring 25 points.

Franklin Regional (9-9, 3-4) also got a lift from Bryson Pavlik, a Gateway transfer who joined the team around the holidays. He had 10 points in the Belle Vernon game.

“We’ve been learning how to play together without Cam and Cooper,” coach Jesse Reed said. “We’ve had other guys step up and take on new roles. That is a step in the right direction.”

Bilinsky returns

Norwin standout senior guard Adam Bilinsky came back to the lineup after missing five games with an ankle injury.

The Knights went 2-3 without him but won back-to-back games when he returned.

Bilinsky had 20 points and the Knights (11-7, 3-4) canned 13 of 19 3-pointers in a 69-41 win over Latrobe at the Shootout at Seton Hill.

“I feel like the new guy,” Bilinsky said with a laugh. “We have guys who have stepped up and found new roles for us.”

A Mercyhurst commit, Bilinsky was within 70 points of 1,000 for his career.

Spartans’ scare

Hempfield almost pulled one of the upsets of the year last Friday. The Spartans (6-13) took No. 5 Upper St. Clair (11-8) to overtime before falling, 67-65.

They almost won in regulation, but Caden Biondi, who drove the lane and scored with one second left, was called for a charge.

Harry Sowers finished with a game-high 25 points, and Aaron Woodley added 14 for the Spartans.

Bill Beckner Jr. is a TribLive reporter covering local sports in Westmoreland County. He can be reached at bbeckner@triblive.com.

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