Westmoreland H.S. notebook: Reaching final ‘like no other’ for Belle Vernon’s Hartman

Thursday, February 27, 2020 | 8:53 PM

Jared Hartman is as grateful as he is delighted as Belle Vernon prepares to play for a WPIAL boys basketball championship.

The Leopards senior forward looks back to the spring and summer of 2018 with a bittersweetness that can only be measured in setbacks and successes.

“I was pretty down, and doctors told me I might never play again,” the 6-foot-3 Hartman said, referring to the torn ACL and MCL in his right knee, injuries he suffered playing quarterback for the football team as a junior. “My knee still doesn’t line up straight.”

Hartman rehabbed and returned to football, leading the Leopards offense — and even playing some defense late in the year — as the team made the WPIAL Class 4A title game for the first time since 2009.

The trip to Heinz Field was special, and now Hartman, one of the WPIAL’s most accurate passers last season, has helped the Leopards double down with a return to the WPIAL basketball finals Saturday afternoon at Petersen Events Center.

The No. 6 seed in Class 4A, Belle Vernon (19-6) plays No. 1 Highlands (21-3) at 1 p.m.

“It’s pretty special,” he said.

Belle Vernon hadn’t appeared in a basketball title game 1978, when the Leopards made the Class 3A final and defeated Doug Arnold-led Norwin at Civic Arena.

It remains the program’s lone championship.

“I wanted to come back and play (both sports),” said Hartman, who had nine points and 10 rebounds in a 56-46 win over New Castle in the semifinals. “That six months of rehab was tough, and I had to stay focused. Making it to Heinz and The Pete is like no other.”

Hartman has decided to forego sports if he goes to college. He plans to cut hair for a living. He already has experience working in a local barber shop and said he plans to work there full-time.

Four for Myers?

North Catholic senior basketball player Tess Myers will try to do something few players from Westmoreland County ever will: win four consecutive WPIAL basketball titles.

Myers, a Lower Burrell native, and the Trojanettes (23-1) will go against Southmoreland (24-0) at 7 p.m. Friday at Petersen Events Center for the Class 4A title.

North Catholic has 19 titles overall.

“It means so much to all of us, having the opportunity to make it The Pete four times in a row, knowing other teams have never gotten there just once,” Myers said. “We work really hard day-in and day-out and are ready to the rise to the occasion each time. As long as we play our game — run the court, rebound and play hard each possession — we can win.”

Myers took her place in WPIAL finals lore when she drove the length of the court and scored the winning basket at the buzzer to beat Beaver, 50-49, in the 2018 championship.

Whitlock nears milestone

Belle Vernon’s Devin Whitlock is only a sophomore, but the standout guard already is closing in on 1,000 career points.

Whitlock scored 17 in Wednesday’s win over perennial power New Castle to give him 990 points in about two full seasons.

His scoring has come in bunches, an array of drives to the rim, high floaters in the lane and 3-pointers.

Whitlock scored 487 points last season at Monessen before transferring. Monessen reached the WPIAL and PIAA semifinals in Class A last year.

Assembly for Southmoreland

Southmoreland declined a fire truck-led parade through town and a celebration when it won its first section title since 2007.

The team appreciated the gesture but wanted to wait until it achieved something of greater significance.

Sure, a 22-0 regular season was nice. But two playoff wins that followed to get the Scotties (24-0) into their first WPIAL final, now that is worth some pageantry.

On Friday, before the team heads to Petersen Events Center, there will be several school district-wide pep assemblies to recognize the Scotties.

The players will visit the primary, elementary and middle schools for small celebrations before they return to the high school for a final pregame assembly.

“The season we are having has done so much positive for our school and our community,” coach Brian Pritts said. “I can only imagine what a WPIAL title would do. I think it would be another positive step in helping to establish Southmoreland as a legitimate opponent across the board in all sports. The kids are starting to believe we can compete in our sports’ programs, and they are beginning to work harder to make seasons like this a reality. A strong belief with a strong work ethic is a powerful tool in achieving success.”

Nusser out

Belle Vernon will play its second straight game without senior guard Cam Nusser, the team’s second-leading scorer with 14.2 points per game.

Nusser did not travel with the team Wednesday for the semifinal, and coach Joe Salvino said Nusser won’t play in the WPIAL final Saturday afternoon.

Salvino said Nusser’s absence is not related to the ankle injury he suffered in the first round against Derry.

Belle Vernon got valuable minutes from its bench players in Wednesday’s semifinal win over New Castle.

“Everybody off the bench did a great job — Jake Haney, Daniel Gordon, Thomas Hepple,” Salvino said. “We needed that from them with Cam out.”

Jake Haney, a junior guard, started in place of Nusser. Gordon made two 3-pointers, and Hepple had eight points, including an alley-oop layup from Gordon, and a dunk in the final seconds.

Westmoreland titles

Southmoreland and Belle Vernon will look to join a number of other Westmoreland basketball champions.

Boys teams from the area to claim WPIAL championships are: Monessen (1919, ’23, 1995, 2001, ’02, ’11, ’15, ’17), Irwin (1947, ’48, ’50, ’53, ’54), New Kensington (1930, ’34), Norwin (1963, ’86, ’88), Latrobe (1985), Arnold (1942), Valley (1993), Belle Vernon (1978) and Jeannette (2008).

Local girls teams to win titles include Greensburg Central Catholic (1991, ’97, 2003, ’06, ’07), Monessen (1995, 2004, ’06), Norwin (2015, ’16), Franklin Regional (1977), Jeannette (2010) and Penn-Trafford (2014).

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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