Westmoreland high school basketball notebook: County teams prep for PIAA playoffs

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Thursday, March 1, 2018 | 7:48 PM


The PIAA basketball playoffs will open next Friday and Saturday, and Westmoreland County will be represented by at least seven teams.

An eighth could join the party Saturday.

Boys teams from Franklin Regional (5A), Belle Vernon (4A), Valley (4A), Ligonier Valley (3A) and Jeannette (2A) qualified for the state tournament, along with the Belle Vernon (4A) and Greensburg Central Catholic girls (2A), the latter of which got in with Vincentian's championship win Thursday.

But Hempfield's girls (6A) could qualify if Peters Township upsets North Allegheny in the WPIAL championship Saturday night.

Defense doesn't rest

The WPIAL Class 5A championship game-bound Franklin Regional boys have taken on a defensive identity in the playoffs and that is no accident. First-year coach and alum Steve Scorpion said he first learned about the benefits of defensive acumen when he was an assistant under Matt Furjanic at Polk State (Fla.). He carried it with him to The Kiski School, where he was a head coach, and now with Franklin Regional.

“We went to the state semis at Kiski,” Scorpion said. “Defense was always a big part of what we did. If they buy into defense, they can go a long way.”

Novak's watching

Former Franklin Regional standout Nick Novak was a world away playing professional basketball in Spain late Tuesday when his alma mater downed Highlands, 48-40, to reach the WPIAL title game.

Novak was paying attention and might stay up late Friday to watch the TribLive High School Sports Network broadcast of the final against Mars. He tweeted, “3 a.m. here (Friday) … still might have to do it!”

A visit from Midgley

Former Franklin Regional coach Brad Midgley was in attendance Tuesday at Fox Chapel to see the Panthers defeat Highlands. His successor, Scorpion, invited him into the locker room to see his old players.

“He needed to see his guys,” Scorpion said. “He didn't want to come in at first, but I thought he needed to. A lot of what we've done has to do with him.”

Fisch returns

It must be lent. Franklin Regional will have Fisch on Friday.

Senior Aidan Fisch, who has missed most of the season with a foot injury, ditched his crutches and returned last week. He has given the Panthers quality minutes in the quarterfinals and semifinals.

“He hit a big corner 3 against Highlands,” Scorpion said. “He has really helped us out.”

FR-Highlands Part 4?

Since the WPIAL runner-up and fourth-place team are pre-slotted to meet in the first round of the PIAA 5A playoffs, Franklin Regional could meet Highlands again if the Panthers lose in the WPIAL final.

Johnson out

Jeannette will open the PIAA Class 2A playoffs next Saturday without Anthony Johnson.

The junior guard was ejected from Tuesday's WPIAL semifinal against Our Lady of the Sacred Heart for receiving two technicals, both for comments he made toward officials and fans.

As per PIAA rules, he must sit out the team's next game. The Jayhawks should have junior forward Marcus Barnes back. Barnes was ejected in the quarterfinals, also for two technicals, one for something he said and the other for pushing a Shenango player.

Local tie

There was a local connection in Thursday's WPIAL Class A boys championship game: Vincentian rookie coach Tim Tyree is a Monessen graduate. He also played at Cal (Pa.).

Bill Beckner Jr. is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach him at bbeckner@tribweb.com or via Twitter @BillBeckner.

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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