Westmoreland notebook: Belle Vernon boys basketball builds on last season’s success

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Saturday, February 13, 2021 | 6:11 PM


Think of the pressure.

Belle Vernon boys basketball made the WPIAL finals for the first time since 1978 last season and won a PIAA playoff game for the first time since ‘81.

This year’s Leopards carried the unenviable burden of following that group into 2020-21, in the shadow of the covid-19 pandemic no less.

No sweat for Belle Vernon, whose current rotation is being touted as a better one than the scene-stealers of a season ago. And that is saying something.

The Leopards (9-1), averaging 69.4 points to lead Class 4A, are a highlight machine driven by junior point guard Devin Whitlock and a number of other scorers who are more than complementary pieces to a puzzle that once looked scattered about.

A head-turning win over Class 5A No. 1 New Castle last week vaulted the Leopards into the state’s elite conversation.

They are the Trib’s No. 1 team in WPIAL Class 4A, they’re No. 1 in the TribLive HSSN overall power rankings and they have moved to No. 3 in the state.

Coach Joe Salvino, who doesn’t get too wrapped up in hype, just wants his players to stay grounded and maintain their progression.

“Well it’s nice to be thought of as one of the best teams in the state,” he said. “Now all we have to do is keep showing that we are.”

Two more for Yacamelli

Recruiting is beginning to heat up for Penn-Trafford junior football player Cade Yacamelli. The running back and defensive back is seeing increased interest from the Ivy League.

Columbia and Brown extended offers to Yacamelli, who has a FBS offer from Navy.

The Ivy League does not offer athletic scholarships, but Yacamelli has the grades to earn academic aid. He also has offers to play at Harvard and Penn, giving him four FCS opportunities.

The 5-foot-11, 190-pound Yacamelli was the second-leading rusher last season for Penn-Trafford with 680 yards and eight touchdowns.

Spartans rolling

The Hempfield hockey team is riding a five-game winning streak, and the Spartans (10-1) have taken a five-point lead over Franklin Regional (7-4) in the PIHL Class AA Southeast Division. Senior forward Nick Wast and junior forward Zach Ridilla each scored two goals as the Spartans edged South Fayette, 6-5, for an impressive win.

Matt Overdorff made 23 saves in net for Hempfield, which has 68 goals, the second most in Class AA.

Hempfield hosts Franklin Regional on Thursday night at Kirk Nevin Arena.

Going streaking

The legend of the Burrell wrestling team grew Saturday when the Buccaneers captured their 15th straight WPIAL championship. The title streak is the longest by a Westmoreland County program, but only by two years.

Norwin girls volleyball won 13 consecutive titles from 1973-85.

Bethel Park girls swimming owns the longest championship streak with 20 titles in a row from 1981-2000.

Recruiting

Yough senior Gamal Marballie announced he will attend Steel City Prep in Pittsburgh as he stamps down a path to college football. The standout running back, who played some quarterback for the Cougars, had interest from Division III programs Bethany and Waynesburg.

A second-year program, Steel City Prep charges tuition to athletes who are then promised to get college exposure. They play games against similar programs and do not lose NCAA eligibility.

Jeannette alum Imani Sanders went there last year and stood out as a wide receiver.

• Norwin senior tight end Tanner Krevokuch will play at Division II Fairmont State (W.Va.). He said Fairmont became an option in December when the school offered a scholarship out of the blue.

He visited the campus in early January and was hooked. He committed and signed on Feb. 3.

Krevokuch, who had a Division I offer from Central Michigan pulled, mulled over a preferred walk-on opportunity with Pitt, but felt closer to Fairmont.

• Alexa Feorene, a senior defensive specialist/libero from Franklin Regional, will play college volleyball at Kutztown.

• Hempfield senior Kendra Winkleblech will continue her track and cross country career at York College.

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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