What to watch for in WPIAL sports on March 9, 2021: Butler, USC meet again

Tuesday, March 9, 2021 | 12:02 AM

Many coaches feel the toughest loss to deal with is the one that comes one step from achieving a team goal like playing for a WPIAL championship. Those harsh defeats begin to mount Tuesday.

The first of three nights of final four basketball tips off with semifinals games from boys 6A, boys A, girls 4A and girls 2A.

Boys final four

• A rivalry is slowly budding between Butler and Upper St. Clair.

The teams are 51 miles apart, but on the boys basketball court the last couple of years, the difference between the two has been razor thin.

The Golden Tornado and Panthers have locked up three times in the last two playoff years, and Butler has prevailed all three times.

In the 2019 Class 6A first round, Butler defeated Upper St. Clair, 75-70. The Golden Tornado advanced to the finals and lost to Mt. Lebanon.

In the 2020 6A semifinals, a controversial blocking foul call near the end of regulation allowed Butler star Ethan Morton a chance to hit two free throws that tied the game, then the Golden Tornado won an overtime thriller, 83-78.

Two weeks later, the two met again in a PIAA second-round playoff game and again, the Golden Tornado found a way to win, 77-73.

This year, the Panthers have been driven by those heartbreaking losses and are 18-1 overall. After a slow start, Butler has come on strong and is 12-8 but has won seven of its last eight games.

• Rochester has reached the Class A final four in an incredible turnaround season.

Its opponent Tuesday knows a little something about turning a program around as well.

In 2004, Leechburg finished in last place in Section 1-AA with an overall record of 6-18. A year later, the Blue Devils finished tied for second place with a 15-7 record and reached the district quarterfinals. Two years later, Leechburg was celebrating a WPIAL championship.

Now Rochester is 13-4 and coming off a Section 1-A title and convincing playoff wins over West Greene and Western Beaver. Last year, the Rams finished 0-21.

All four Class 6A and 2A boys semifinals playoff games Tuesday can be seen only here on Trib HSSN.

Girls semifinals

• When section champions Knoch (10-1) and Beaver (18-0) meet Tuesday with a berth in the WPIAL girls 4A finals at stake, something has to give.

Knoch has the No. 2 offense in Class 4A, averaging nearly 58 points per game. The Knights’ defense is No. 3 in the classification, allowing less than 33 points per game.

Meanwhile, Beaver has the No. 3 offense in 4A, scoring nearly 54 points per game. The Bobcats’ defense, however, has been lights out. Beaver has allowed an average of 25 points per game, the best in the class and in the entire WPIAL.

In fact, only two others teams have allowed under 30 points per game. Trinity has allowed 29.2 per game and Clairton has given up an average of 28.7 points per game.

• Beaver is one of two undefeated teams in the district. The other is Serra Catholic.

In the 2A semifinals, the Eagles will host Winchester Thurston.

The Bears aren’t undefeated; however, all three of their losses have come to good Class 5A teams in Woodland Hills, Oakland Catholic and Penn Hills.

Serra Catholic doubles Winchester Thurston in girls basketball championships, 4-2, but the Bears’ crowns came in 2017 and 2018 while the last title won by the Eagles was in 2005.

All four Class 4A and 2A semifinals games can be seen Tuesday on HSSN.

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