WPIAL seeds Fox Chapel above Upper St. Clair despite late-season loss

Tuesday, February 11, 2020 | 11:49 PM

More than two dozen times, Upper St. Clair coach Danny Holzer has traveled to Green Tree to see the boys basketball playoff brackets revealed.

He left this year more stunned than ever.

After Upper St. Clair defeated Bethel Park, Mt. Lebanon and Fox Chapel in an eight-day, schedule-ending span, Holzer believed his team would be seeded higher than fourth, but that wasn’t the case when the WPIAL Class 6A bracket was displayed Tuesday night at the DoubleTree.

Upper St. Clair (19-3) was fourth, Mt. Lebanon (16-6) was third, Fox Chapel (21-1) was second and Butler (17-4) was first.

“I didn’t think it was even debatable, looking at it objectively,” Holzer said. “Look at strength of schedule and strength of section. Not anyone’s opinion, just the facts.”

USC won 61-46 at Fox Chapel on Friday, but the WPIAL basketball committee didn’t downgrade the Foxes for that nonsection loss. Instead, the committee rewarded Fox Chapel for winning Section 3 with a perfect 10-0 record.

Butler and Fox Chapel were the only undefeated section champions in Class 6A. Section 2 champion Mt. Lebanon had one section loss and runner-up Upper St. Clair had two.

“The debate was between who was No. 1 and who was No. 2: Butler or Fox Chapel?” said WPIAL basketball committee chairman Bill Cardone, athletic director at Hampton.

Butler had four nonsection losses, but some came with Purdue recruit Ethan Morton sidelined with an ankle injury, a fact the committee took into consideration. Once Butler was seeded first, Fox Chapel was second.

“We didn’t think one loss constituted dropping them so low,” Cardone said.

That was one of the many decisions made by the 15-person WPIAL basketball committee as it put together boys and girls brackets for all six classifications. Combined, 147 teams qualified for the playoffs with 40 schools sending both its boys and girls teams to the postseason.

The playoffs begin Friday for some classifications while others don’t start play until early next week. The finals are Feb. 27-29 at Petersen Events Center.

Also receiving No. 1 seeds in the boys brackets were Penn Hills in Class 5A, Highlands in 4A, Lincoln Park in 3A, Our Lady of the Sacred Heart in 2A and Vincentian Academy in A.

The top girls seeds went to Bethel Park in Class 6A, Chartiers Valley in 5A, North Catholic in 4A, Beaver in 3A, Serra Catholic in 2A and Rochester in A.

“The committee has people from all over Western Pennsylvania who see a lot of basketball games,” Cardone said. “They all have a lot of good input into what we do.”

The Class 6A boys bracket wasn’t their only debate.

Class 4A also required additional work to arrange Highlands, Knoch, Quaker Valley, Uniontown and Blackhawk in that order, Cardone said. Highlands and Knoch, co-champions in Section 1, were first and second in the TribLive HSSN rankings.

The most-debated decision in the girls brackets was seeding Southmoreland second in Class 4A, just ahead of Beaver County powers Central Valley and Blackhawk.

Fox Chapel coach Zach Skrinjar agreed with the committee’s 6A boys decision. The Foxes were 20-0 before losing to USC. If going undefeated in your section isn’t rewarded, then why have sections, he asked?

“We had four bad minutes,” Skrinjar said. “Upper St. Clair is a really good team. But at the end of the day, you can go through many scenarios and see who they lost to and who we beat. We’re going to play who we’re going to play. We can’t wait to play in the playoffs.”

Fox Chapel draws the winner of No. 7 Central Catholic and No. 10 Penn-Trafford. Upper St. Clair will play either No. 5 Pine-Richland or No. 12 Connellsville.

Upper St. Clair’s section was arguably the strongest in 6A and Fox Chapel’s was the weakest. Teams from Section 3 were seeded third, fourth, sixth and ninth in the 12-team bracket. The three other qualifiers from Fox Chapel’s section were slotted eighth, 10th and 12th.

Soon after the brackets were revealed, Holzer was ready to move on.

“We’ll go to practice tomorrow and I’ll say, ‘This is the seed we got, this is who we’re going to play the winner of, let’s get ready,” Holzer said. “We’ll prepare for what’s put in front of us.”

Chris Harlan is a Tribune-Review Staff Writer. You can contact Chris by email at charlan@tribweb.com or via Twitter .

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