Don’t misunderstand Beaver Falls’ motivation to move.
“We don’t think we’re too good for Double-A,” said coach Doug Biega, who voluntarily took his team to Class AAA this season. “We just think it was a change the program needed.”
With a track record that includes two WPIAL titles in the past three years, and with a young, talented lineup in place, Beaver Falls is positioned well for a switch to the larger classification.
Still, Biega expects the decision to be polarizing.
“There are people who want the little guy to do well in the bigger setting,” he said. “But there’s also going to be a lot of people who want us to fail, thinking it was a move of arrogance, which couldn’t be further from the truth.”
The main motivation was shorter travel times and better rivalries, Biega said. Either way, it’s Class AAA that must deal with them now. With Class AAAA finalists New Castle and Hampton also joining this year, Class AAA has some new playoff contenders.
“Our expectations are always to win the WPIAL and state championship,” Biega said. “We want to be the last team standing no matter what classification we’re in. … You don’t make this move if you think your cupboard is bare.”
Beaver Falls has three starters back from last season’s lineup that went 20-8 and reached the WPIAL semifinals. Two of the three are only sophomores: Donovan Jeter (6-foot-5) and Josh Creach (6-6) start in the frontcourt. The guards are senior Javon Turner, freshman Torian Leak and senior Zach Duffy, a transfer from Blackhawk.
“Very rarely are you extremely young with experience,” Biega said, “but we are.”
Beaver Falls left a Class AA section heavy with Lawrence County teams for a schedule filled mostly with Beaver County schools. With Ambridge, Beaver, Blackhawk, Central Valley, Ellwood City, Hopewell and New Castle on the team’s section schedule, Biega expects more community excitement for his program.
“The irony of (recent seasons) was we would fill everyone’s gym except ours,” Biega said. “Our fans weren’t interested in who we were playing, quite honestly.
“If it wasn’t Aliquippa or New Brighton, they weren’t interested in the game.”
Beaver Falls joins the most accomplished section in Class AAA. With the Tigers included, the group has won six WPIAL titles in the past three seasons. New Castle owns three straight. Central Valley won last season.
“I really think we’ll have a lot of big crowds this year,” Biega said. “There’s just so much local interest and rivalries and history. I couldn’t be more excited.”