Guido: Kiski Area boys outplaying their WPIAL seed
Every year it seems like there’s a Cinderella team that makes its way through the WPIAL boys basketball brackets.
This season, it’s 13th-seeded Kiski Area.
The Cavaliers, however, aren’t your traditional No. 13 seed that just eked its way into the tournament.
Kiski Area was in the running for the Section 1-AAAA title until the last week of the regular season, losing twice to eventual section champ Hempfield.
The Class AAAA bracket is so loaded with talented teams this year that a quality team like Central Catholic is sitting at home.
But the Cavaliers have made the most of their playoff opportunity, beating Plum and Gateway from Section 2.
Kiski Area is the only non-Section 3 team in the semifinals.
Looming Wednesday is top-seeded New Castle, which is pushing toward its third straight WPIAL title.
The Red Hurricanes have won 44 straight games against WPIAL teams and 80 of their last 82 contests overall.
Upsets do occur, though.
On Feb. 15 in the PIAA District 1 first round, 30th-seeded Wissahickon beat No. 3-seeded Great Valley, 55-51, in what is being regarded as one of the biggest upsets in state playoff history by the Philadelphia area media.
As for Kiski Area, the Cavaliers have been in the WPIAL semifinals twice, once in 2002 when they lost to New Castle at Palumbo Center.
The other occasion was in 1986 when Kiski Area defeated Connellsville at Fitzgerald Field House.
Big-time point guards
Say what you will about the level of scholastic basketball talent in Western Pennsylvania, but two point guards from schools in the Pittsburgh region have been prominently featured in Sports Illustrated articles over the past few weeks.
Chartiers Valley graduate T.J. McConnell is running the floor show at Arizona, ranked third in the country.
Schenley grad DeAndre Kane of No. 15 Iowa State was featured more recently. Kane played on Schenley’s 2007 PIAA Class AAAA championship team that included Dallas Mavericks forward DeJuan Blair.
Nobody is expecting to return to the days like 1971, when 17 players from the WPIAL and the Pittsburgh City League, such as Schenley’s Maurice Lucas, who went to Marquette, and Clairton’s Jonathan Marshall, who played for Penn State, earned Division I basketball scholarships.
But the caliber of talent in this region is better than some give credit for.
Player to watch
One young basketball player local fans should keep an eye on is 6-foot-7 freshman Ben Pollock of Evangel Heights Christian Academy.
Pollock scored 21 points and grabbed 19 rebounds Saturday night as the Eagles dropped the Southwest Christian Athletic Conference title game to Cheswick Christian Academy.
The youngster made some power moves to the hoop and just needs some time to develop basketball savvy.
Pollock is the son of former Penn State player Bill Pollock, who played for the Nittany Lions in the mid-1980s under coach Bruce Parkhill.
The elder Pollock is 6-10, so Ben might grow a little more.
Up to now, the most well-known player to come out of Evangel Heights is Micah Mason, currently a guard at Duquesne.
Micah’s father, John, founded the boys basketball program at the Buffalo Township school, and his mother, Karen, inaugurated girls basketball there a little more than 10 years ago.
When Micah was in second grade, he played against seventh- and eighth-graders from other schools until the league moved in and said he couldn’t play at the older level.
Micah then transferred to the Highlands School District, and the rest is history.
George Guido is a Valley News Dispatch scholastic sports correspondent. His column appears Wednesdays.