Home games spice up PIAA tournament
Usually, a PIAA basketball playoff game means extensive travel to various parts of the state.
For Valley, however, it’s a short trip for tonight’s state playoff game against Oliver.
In fact, all the Vikings have to do is step outside their locker room.
That’s because, for the first time in 24 years, the PIAA has scheduled playoff games on the home floor of several schools, including all 10 WPIAL boys and girls teams that are scheduled for preliminary-round games. The hope is to reduce the travel for teams and fans and get a larger crowd.
Tonight’s 7 p.m. contest will send the winner into the first round of the main tournament. One of 20 games around the state will take place in New Kensington, as Valley (15-9) will play host to Oliver (16-8), the No. 2 Class AAA team from the City League. The winner will play Farrell (21-4) on Friday night at Sharon High School.
When Highlands upset No. 1-ranked Chartiers Valley last Tuesday, Valley senior guard Bryan Rayburg met Highlands standout Jeff Sinclair with a big hug on the sidelines because the Golden Rams’ victory enabled the Vikings to gain a berth in the PIAA tournament as the eighth seed from the WPIAL.
But simply playing on the home floor doesn’t guarantee a victory. Rayburg and fellow senior starters Troy Hill and Tyreese Collins must help get the team ready to play a school it lost to when they were sophomores. On March 9, 2007, Oliver defeated Valley in an opening-round PIAA game, 81-63, at Brashear High School.
“We’re used to playing at different sites, so I’m not sure of the advantage,” Valley coach Vern Benson said. “You’ve still got to play the game. We’re just as good away as we’ve been at home.”
Benson acquired a videotape of Oliver over the weekend, and he discovered that its attack rarely varies from year to year.
“They’re very good and very athletic,” Benson said. “Like most City teams, they press you up and down the floor.”
Benson gave his players a week off after the Feb. 20 game, a loss to Highlands.
PIAA Class AAA play-in
Who: Oliver (16-8) at Valley (15-9).
When: 7 tonight.
Fast facts: The winner of this game enters the 32-team bracket and will play Farrell at 7:30 p.m. Friday at Sharon High School. … Valley finished sixth in the WPIAL, while Oliver lost to Perry in the City League semifinals. … Oliver last played Feb. 24, and Valley hasn’t played since Feb. 20. … Oliver is the highest scoring team in the City League, averaging 64.8 points per game. Valley averages 61.2 ppg.