No. 1 Monessen will face California-Cornell winner
GREEN TREE – Being the two-time defending WPIAL champion doesn’t hurt.
Neither does playing one of the tougher non-section schedules.
Tuesday night the two added up to the Monessen High boys being the top seed in Class A for the third straight year at the annual WPIAL basketball playoff pairings meeting at the Radisson Hotel.
The news really didn’t come as much of a surprise to Monessen coach Joe Salvino, who’s never missed the post-season in his 17 years as the Greyhounds’ boss and has had the No. 1 seed six times.
“I thought we had a pretty good shot of being the top seed,” admitted Salvino. “I can remember Chuck Heberling (former WPIAL executive secretary) telling me a long time ago that the team’s strength of schedule was a big factor.”
The Greyhounds’ exhibition schedule was loaded with Class AAAA teams as well as Class AAA power Uniontown and three of Class A’s better teams, Sewickley Academy, Duquesne and California.
Larry Hanley, Heberling’s successor, didn’t think putting the Greyhounds at the top of the bracket would create any waves even though Monessen lost its last two away games.
“It wasn’t an easy call but Monessen deserved it on their track record and performance last year,” said Hanley.
Like recent years, the Greyhounds will have to play the waiting game since they won’t make their debut until next Friday or Saturday (Feb.21-22) against the winner of Tuesday’s 8 p.m. California-Cornell game at South Fayette.
“I don’t like the long layoff because the kids get out of the mode,” said Salvino. “We’ll try to get the intensity up in practice.”
The time off, however, will help two players – Robert Youngblood and Jeremy Bassett, who’ve been hampered by ankle injuries.
Although Monessen split with Cornell and beat California, Salvino will be at South Fayette Tuesday.
“I don’t have to scout them but I will definitely be there,” he said.
Meanwhile, second-year California coach Steve Luko doesn’t know what to think after his Trojans were seeded eighth despite winning a section title with a victory over Geibel in their finale.
“I’m pretty satisfied,” he said. “I was figuring we’d get Cornell, Rochester or Serra.”
Last year California surprised Union in the first round before losing to Monessen in the quarterfinals.
“The fact that we played two games last year is a big plus for us,” noted Luko. “We return four starters and they know what to expect.”
Clairton is the No. 2 seed followed by Sewickley Academy and Monaca.
Meanwhile, Yough coach Brian Znavor was pleased to hear that his Cougars won’t play until Monday at 6:30 p.m. against Hopewell at Steel Valley.
“I was hoping we wouldn’t have to play Saturday because Clint (Loughner) is getting his cast off today and if the x-rays are okay we’ll have him back.”
A three-year starter, Loughner was averaging 15 points before breaking a bone in his wrist and missing 14 games.
“We lost five straight when Clint went out,” said Znavor. “It was a tough adjustment without him but we played well down the stretch.”
Yough is seeded 11th while Hopewell is sixth.
Blackhawk is the team-to-beat followed by Uniontown, Knoch and Steel Valley.
Bentworth plays Shenango at 1 p.m. Saturday at North Hills in a Class AA pigtail contest.
PLAYOFF NOTES: Ringgold will get the Class AAAA boys game between Hempfield and Peters Township Monday at 8 p.m. with Monessen the site of Tuesday’s Duquesne-Geibel contest…Upper st. Clair, Penn Hills, Connellsville and Hempfield are the top four Class AAAA seeds with Aliquippa, Beaver Falls, Sto-Rox and Wilkinsburg the top four in Class AA.