Streaky Pine-Richland enters the playoffs on roll
Mt. Lebanon coach Joe David feels confident about his team’s WPIAL playoff game with Pine-Richland on Monday.
“They are a team that, if we play well, we can beat them,” he said. “I’m sure they feel the same way about us.”
Mt. Lebanon (15-8), the No. 11 seed in the 17-team bracket, will meet streaking Pine-Richland (18-6) at 8 p.m. in the first round of the WPIAL Class AAAA boys basketball playoffs.
The survivor will clinch a spot in the state playoffs and earn a quarterfinal date against either No. 4 Connellsville or Norwin.
Pine-Richland, the No. 6 seed, has only lost twice in the past six weeks — at Class AAAA playoff qualifier North Hills and at Class AAA No. 1 Blackhawk. The Rams are 10-2 in that span. They tied New Castle for the Section 3-AAAA title and should have the majority of the crowd on Monday, playing at neighboring North Allegheny.
Pine-Richland has relied on defense and hustle to overcome a 3-5 start and reach the Class AAAA playoffs for the second time in three years. The Rams have held 14 successive WPIAL opponents to 61 points or fewer.
“When we are active and really getting after it, we’re a pretty good team,” coach Dave DeGregorio said
Two of Pine-Richland’s starters are known more for their achievements on the football field. Senior forward Kevin McCabe, a University of Virginia quarterback recruit, and junior Neil Walker, an all-conference wide receiver, led the Rams to the WPIAL Class AAA title game at Heinz Field.
Both continued their winning ways on the court. Walker, a 6-foot-2 swingman with good shooting range, averages a team-best 17.0 points per game. The Rams also feature junior guard Kyle Opitz (16.2 ppg) and 6-4 senior forward Matt Andrle.
Mt. Lebanon, which advanced past the first round last season to end a four-year run of early playoff dismissals, will counter with Bill Babe. The smooth-shooting 5-11 junior guard averages 19.4 points per game.
“He’ll be the primary focus of what we’re going to do,” DeGregorio said.
Sophomore guards Geoff Kestler (11.0 ppg) and Brett Stokar (10 ppg) are consistent scorers for Mt. Lebanon. Senior forwards Travis Bluemling (6-4) and Zach Beebe (6-5, 265) will enjoy a size advantage over Pine-Richland, which has only one regular over 6-2.
Mt. Lebanon, which finished tied for second place with Baldwin and Chartiers Valley in rugged Section 5, tuned up for the playoffs with a 74-66 victory over Aliquippa, the top seed in the WPIAL Class AA.
The victory avenged a loss to Aliquippa in the 2002-03 opener and concluded a brutal regular season. The Blue Devils met top scorers Darrelle Revis of Aliquippa, Dale Meinbresse of Upper St. Clair, Jerry Harness of Chartiers Valley a total of six times this year. They also confronted 6-10 Andrew Atman of Upper St. Clair and 6-7 Dan Muto of Keystone Oaks, and traveled to Section 3-AAAA co-champion New Castle, a 71-70 loss.
“We’ve played enough big games at this stage of the year that there isn’t a whole lot they haven’t seen,” David said. “I feel pretty comfortable. I’m not overly confident, but I feel the team has been prepared for the playoffs. We’ve just got to come out and play hard and play our game.”
|WPIAL Quad A playoffs|