A-K Valley basketball notebook: Teams stay busy during layoff
Not expecting a long layoff before his team’s WPIAL playoff opener, Deer Lakes boys basketball coach Terence Parham waited to begin talking with fellow coaches about a potential pre-playoff scrimmage.
Then came the release of the bracket, which put the Lancers’ Class 4A first-round game against Ambridge on Wednesday — a full nine days after their regular-season finale at Burrell.
“It’s weird because in my mind I figured we would be playing this week,” Parham said. “But you do like the time. Your guys can get their legs back under them, so to speak, and work on some things that you might not have had time to work on if you were playing this week.”
While seven Alle-Kiski Valley teams will play Friday and Saturday, the opening two days of the playoffs, the other eight qualifiers won’t begin the postseason until next week. Fox Chapel and Highlands have the longest waits because of their first-round byes.
While Burrell boys coach Shawn Bennis said he likes playing right away — the Bucs face Riverside on Friday night — the teams with the extra time will use it much as Parham plans to: scrimmaging other playoff-bound teams, scouting unfamiliar first-round opponents, getting extra rest and tweaking some parts of their own games.
“We’re going to stay sharp, and we’re just going to be ready to play when it comes our time to go,” said Highlands coach Tyler Stoczynski, whose team will play Laurel Highlands or West Allegheny in the Class 5A quarterfinals Feb. 23.
A few Alle-Kiski Valley basketball teams will face rematches in their first-round games.
The Plum girls will play Trinity in a Class 6A game Friday at North Hills; Trinity won their first-round matchup, 61-20, last season. Freeport’s girls play Elizabeth Forward in a Class 4A first-round game Saturday at Fox Chapel; Freeport won a 56-50 overtime game last season. Freeport’s boys play South Fayette in a Class 4A first-round game on Wednesday; South Fayette won 63-60 last season.
The Freeport and South Fayette boys also met on this season’s opening weekend. South Fayette again won by three points, this time on a buzzer-beater.
“We’ve wanted some revenge for a while now,” Freeport’s Ben Beale said.
More potential rematches loom in the quarterfinals: St. Joseph and Quigley Catholic in Class A girls, Leechburg and Chartiers-Houston in Class 2A girls, Freeport and Blackhawk in 4A girls and Highlands and Laurel Highlands in 5A boys.
With 31 more points, Leechburg senior Mikayla Lovelace will join an exclusive club in Alle-Kiski Valley girls basketball history.
Lovelace enters the Blue Devils’ Class 2A first-round game against Frazier with 1,969 points and can become just the third girls basketball player in A-K Valley history to reach 2,000. The current club includes Lizzie Suwala (2,268 career points) and Kelly Morda (2,020), both Ford City graduates.
A senior guard and IUP recruit, Lovelace averages 24 points. She ranks as Leechburg’s career scoring leader, boys or girls. Mickey Morandini previously held the record.
Apollo-Ridge senior Megan Ost hit a milestone of her own recently, reaching 1,000 career points in the Vikings’ 58-57 nonsection loss to Greensburg Salem last week.
Ost, a Carlow recruit, scored 25 points. For the season, the 6-foot-1 center is averaging 16.7 points and 10.8 rebounds. She has 1,029 career points heading into Apollo-Ridge’s Class 3A first-round playoff game Wednesday against Charleroi.
When Burrell’s Donovan Russell posted a triple-double earlier this season that included 10 blocks, it prompted a social media frenzy from his teammates that included the hashtag “#DaddysSwamp.”
Turns out the phrase has video game roots: It’s based off junior Luke Kastelic’s player creation in the NBA 2K video game series, a 7-foot-2 center.
“He’s dressed up completely country with the flannel jeans, boots and beard, (and he’s called) daddy,” Russell said. “And whenever we play in MyPark (an online game mode), he just blocks basically everything and always yells about how the paint is ‘Daddy’s swamp.’ ”
Whether it’s the paint, the swamp or the perimeter, Burrell is excelling on defense. The Section 3-3A tri-champion Bucs are yielding 48.9 points heading into Friday’s Class 3A first-round game against Riverside.