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WPIAL basketball committee rewards teams that avoid ‘cupcake schedules’

Chris Harlan
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Christopher Horner | Tribune-Review
Aliquippa’s MJ Devonshire drives to the basket past Lincoln Park’s Keeno Holmes and Andre Wilder during their game Tuesday, Dec. 18, 2018, at Aliquippa High School.

Good losses could be better than bad wins, at least in the eyes of the WPIAL basketball committee.

“We look at who you play,” said Peters Township athletic director Brian Geyer, chairman of the WPIAL basketball committee. “Are you going to play a cupcake schedule and be 20-2? Or are you going to go reach and play some teams? If you’re 13-9 and you’ve played some teams and you’ve played up several classifications, that’s definitely worth something.”

Strength of schedule played a noticeable role in shaping the 12 WPIAL basketball brackets revealed Tuesday night at the annual pairing meeting in Green Tree.

Consider the Aliquippa boys, who went 14-7, finished second in Section 1 and still earned the No. 2 overall seed in Class 3A. On Aliquippa’s nonsection schedule was a victory over Sewickley Academy and losses to Allderdice, Butler, Our Lady of the Sacred Heart and Moon.

Section records were important, but the committee also rewarded teams that accepted a challenge.

“There are a lot of teams that are playing better classifications and better opponents,” Geyer said. “Schools have moved away from just getting that 20-0 record.”

No boys teams finished the regular season undefeated. Mars and Moon were the closest at 21-1. The only unbeaten basketball teams were the Peters Township and Chartiers Valley girls, who earned the top seed in Class 6A and 5A, respectively.

Also receiving top seeds among the girls teams were North Catholic (4A), Neshannock (3A), Bishop Canevin (2A) and West Greene (A). The No. 1 boys seeds went to Pine-Richland (6A), Mars (5A), New Castle (4A), Lincoln Park (3A), Our Lady of the Sacred Heart (2A) and Vincentian Academy (A).

The four-round tournaments begin Friday for some classifications. The finals are Feb. 28-March 2 at Petersen Events Center.

The No. 1 seeds were easy decisions for the committee, but there were debates farther down the brackets.

In Class 6A and 5A boys, the conversation started with who deserved No. 2? Latrobe (18-2) ultimately drew the second spot over Mt. Lebanon (19-3) in 6A because the Wildcats were undefeated in their section. Penn Hills (19-3) was seeded second over Moon (21-1) in 5A for the same reason.

In Class 6A girls, the committee seeded section co-champions North Allegheny and Norwin second and third with NA drawing the slightly better spot as a defending WPIAL champion.

Strength of schedule was a factor in awarding Upper St. Clair the No. 4 seed and a first-round bye in Class 6A. USC lost to Fox Chapel head to head Feb. 8, but still was seeded higher than the Foxes.

“They’ve gone and played a lot of great opponents,” Geyer said of USC (19-3), which owns nonsection wins over Allderdice, Pine-Richland and Chartiers Valley.

Butler was seeded fifth and Fox Chapel sixth.

“We kind of looked at the body of work Fox Chapel had throughout the season and we just felt that the other ones kind of were better,” said committee member Bill Cardone, Hampton’s athletic director.

In 14 years as the WPIAL’s executive director, Tim O’Malley said he doesn’t remember a smoother bracket-building process than this year’s. The reason, O’Malley said, was that current and former committee chairmen Geyer, Cardone and Dan O’Neil did their homework in advance.

The trio held a conference call on Sunday and then presented their ideas to the entire basketball steering committee on Monday.

“They went through the records, they broke it down and they came in with a presentation to the full committee (Monday) with the brackets,” O’Malley said. “They streamlined it all. It was the most efficiently run, the smoothest run.”

In fact, O’Malley said other WPIAL steering committees might want to consider that approach.

“Typically what happens is you ask, ‘Who’s the No. 1 team in 4A?’” O’Malley said. “I think, I think, I think. It’s a half an hour later and we still don’t know who No. 1 is.”

Chris Harlan is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Chris at [email protected] or via Twitter @CHarlan_Trib.