March Madness is alive and well for WPIAL

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Gateway’s 6-foot-10 center Barnett Harris is unselfish, perhaps to a fault. He could probably average 30 points a game if he wanted, but realizes his team would not be as successful. Harris understands, however, that he is the team’s leader and does try to set the tone. He just keeps his emotions under wrap in games.

He comes by his basketball ability honestly. His father, Barnett, was a standout at Duquesne University.

victory
VICTORY DANCE—Tyler Wright does a victory dance around the WPIAL AAAA trophy as his Gateway teammates celebrate their 58-43 win over Chartiers Valley. It was the Gators’ first WPIAL basketball title. (Courier photos/William McBride)

Harris, Devon Cottrell, a 6-foot-7 forward and Tyler Scott, a 6-foot-6 guard invited Chartiers Valley to their “block party.” The Gators are undefeated whenever the BIG-3 has 20 or more combined rebounds and blocked shots.

Chartiers Valley (20-6) was going for back-to-back WPIAL boys’ basketball titles, looking to take home the Quad-A crown after winning Class AAA last year. But, it was Gateway (22-4) who won their first WPIAL basketball championship in the school’s history 58-43 at Duquesne University’s A.J. Palumbo Center on March 5.

Scott, playing in his third game after being suspended seven games for academic reasons, scored 20 points. He is famous for his coast-to-coast dunks and the human highlight-reel already has a spot on YouTube. Harris chipped in with 11 points.

In his sixth year as head coach, Mitch Adams has turned around the basketball program at a school that has a well-earned reputation as a football powerhouse, having dominated Class AAAA for most of the past several decades. Tough love has always been Adams’ calling card. He’s an in-your-face drill sergeant and it’s his way or the highway.

“When you deal with kids, you have to deal with hormones, you have to deal with school, with family, with everything,” Adams said. “If we win states this season, Duquesne and Pitt ought to give me an honorary doctorate in psychology.”

Gateway led at halftime 29-19 before Chartiers Valley went on a 12-2 run in the third quarter to cut the lead to four points.

During the run, Chartiers Valley’s Wayne “The Caped Crusader” Capers scored five consecutive points. But the Gators dominated the fourth quarter and outscored the Colts 17-6.

“I named Wayne Capers the Caped Crusader when I watched him as a sophomore quarterback against West Mifflin,” said MSA announcer Jonathan Whaley. “I am just amazed how he was able to come back and play at a high level only five months after ACL knee surgery.”

With the Gators carrying as many as four Division I prospects on their roster, the sky is truly the limit for this bunch.

This kind of talent in general, let alone on one team, hasn’t been seen in these parts too often, if ever, in recent years. Schenley’s run with DeJuan and Greg Blair, D. J. Kennedy, Deandre Kane and Jamaal Bryant a couple years back was the rare exception.

The Gators top five by a combined average are actually taller than Pitt’s starting five.

“Gateway reminds me of some of the great Schenley teams,” said former Parade All-American B.B. Flenory. “They remind me of the team that featured Jeep Kelly, Maurice Lucas and Ricky Coleman.”

“Nothing surprises me about this team,” said Adams. “They have listened all season to the talk that they can’t do this or do that. The heck with everybody right now. We’re on top of the mountain.”

Shaler upsets

Mt. Lebanon

Shaler (26-2) stopped Mt. Lebanon (22-6) from winning back-to-back-to-back championships. Mt. Lebanon, the defending 2-time WPIAL and state champion held a commanding 18-9 halftime lead.

The Shaler twins Hilary and Haley Sauer led the second half comeback to capture the Class AAAA championship 41-35. Shaler held Blue Devils star and Notre Dame recruit Madison Cable to 12 points.

Mt. Lebanon will play Pittsburgh City League champion Allderdice in round one of the PIAA playoffs.

Blackhawk gets title and 600th victory

Alexa Hayward led Blackhawk (21-5) over Ambridge (20-7) to win the WPIAL Class AAA championship 63-49. Hayward, a Saint Francis recruit, scored 22 points. This was the fifth girls basketball title for the Blackhawk and also the program’s 600th victory. Overall, the school has won 14 WPIAL basketball titles.

Fort Cherry comes up short against the ­Trojanettes

With, North Catholic alumnus Mayor Luke Ravenstahl, his wife and son in attendance, the North Catholic Trojanettes (19-7) captured their 16th WPIAL championship by defending Fort Cherry (22-4), 49-43.

Fort Cherry, near McDonald, is known for having famous alumni. Marvin Lewis (Cincinnati Bengals head coach), Perry Kemp (former Green Bay Packer), Ray Kemp (Pitt 1976 National championship team), Dick Haley (former Pittsburgh Steelers GM and father of Todd Haley, who is the head coach of the Kansas City Chiefs) and Marty Schottenheimer (former NFL head coach).

The Rangers are also known because of the Bellhy family. Nate, a 6-foot-6 senior averaged 27 points per game for the boys. Rebekah and Rachel lead the Lady Rangers. Fort Cherry has a great tradition of coming up short. Despite all the NFL football connections they have never won a WPIAL football or basketball championship. The streak is alive and well.

Kendall Hoffman led the Trojanettes with 15 points and ­Rebekah Bellhy led the Lady Rangers with 13 points.

Monessen bullies ­Centurions minus the Stepoli brothers

The Monessen Greyhounds (23-2) easily bullied top seed Greensburg Central Catholic (23-3), 63-43 to win the Class AA title. It is the sixth WPIAL title in Monessen school history and coach Joe Salvino has 503 victories in his 27-year career.

Jesse Reed, a 6-foot-5 point guard, led Greensburg Central Catholic with 20points.

“We are the highest scoring team in the WPIAL and we didn’t play our game,” said Jimmy Lee Santorella, of WHJB radio in Greensburg. “We shot the ball very poorly, but we will bounce back in the PIAA’s.”

The lineup for Greensburg Central Catholic wasn’t totally weak, but it pales in comparison to the all-star lineup that featured the Stepoli brothers to open the season.

Terrance and Josh Stepoli are all-state football and basketball players, who sat with their father and sister on the Monessen side on Saturday. Terrance left Monessen last January (2010) and transferred to Greensburg Central Catholic. A few weeks later, his younger brother, Josh left Monessen’s basketball team and transferred to Greensburg Central Catholic.

They played football and were starters on the basketball team, but decided to leave the team in January (2011). Greensburg Central coaches said it was because the Stepolis wanted to concentrate more on lifting weights for football. Now, they are headed back to Monessen. Terrance is a senior. But Josh is a 6-foot-7 junior with one more year of high school. Division I colleges are very interested in him for football.

With Gateway, Allderdice, Chartiers Valley, Montour, Vincentian Academy and Monessen all entering the PIAA state tournament. Marc
h Madness is alive and well.

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