Wednesday, December 26, 2012

More on Morgan's milestone

This was perhaps the easiest Athlete of the Week selection since I've been here.

You can read about Carmichaels senior Morgan Berardi in Thursday's Observer-Reporter, after Berardi notched her 1,000th-career point during last Friday's 48-35 home win over Charleroi.

Berardi is the sixth Carmichaels girls basketball player to reach 1,000, joining a group that includes: Donna Pascuzzo (1980), Angie Tekavic (1982), Abby McMinn (2001), Megan Stuvek (2007) and Jordan Duke (2009).

But while I wrote mostly about Berardi's scoring ability, she's quite the passer, too. With 439 career assists, Berardi needs just 10 more to break the program record -- piece of cake, considering she's averaging seven of 'em per game.

I asked Berardi to describe herself as a player, and it's not hard to tell who the Mikes trust with the basketball in key situations.

"Everyone freaks out if I don't have the ball," Berardi said. "Caroline (Cree) can handle the ball pretty well, too, but other girls, if they get ball, they're always like, 'Where's Morgan at?' I guess I'm the ball-handler. I try to feed the ball inside to Amanda Brown, who's really good inside. I like passing the ball."

According to Mikes coach Jim Lane, Berardi could also reach as high as No. 2 on the all-time scoring list if she keeps up her current pace of 20.1 points per game.

There was another interesting quote from Berardi that I couldn't quite fit in there. I asked her what her emotions were like after getting her 1,000th point -- exciting, yes, but Berardi was trying to focus on the game ... seriously.

"It was definitely really exciting," Berardi said. "I was trying not to think about it a lot; I was just trying to play the game. But it was exciting when I got it. I think my teammates were more excited than I was."

Monday, December 24, 2012

McKenzie gets offer from Tennessee

Merry Christmas Eve everybody. Hope everyone has a great holiday. Sorry I've been a bit MIA, been on a holiday vacation.

Anyway, got some news this morning on Washington High School running back Shai McKenzie.

McKenzie picked up perhaps his biggest offer yet -- from Tennessee of the SEC.

Add this to the nine he already has, and that gives us (alphabetically) Akron, Connecticut, Duke, Maryland, Pitt, Purdue, Rutgers, Tennessee, Toledo and Youngstown State.

Remember, though, that McKenzie has professed a desire to wait until late in the recruiting game to make a decision. He's certainly in no hurry to make one now, with this process picking up more and more steam.

Will be interesting to see where this goes, but it's a big-time offer from a big-time football school.


Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Challingsworth returns for South Fayette

Pitt football recruit Zach Challingsworth is back from what was feared to be a sports hernia that would keep him out of this basketball season.

And I can't say I'm all that surprised about it.

Challingsworth played for South Fayette team tonight, helping the Lions earn a 64-55 win at Glen Burnie High School in Maryland. He came off the bench, played about 10 minutes and reported no ill-effects.

"I'm going to call my parents as soon as I get off the phone and tell them I feel great," Challingsworth told me minutes after the game.

When I talked to Challingsworth about this at the beginning of December, he wasn't the least bit happy about having to miss his senior season. Yes, some Division I football players give up hoops or baseball as seniors to stay healthy, but that's not Challingsworth's style.

The kid wants to play and should be commended for it.

He told me that he couldn't take sitting out any longer and practiced with the team Saturday. Since he was never officially told he couldn't play -- he was only going to sit out as a precaution -- he didn't need cleared. He did check with the family doctor and got the OK.

"I just wanted to finish my senior year the way I had originally planned," said Challingsworth, who averaged 15.2 points per game last season and was a first team All-District selection. "It's kind of crazy how it all happened."

Challingsworth said he was especially winded tonight and was nowhere near in basketball shape. "I'm still getting back into this," he said. "I didn't really have my legs under me; at times I was trying to catch my breath. I need to get into basketball shape."

South Fayette plays at North County today, another Maryland school. And at 2-0 without Challingsworth in Section 5-AAA, the Lions should immediately be pushed to the top of the heap alongside Montour, Keystone Oaks and Chartiers Valley.

Sunday, December 16, 2012

PT baseball's unique tradition

If you haven't had a chance to check out Christie Campbell's A1 story Sunday on the Wreaths Across America tradition that hit home Saturday at the National Cemetery of the Alleghenies in Bridgeville, check it out. Link is here.

It's a cool tradition, one that assuredly was made even more emotional because of the tragedy in Newtown, Conn., and one that, as I found out Sunday, has a pretty neat sports component as well.

For the past four years, the Peters Township baseball team has sent a group of players to the National Cemetery of the Alleghenies to place wreaths on veterans' graves.

The idea originated with 2011 graduate Ryan Minteer and has been passed down to current senior Bill McLuckie, a pair of starting pitchers.

Minteer, who's now at Heidelberg, helped start the program -- one that held special meaning given his grandfather, Donald, was a veteran.

"Whenever I went there, I saw the families’ faces and how much it meant to them to have a wreath on the tombstones for Christmas," Minteer said. "It just meant a lot to me."

According to Campbell's story, more than 1,000 people joined together Saturday, placing more than 5,000 wreaths that were donated and funded by various organizations. The program started in 1992, in Harrington, Maine, and will include an estimated 400,000 wreaths nationwide.

At Peters, the event, which has grown from about a dozen people the first year to about two dozen players plus another 10 or 12 parents this year, has become a tradition; McLuckie has already tabbed sophomore Ryan Tassone as his replacement.

"It’s a nice way to honor those who served for our country," McLuckie said. "I did it my sophomore year, and I thought it was really cool to learn about stuff like that, just honor those who served their country. "I’m glad that our team is continuing on with it."

McLuckie has two uncles -- Paul and Mike Byrne -- who are veterans, and a close family friend (Brad Nevin) served in the Gulf War, Afghanistan and Iraq. Mike Byrne is actually buried at the National Cemetery of the Alleghenies, making Saturday's event even more special for McLuckie.

"It means a lot, just seeing all the different tombstones, the names on them, the wars that they served in and the year that they died and everything," McLuckie said. "It’s amazing to see that some of them were only 18 – our age. I just can’t imagine what that would be like only living 18 years of your life."

Friday, December 14, 2012

More on PT's loss to Lebo

The Peters Township boys basketball team’s locker room was a quiet place to be tonight – looks of frustration everywhere, all keenly aware of the opportunity the Indians let slip through fingers with a 48-45 loss Friday at Mt. Lebanon.

I know Mt. Lebanon is a good team, one that won WPIAL titles in 2006 and 2010, but make no mistake: This was a game Peters Township thought it could – and should – have won.

The Blue Devils are a young team, with a freshman, sophomore and junior in the starting lineup and another sophomore who came off the bench to score 10 points. Put another way: a team that was still finding itself … and thus beatable.

I asked head coach Gary Goga the clich├ęd question, whether this loss was made easier because it’s early and the team still has time to improve.

Goga wasn’t having any part of it.

“Losses are never easy,” Goga said. “When they become easy, I’ll quit. I take every loss hard. The kids are the same way. We just have to battle back, learn from it and get better.”

Guard Dakota Norton said the loss will serve as a bit of a wake-up call for Peters Township, which returned a lot and is expected to compete with Bethel Park, Upper St. Clair, Mt. Lebanon, Trinity and Canon-Mac for the Section 4-AAAA title.

“It’s definitely a wake-up call,” Norton said. “It's going to make us better if we work hard in practice.”

What went wrong? Well, lots of stuff, according to Goga, Norton and senior leader Gabe Pritz.

Goga counted six offensive rebounds for Mt. Lebanon on free throws.

“That’s unacceptable,” the coach said. “It can’t happen, and it did – over and over and over again. Just didn’t get it done.”

Pritz said Peters Township gave up 20 points on “stuff that we talked about at practice.” He also blamed himself for missing four of 11 free throws.

“My free throw percentage was horrendous,” Pritz said.

A tough loss, I agree. They all are. But trust me: Peters Township will be there in the end, even if it doesn't seem like it after a night like tonight.

Pregame: Bentworth at Charleroi

Matt Shetler will get this one, I'll be heading to Mt. Lebanon to check out Peters Township. Follow Matt on Twitter at @buccos12. You can follow me at @mackey_jason.

Bentworth (0-0, 2-0) at Charleroi (0-0, 0-2), 7:30 p.m.

Last game: Charleroi lost, 63-55, to Burgettstown on 12/11 ... Charleroi erased a seven-point halftime lead and led, 52-49, when Jonathan Sabo made a 3-pointer that forced overtime -- his fifth in six attempts -- with 12 seconds left. Eric Johnson had 21, Matt Indorante 11.

Bentworth beat Avella, 57-42, on 12/12 ... Cody Levine scored a game-high 23 points in only three quarters.

Up next: Charleroi plays at Beth-Center (0-0, 2-1) on Tuesday in a Section 5-AA game.

Bentworth plays at Carmichaels (0-0, 4-0) in a non-section game on Monday.

What to watch: Charleroi returns two guards and a forward with significant experience. Matt Indorante is back after averaging 10 points per game as a sophomore; Jim Diaz averaged eight points per game a season ago as a junior; and Eric Johnson, who's 6-2, put up eight points per game as a sophomore last season.

The Cougars bring back six letterman but lack height; they do, however, have plenty of quickness. They must replace two key starters in Tony Bristol (17.4 ppg) and Santino Taruinio.

Bentworth lost four starters; the Bearcats top returner is senior guard Chris Blackburn. They also bring back their sixth man, guard Cody Levine.

One of the biggest losses is Gannon Walls-Mitchell, who was a second team All-District pick and averaged 12.1 points per game.

Last year: Charleroi went 7-14 and finished next-to-last in Section 4-AA. Bentworth went 18-4 and won Section 3-A, but the Bearcats lost to Union, 88-74, in the first round of the WPIAL Class A playoffs.

Coaches: Bill Wiltz is in his 12th year at Charleroi and has made the playoffs in eight of 16 years overall.

Bob Kennedy is in his 11th season as Bentworth's coach. 

Tough to make anything out of Charleroi's winless start, with two losses against fairly good teams in Ringgold and Burgettstown.

In talking with coaches for season previews, many pointed to these two as teams that could possibly compete with California in Section 5-AA -- at least solid playoff contenders.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Pregame: California at Chartiers-Houston

Will be heading to Chartiers-Houston tonight for Bucs/Trojans, and I thought I would put some details and thoughts on here. Might even develop this into a regular winter feature, who knows.

California (0-0) at Chartiers-Houston (1-1), 7:30 p.m.

Last game: First game of the season for California; the Bucs beat Avella, 75-36, in the consolation game for the McGuffey tournament, getting 15 points from Kodie Hanley, 14 from Miles Williamson and 11 from Alec Ferrari.

Up next: California hosts Mapletown in a non-section game Thursday; Char-Houston begins Section 4-AA play at Seton-La Salle, one of the favorites.

What to watch: California has a great guard tandem: Tanner Huffman and Brian Fisher. Talked to one coach today who said they're like Pitt's Carl Krauser -- seems like they've been at California forever. Huffman (6-0) averaged 16 points and five assists game last year, Fisher (6-2) 16 points and seven rebounds per game. Evan Patterson is a force inside and pulled down four rebounds per game in 2011-12.

Senior guard Shayne Murphy is the offensive leader for Char-Houston and scored a team-high 14 points during a 55-54 loss to Western Beaver in the first game at McGuffey. Williamson (6-4) brings plenty of size. Williamson, Hanley and Ferrari have been in doubles figures in both games thus far.

Last year: California was 5-7 in Section 4-AA, 11-12 overall and lost to Shady Side Academy in the preliminary round; Char-Houston was 6-4 in Section 5-AA, 14-9 overall and lost to Riverside in the preliminary round.

Coaches: California is led by Phil Pergola; Chartiers-Houston is coached by Eugene Briggs. Pergola won a state title at Ringgold. This will be Briggs' third season at Char-Houston (record: 21-21) after coaching at Fort Cherry from 1996-2006.

See y'all out there. Should be a good one, for sure.

Sunday, December 9, 2012

Plenty to take out of the EQT

The Washington High School boys basketball team won the EQT Energy Classic title Sunday night with a 46-43 victory over Canon-McMillan, thanks in large part to a last-second 3-pointer from senior guard Josh Wise.

But there was something more to this tournament for the Prexies, something that may be a little more lasting. Like many teams, Wash High used this season-opening event to learn a little bit more about itself ... and learn it did.

The Prexies know that Wise is truly an elite player at this level, probably one of the best in the WPIAL. Billy Edwards is a pretty darn good one, too. Jordan Drew and Rikwon Moore are two of the better rebounding forwards you'll see in Class AA.

Scary when you think about what this team -- which beat the past two champions of this event in Canon-Mac and Pikeville (Ky.) -- will be able to do in Section 4-AA, with teams like Seton-La Salle, Brentwood and Chartiers-Houston.

"It was a big win for our guys," Wash High coach Mark Gaither said. "Our guys have grown a lot the last three days, and we’re excited about getting into section play."

We also learned that Canon-Mac can be a really good defensive team. Sam Bohn did a great job against Josh Wise tonight. The Big Macs held their opponents to an average of 32.3 points. Here's Wise talking about the fact that he scored two points in the first half.

"They had a great game plan," Wise said. "They took me out of my game, but my teammates kept telling me, ‘Shooter’s shoot. You can't stop a scorer from scoring; you can only slow him down.' They sure did tonight, but I came alive at the end."

Despite being held to just two points and no field goals against the Prexies, senior guard D.J. Johnson will be a valuable asset off the bench for Canon-McMillan, proven nicely by his 30 points in the first two games.

I think the Canon-Mac girls showed well here, too. I wrote about the contributions from multiple sources for Monday's paper, perhaps the biggest  being sophomore forward Danielle Parker, who had 29 points in two games ... but was inexplicably left off the all-tournament team for her division. Don't get that.

The Big Macs don't have any seniors or much size, but Parker, at 5-11, gives them a great inside presence. She can also shoot the three, making two in a first-round win over Saltsburg.

Canon-Mac's girls are missing three players right now: Abby Gillespie (rib), McKenzie Monaghan (wrist) and Maleia Ruane (knee). The first two will be back soon, Ruane perhaps a little longer. After this weekend's performance, imagine what's there if the Big Macs are healthy and not dressing nine players.

Burgettstown should have a nice forward combo with Ryan Glover and Josh Mack. Mack is huge at 6-4, 300 and dominated the paint in the two games I watched Burgettstown play. Glover had 22 points against Waynesburg, only one against Canon-Mac and double digits again today.

Though it lost a heartbreaker, 62-60, on a last-second tip-in, Trinity appeared as advertised, maybe a tough better. Jared Deep and Corey Hunsberger were impressive, and we all know what Christian Koroly can do. With the move up to Class AAAA, would've almost been nice to see the Hillers play Canon-Mac, just to see how they stack up.

I guess, then, that we'll have to wait until this week, when section play starts. Can't wait folks, though tomorrow's day off will sure be nice. Have a good Monday.

Friday, December 7, 2012

Glover powers Burgettstown to win

Turnovers are typically omnipresent this time of year in high school basketball, and the Burgettstown-Waynesburg game that kicked off the boys portion of the EQT Energy Classic Friday night was no exception.

The teams combined for 42 turnovers – 23 by Burgettstown, 19 for the Raiders – but the Blue Devils got 22 points from senior forward Ryan Glover and did enough down the stretch for a 67-57 win at Canon-McMillan.

“We’re trying to up the tempo a little on our side,” Burgettstown coach Rich Tranquill said. “We had a few turnovers, but they came out in the second half and really upped the pressure. Their guards put a lot of pressure up front. They did a nice job. We struggled with it. A lot of credit to our guys, we were able to break it and finish the game.

“Even though it wasn’t pretty, we still finished the game.”

Indeed they did. And this could be an important win for Tranquill's young team.

Burgettstown lost point guard Eric Hutchinson and forward Mike LaRocka from last year’s 7-15 group. Hutchinson led the team in assists, while LaRocka was the Blue Devils’ leading scorer and rebounder before getting injured halfway through the season.

And not only was Burgettstown breaking in a couple new starters, but the Blue Devils had to contend with the EQT Classic – which can seem like a college atmosphere at times, with plenty of people, the band blasting and a rocking PA system.

“We have some guys who are coming in who are playing at this level for the first time,” Tranquill said. “It’s a pretty big stage for them. This tournament is phenomenal, so playing at this stage, in front of the crowds and everything that’s going on, obviously they had some nerves.

“But again, they ultimately did what they had to do. They faced some adversity and worked through the turnovers.”

Forward Ryan Glover led Burgettstown with 22 points, while center Josh Mack finished with eight points and 12 rebounds. Guards Jonathan Sabo and Logan Triebsch reached double figures with 10 points apiece.

Glover’s game was especially impressive, as the 6-1 senior gave Burgettstown an inside-outside presence to bridge Mack (who’s 6-4, 300 pounds) and the guard combo of Sabo and Treibsch.

“He’s an extremely hard worker,” Tranquill said of Glover. “For being 6-1, he’s one of the best big men that I’ve seen, especially in our section. He plays a lot bigger than what he is. Defensively, he’s all over the place. Offensively he does a lot of things down low. Just a hard-working kid.”

Waynesburg got 21 points from guard Dominick Sarra and 11 from backcourt mate John Glen Davis.

Burgettstown led by 10 at halftime but stretched its lead to 21 with a 14-2 run during the first half of the third quarter and surged ahead, 44-23, after a pair of Glover free throws.

Waynesburg wouldn’t threaten until Corey Dispenza and Wes Bristor hit 3-pointers 14 seconds apart to pull Waynesburg within 11 late before Burgettstown got a basket from Glover and recovered.

Burgettstown advances to the semifinals and will Canon-McMillan, a 65-26 winner over Blairsville in the late game.

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

More from Challingsworth

Following up on the news from last night ... I talked to South Fayette's Zach Challingsworth a little bit ago and found out that he will skip basketball season to rest a sports hernia injury that he had been dealing with for the final two games of the football season.

Challingsworth said details of the injury were a little bit sketchy since he hasn't had an MRI -- that will happen this week, likely Wednesday -- and doctors should know more after that.

One thing he mentioned was a tear in abdomen, maybe the abdominal wall. Though I'm not a doctor, neither is he, and that's really shoddy conjecture.

The point is that South Fayette's boys basketball team will be without its leading scorer from a season ago, a first team All-District pick who averaged 15.2 points per game.

Challingsworth did say there's an outside change he could return, but he wasn't optimistic at all regarding that scenario.

Some quotes that may or may not make my for-print story:

Where this came from

"I knew something was wrong. I played the last two games, and I knew something was hurt. I tried to get treatment on it, but it’s kind of hurts to miss my senior year [of basketball]."

The if-he-could-he-would side
"I know what some people say about not wanting to twist an ankle or something like that, but if I was healthy, I’d be out there. I want to be out there with my teammates.”

What to do now
“It’s going to be weird. It’s the first time I haven’t something to do after school my entire high school career. But I’m definitely not going to be a stranger to the basketball program. I’m going to be around with the guys.”

Monday, December 3, 2012

Challingsworth out for South Fayette

A couple things that I've learned in the past 12 hours:

>>Zach Challingsworth will not play basketball for South Fayette this winter. Talked to head coach Rich Bonnaure tonight, and he said it's because of an injury Challingsworth suffered late in the football season.

Challingsworth, an Observer-Reporter Elite 11 selection who will play football next year for Pitt, apparently had been showing up to practices and even shooting some. But Bonnaure was informed Friday that Challingsworth would skip the hoops season in order to get  healthy for football.

South Fayette will still hold a roster spot open for Challingsworth, who was a first team All-District pick last year when he averaged 15.2 points per game, in the event that he changes his mind, though Bonnaure wasn't overly optimistic that would happen.

Bonnaure declined to reveal the nature of the injury, citing HIPAA rules. Challingsworth didn't respond to a text message.

In the meantime, here's what Bonnaure had to say about the team regrouping from such a big loss.

"They’re not going to let this spoil our season," Bonnaure said. "They had worked so hard. I know they feel terrible. They won’t look for any excuses.

"Once you regroup for a day or so ... they put so much work into it, they’re going to do their jobs and see what happens.

I try not to editorialize these things too much, but this much I know: Challingsworth is not only  insanely athletic, but he's also mature and well-grounded. Nobody should questions this decision; few are more dedicated, and it wouldn't surprise me to see him on a basketball court after all.

>>The Chartiers-Houston School Board met Monday to discuss a lot of things, and one of them was the continuation of the boys tennis program there.

While nothing was voted on -- that could come next week -- there expected to be talk about whether or not it makes sense to continue to offer the sport.

Apparently numbers are way down; the roster had six players, forcing the Bucs, on a few occasions, to forfeit a match in the five-spot lineup.

>>Mapletown approved the hiring of baseball coach Michael Lewandowsky by a 5-4 vote. The Maples were 0-12 in Section 1-A last year, 2-14 overall.