Thursday, January 31, 2013

Examining Section 3-A

It was a busy night in Section 3-A for girls basketball.

Carmichaels topped visiting Avella, 48-45, and West Greene knocked off California, 49-37.

That means the Mikes and Avella are tied for first place at 7-1, with these remaning schedules.

Carmichaels
Feb. 4 at Jefferson-Morgan (last meeting: 61-29 Carmichaels win, 1/14)
Feb. 8 vs. Mapletown (51-11 Carmichaels win, 1/17)

Avella
Feb. 4 vs. West Greene (43-42 win, 1/14)
Feb. 7 at California (60-57 win, 1/17)

Clearly, Avella has the tougher schedule, though if both teams win out, they'll share the section crown. Who knows where the seeding goes -- would probably go to non-conference wins/losses and the committee's decision.

Despite getting upset by West Greene, California (4-4) still has the No. 3 spot with games at Mapletown and against Avella left. Two wins, and the Trojans are definitely third. A split, and they could drop into a tie for fourth, depending on what happens with the other two.

Here's how the Jefferson-Morgan and West Greene schedules look:

Jefferson-Morgan (3-5)
Feb. 4 vs. Carmichaels (61-29 loss, 1/14)
Feb. 8 at West Greene (53-47 win, 1/17)

West Greene (3-5)
Feb. 4 at Avella (43-42 loss, 1/14)
Feb. 8 vs. Jefferson-Morgan (53-47 loss, 1/17)

Essentially we're looking at a one-game playoff, on Feb. 8, for the final playoff spot, winner-take-all. That's provided something insane doesn't happen before that, such as California or West Greene upsetting Avella or Carmichaels falling to Jefferson-Morgan.

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Pregame: Avella (7-0, 11-6) at Carmichaels (6-1, 16-2)

Last meeting: Eagles earned a 58-51 victory over the Mikes at home on Jan. 10 to take control in Section 3-A. Kenna Drazich had 15 points on seven-of-nine shooting, and Avella outscored Carmichaels, 13-6, in the third quarter. Morgan Berardi had a game-high 24 points for Carmichaels.

Coaches: Avella is coached by Jim Matalik, Carmichaels by Jim Lane.

Last time out: Avella beat Jefferson-Morgan, 43-39, on Monday. Olivia English had 16 points to lead the Eagles.

Carmichaels is coming off a 55-45 win at California the same night. Morgan Berardi had 12 points, 11 assists and five steals. Amanda Brown scored a game-high 23 points and pulled down 11 rebounds.

About the Eagles: Avella is extremely well-balanced, led by English (15.0 ppg), a senior center who's also averaging 10.7 rebounds and four steals per game.

Avella is certainly not going to out-flash anyone, but the Eagles are consistent and play a good team game. They also defend well (36.4 points per game allowed in section games).

About California: Watch Berardi. She's one of the area's best and makes things happen; a triple-double is possible on most nights. A 1,000-point scorer, she's usually a lock for 20 or more points (average: 18.3 ppg). Amanda Brown (14.0 ppg) is a dominant center and has no problem pulling down double-digit rebounds.

Analysis: No doubt there will be a lot of emotion on both sides. Carmichaels suffered an obvious letdown in the first game between these two and will be eager to prove it belongs in first place, even if that means a tie at 7-1.

The Eagles haven't blown anyone out, but they are 7-0 in section play, a point that should not be overlooked.

I'm expecting Carmichaels to play a more uptempo game -- something that obviously would favor the Mikes over the more reserved Eagles. But if Avella can turn this into a game of half-court sets and defense, I think they'll come out on the better end.

Having not seen Avella yet, I don't feel completely comfortable making a pick here, though I like a desperate team playing at home this time of year. (Read: Carmichaels in a close one)

Regardless, should make for perhaps our best girls basketball game of the season. Obviously the most impactful one so far. See you out there.

Pregame: Brownsville (8-2, 13-4) at California (10-0, 15-2), 7:30 p.m.

Guess I can get away with re-posting Friday's pregame feature.

So, here ya go. In a world of wrestling gone mad -- no doubt Tuscano will be sporting his wrestling tie tonight -- I was able to squeeze in a hoops game to cover, left over from Friday's whiteout.

One housekeeping matter: I wrote in today's notebook that Carmichaels senior Morgan Berardi is averaging more than 20 points per game. That's incorrect. She has 329 points in 18 games for an average of 18.3 per game.

Also, kids, don't write like this: Drazich had 15 points and Carlisle (10 points) was the only Eagles player in double figures, a nod to the anybody-scores mantra adopted by Avella. Try WERE the only PLAYERS in double figures. Geesh. Way to go, Mackey. Anyway ...

Last meeting: Trojans earned a 51-49 (OT) victory at Brownsville on Dec. 20, 2012. Tanner Huffman was held to 12 points, though eight came after halftime. Brian Fisher led the way with 18 points, three assists and nine rebounds.

Trojans shot 44 percent from the field (20 of 45) and five of 15 from three-point range. They committed 20 turnovers. Brownsville had a 45-37 lead, but California put together a 10-0 run to pull ahead, 47-45, before Mike Murdock made two three throws to send it into overtime.

Coaches: Brownsville is coached by Brian Brashear; California is led by Phil Pergola, he of 43 seasons and 576 wins.

Last time out: Huffman had 28 points and Fisher 17 during last night's 85-76 win over Bentworth. Dmitri Clements added 14 and Austin Wingo 13 in a game that would surely make every defensive-minded high school basketball game in America twitch.

Tre Durkin hit a running, underhand shot in the lane with one second left last night to beat Charleroi, 54-53. The Falcons trailed, 36-28, entering the fourth but used a 19-3 run to pull in front. Mapstone had 14 points. Christian Floyd 11 points and 11 boards.

About the Falcons: Brownsville has been streaky this season. The Falcons won their first five before the loss to California ignited a four-game losing streak. They're currently on an eight-game winning streak.

Like the Trojans, Brownsville lost in the first round of the WPIAL playoffs last year -- California to Shady Side Academy (59-38), Brownsville to Wilkinsburg (73-53).

About California: Huffman and Fisher are good. Really good. Here's a link to a story about them I did two weeks ago. Huffman is averaging 23.8 points, 5.4 assists, 4.8 rebounds and 4.2 steals per game. Fisher is at 17.9 points, three assists and 8.8 rebounds per game.

Austin Wingo is contributing 6.8 points, 5.6 rebounds and two steals per game; Evan Patterson, like Huffman and Fisher a senior, is at 6.5 points and 2.1 blocks per game; and Dmitri Clements is helping out with 5.5 points, 4.0 assists and 3.6 steals per game.

Analysis: California would like to have this game. Brownsville needs this game. Lose here, and the Falcons are all but eliminated from the Section 5-AA title race, with two losses to California and one to Charleroi.

Brownsville won't beat the Trojans with their guard play, but they could have advantage with depth; Cole and Ryan Novotney, Murdock, Durkin, Jake Bevard and Floyd are all contributors. Should be telling who has the better bench.

Should be a fast game, too. Trojans are averaging 70.9 points per game, tops in Class AA. Brownsville ranks sixth at 66.0 ppg. Don't expect a 41-36 score. (Shoot, California hasn't been under 50 all year.)

Gonna take the Trojans here. There's only one home game left for Huffman, Fisher and Patterson after this -- Beth-Center on Feb. 5 -- and I doubt they're going to allow a letdown to happen here.

See you out there.

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

More from last night ... and links

Good morning, folks, and Happy Tuesday. Had a few leftovers from my game last night at South Fayette and figured I would share them here, as well as some links from the Observer-Reporter's coverage from last night's games.

On the surface, last night's non-section game between Wash High and South Fayette wasn't anything special, the same for most non-section games in late January. But there's more to a matchup between these two teams than that.

Players grew up together competing in Brownson House summer leagues. The schools' football teams met in the WPIAL Class AA semifinals. They were both trying to erase the stink from three-game losing streaks.

And while it would be easy to say this game could serve as a pivot point for Wash High -- it was hands-down the Prexies' best performance of the season -- what about where this takes South Fayette, which only 18 days ago had knocked off Montour and was tied for Chartiers Valley for the lead in Section 5-AAA?

"Probably," Lions coach Rich Bonnaure told me after the game. "We've showed signs."

Bonnaure brought up an excellent point, too. With a section that includes Chartiers Valley, Montour and Keystone Oaks, you're bound to have a letdown or down -- which I would qualify losing to South Park by 13 and Preston, W.Va. by 26 on consecutive nights; no shame in a four-point loss to Chartiers Valley.

"We knew with the schedule we would have some ups and downs," Bonnaure said. "The section is so tough. Seems like you have to get up every game in the section, then you fall flat a couple time out of the section."

Fair enough. And here are the promised links:

Wise, Wash High send message to South Fayette

Defense is best offense for McGuffey

Carmichaels girls get win, set up key section game

Charleroi at McGuffey photo slideshow

Monday, January 28, 2013

Wash High's Kelly to Youngstown State

Jaylin Kelly, a linebacker for the Washington High School football team, tweeted late Monday that he had committed to play football next season at Youngstown State University.

Kelly was an Observer-Reporter Elite 11 pick after making 114 tackles this past season for a team that went 12-1 and reached the WPIAL Class AA final at Heinz Field. He also had eight sacks, an interception, a fumble recovery and forced five fumbles.

Two weeks ago, Kelly was selected selected to play on the Pennsylvania Team in the 56th Big 33 Football Classic, which will be held Saturday, June 15 at Hersheypark Stadium. Pennsylvania will play Maryland.

Kelly, who had other scholarship offers Eastern Michigan, Delaware and New Hampshire,  split time at fullback this past season, carrying 46 times for 280 yards and a touchdown.

Examining Section 5-AA (boys hoops)

Back at it with a closer look at Section 5-AA in boys hoops. Will jump over to girls basketball after tonight's results are in.

Standings
California 9-0
Charleroi 8-1
Brownsville 7-2
Beth-Center 4-5
Bentworth 3-6
Jefferson-Morgan 2-6
Frazier 2-6
West Greene 0-9

*California has one-possession wins over Charleroi (55-52 on 1/15) and Brownsville (51-49 on 12/20)
**A win for the Trojans Tuesday at Bentworth will clinch a playoff spot without needing to invoke a tiebreaker

California
Remaining: Bentworth, Brownsville, West Greene, Beth-Center, Charleroi (22-23, .489)
***Two key dates: vs. Brownsville on Wednesday; at Charleroi on Feb. 8.

Charleroi
Remaining: Brownsville, West Greene, Frazier, Jefferson-Morgan, California (20-23, .465)
***That 48-43 home loss to South Allegheny last Wednesday still confuses me. I know the loss of Sheldon Linneman hurt, but the Gladiators are 2-7, 6-12.

Brownsville
Remaining: Charleroi, California, Beth-Center, Bentworth, Frazier (26-18, .591)
***Other section loss was at Charleroi, 55-52 on 1/4 ... while I don't think the Falcons are on the same level as California -- or Charleroi, for that matter -- I don't think they're in danger of relinquishing the No. 3 spot.

Beth-Center
West Greene, Brownsville, California, Bentworth, Jefferson-Morgan (21-23, .477)
***Have to consider the Bulldogs the front-runner for the No. 4 spot; they could finish 7-7 with wins over West Greene, Bentworth and Jefferson-Morgan, all that would be according to chalk.

Bentworth
California, Jefferson-Morgan, Brownsville, Frazier, Beth-Center (24-19, .558)
***Because of losses to Jefferson-Morgan and Beth-Center during a stretch where the Bearcats lost seven of eight, Bentworth is going to need to beat Jefferson-Morgan, Frazier and Beth-Center, plus steal one against either California or Beth-Center to have a chance at 7-7.

Jefferson-Morgan
*Frazier (2), Bentworth, Charleroi, West Greene (15-28, .349)
*Rockets are leading Frazier, 61-55, with 2:18 left in the fourth quarter of a game that was stopped three weeks ago because of a leak in the roof. Will be replayed, along with the regularly scheduled game, at Frazier on Tuesday
***The remaining opponents' winning percentage looks enticing, but the hole may be too deep. A pair of Frazier wins puts Jefferson-Morgan at 4-6 ahead of games against Bentworth, Charleroi and West Greene. Assume wins over Bentworth and Greene, and that's still six wins with Charleroi looming. Rockets, like Bentworth, will need to steal one to give themselves a chance to get in.

Sunday, January 27, 2013

Examining Section 4-AAAA

Greetings, folks. Hope everyone had an enjoyable weekend. The snow turned everything a little upside down; gave me a surprise day off Friday and sent me to two basketball games Saturday, this one and this one.

With the regular season winding down, I will be taking a look at various playoff races throughout the WPIAL in both girls and boys basketball.

Because this figures to be one of the tightest races, with basically four teams -- Mt. Lebanon, Canon-McMillan, Trinity and Peters Township -- vying for two spots, I figured I would start with Section 4-AAAA in boys hoops.

Bethel Park and Upper St. Clair will battle it out for the top seed. They've split the season series, so a slip-up by either one the rest of the way will probably mean a section title for the other. If both stay perfect, we'd go the tiebreaker route -- which I'll spare you for now, since neither is in our coverage area.

Also don't sleep on Moon, which could creep into the discussion with a couple more wins.

Standings
Bethel Park 8-1
Upper St. Clair 8-1
Mt. Lebanon 5-5
Canon-McMillan 4-5
Trinity 4-6
Peters Township 4-6
Moon 3-6
Baldwin 2-8

Bethel Park
Remaining: PT, Lebo, Moon, Trinity, Baldwin (18-31, .367)

USC
Remaining: Baldwin, PT, CM, Moon, Lebo (18-30, .375)

Mt. Lebanon
How they've done: 1-1 vs. PT; 0-1 vs. CM; 1-1 vs. Trin
Remaining: Moon, BP, CM, USC (23-13, .639)

Canon-McMillan
How they've done: 0-1 vs. PT; 1-0 vs. Lebo; 1-0 vs. Trin
Remaining: Trin, Moon, USC, Lebo, PT (24-24, .500)

Trinity
How they've done: 1-1 vs. Lebo, 0-1 vs. CM; 2-0 vs. PT
Remaining: CM, Baldwin, BP, Moon (17-20, .459)

Peters Township
How they've done: 1-0 vs. CM; 1-1 vs. Lebo; 0-2 vs. Trin
Remaining: BP, USC, Baldwin, CM (22-15, .595)

Moon
Remaining: Lebo, CM, BP, USC, Trin (29-18, .617)

Hard to say who will get the No. 1 seed. Haven't seen Upper St. Clair or Bethel Park all year, so I'm going to leave that alone.

I think Moon has too tough of a schedule down the stretch and will, best case, finish 4-10, assuming losses to BP and USC and one win over Lebo/Canon-Mac/Trinity. Two wins over those three would put Moon at 5-9, and even that may be tough.

Predicting the other three, well, that's darn near impossible.

Tuesday's Canon-Mac-at-Trinity game will be huge; if the Hillers win and hold serve by beating Baldwin and Moon, that's 3-1 (7-7 overall) even with a loss to Bethel Park. Splits against Lebo and Canon-Mac, sweep of Peters.

Mt. Lebanon's Feb. 5 home game against Canon-Mac should be equally as important. Assuming chalk (losses to Bethel and St. Clair, win over Moon), the Blue Devils are looking at a win for 7-7, a loss for 6-8.

Canon-Mac has the biggest toss-up. Chalk says a win over Moon/a loss to St. Clair takes the Big Macs to 5-6, with Trinity, Lebo and PT left. Win two of those three, you got 7-7, with potentially two season sweeps. Two losses, including one to Peters? Not good.

Peters Township has the toughest road. The Indians likely need to beat Baldwin, Canon-Mac and upset either Bethel Park or St. Clair, something nobody has been able to do.

Look, all of this is extremely complicated. No way of making a prediction that isn't a complete shot in the dark. What we do know is that every night's results will be pivotal from here out, and we're probably bound for a few upsets along the way, too.

It's what makes high school basketball (really sports as a whole) great.

Friday, January 25, 2013

Updates on Friday's schedule

Looks like a white out for tonight's basketball games. Been chasing down each game and trying to find reschedule dates. Here's what I know at this point.

BOYS BASKETBALL

Section 4-AAAA
Trinity at Peters Township -- Rescheduled for Saturday, Jan. 26 at 6:30 p.m.
Upper St. Clair at Canon-McMillan -- Rescheduled for Sunday, Feb. 3 at 2 p.m.

Section 4-AAA
West Mifflin at Ringgold -- Rescheduled for Monday, Jan. 28 at 7:30 p.m.

Section 5-AAA
Keystone Oaks at South Fayette -- Rescheduled for Saturday, Jan. 26 at 4 p.m.
Waynesburg at South Park -- Postponed, reschedule date TBD

Section 4-AA
Burgettstown at Chartiers-Houston -- Rescheduled for Saturday, Jan. 26 at 1:30 p.m.
Seton-La Salle at Fort Cherry -- Postponed, reschedule date TBD
Washington at Brentwood -- Postponed, reschedule date TBD

Section 5-AA
Brownsville at California -- Rescheduled for Wednesday, Jan. 30 at 7:30 p.m.
Frazier at Bentworth -- Rescheduled for Wednesday, Feb. 6 at 7:30 p.m.
Jefferson-Morgan at Beth-Center -- Postponed, reschedule date TBD
West Greene at Charleroi -- Postponed, reschedule date TBD

Section 3-A
Carmichaels at Avella -- Rescheduled for Monday, Jan. 28 at 7:30 p.m.
Mapletown at Clairton -- Postponed, reschedule date TBD
Monessen at Geibel -- Rescheduled for Wednesday, Feb. 6 at 7 p.m.

GIRLS BASKETBALL

Section 5-AAA
Keystone Oaks at South Fayette -- Reschedule for Saturday, Jan. 26 at 2 p.m.

Section 4-A
Monessen at Frazier -- Postponed, reschedule date TBD

Non-section
Jefferson-Morgan at Beth-Center -- Postponed, reschedule date TBD
West Allegheny at Burgettstown -- Rescheduled for Saturday, Jan. 26 at 2:30 p.m.
West Shamokin at Fort Cherry -- Postponed, reschedule date TBD

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Pregame: Brownsville (7-2, 12-4) at California (9-0, 14-2), 7:30 p.m.

Finally, right? A basketball game to cover. Been looking forward to this one, for sure. Back to the pregame note routine.

Last meeting: Trojans earned a 51-49 (OT) victory at Brownsville on Dec. 20, 2012. Tanner Huffman was held to 12 points, though eight came after halftime. Brian Fisher led the way with 18 points, three assists and nine rebounds.

Trojans shot 44 percent from the field (20 of 45) and five of 15 from three-point range. They committed 20 turnovers. Brownsville had a 45-37 lead, but California put together a 10-0 run to pull ahead, 47-45, before Mike Murdock made two three throws to send it into overtime.

Coaches: Brownsville is coached by Brian Brashear; California is led by Phil Pergola, he of 43 seasons and 575 wins.

Last time out: California cruised to a 74-41 win at Frazier in Section 5-AA action, getting 28 points from Huffman, 19 from Fisher.

Brownsville had five players in double figures during a 78-65 win at Jefferson-Morgan, also in section play. Cole Novotney had 16 points, including four three-pointers, 11 of those points in the fourth quarter; Tre Durkin, Josh Mapstone and Murdock finished with 13 apiece; and Jacob Bevard contributed 10, as the Falcons made 30 field goals and led, 39-26, at halftime.

About the Falcons: Brownsville has been streak this season. Falcons won their first five before the loss to California ignited a four-game losing streak. They're currently on a seven-game winning streak.

Like the Trojans, Brownsville lost in the first round of the WPIAL playoffs last year -- California to Shady Side Academy (59-38), Brownsville to Wilkinsburg (73-53).

About California: Huffman and Fisher are good. Really good. Here's a link to a story about them I did two weeks ago. Huffman is averaging 23.5 points, 5.0 assists, 5.1 rebounds and 4.2 steals per game. Fisher is at 17.9 points, 3.1 assists and 8.6 rebounds per game.

Austin Wingo is contributing 6.4 points, 5.8 rebounds and 2.1 steals per game; Evan Patterson, like Huffman and Fisher a senior, is at 6.7 points and 2.1 blocks per game; and Dmitri Clements is helping out with 5.5 points, 4.0 assists and 3.4 steals per game.

Analysis: California would like to have this game. Brownsville needs this game. Lose here, and the Falcons are all but eliminated from the Section 5-AA title race, with two losses to California and one to Charleroi.

Brownsville won't beat the Trojans with their guard play, but they could have advantage with depth; Novotney, Murdock, Durkin, Bevard and Floyd are all contributors, same for Cole's brother, Ryan. Should be telling who has the better bench.

Should be a fast game, too. Trojans are averaging 70.0 points per game, tops in Class A. Brownsville ranks sixth at 66.8 ppg. Don't expect a 41-36 score. (Shoot, California hasn't been under 50 all year.)

Gonna take the Trojans here. There's only one home game left for Huffman, Fisher and Patterson after this -- Beth-Center on Feb. 5 -- and I doubt they're going to allow a letdown to happen here.

See you out there.

Tough break for Recktenwald

Make sure you read the latest installment of Feature Friday, this one on Peters Township senior Trevor Recktenwald, who's tearing up the PIHL.

One interesting nugget that I wasn't able to get in there has to do with an all-star game Recktenwald was supposed to play alongside, and against, a few Pittsburgh Penguins, the Tomahawks Charity Classic at Cambria County War Memorial on Jan. 9.

The game was to feature around eight or 10 members of the Penguins, as well as several members of the Johnstown Tomahawks. Recktenwald, who has signed a tender with the Tomahawks, was invited through the Tomahawks and his travel team, the Pittsburgh Viper Stars.

Only it never happened.

Recktenwald was supposed to be on a team with Ben Lovejoy, Brooks Orpik, Matt Cooke, Craig Adams, Tyler Kennedy and Marc-Andre Fleury. But the NHL labor dispute was settled the Sunday before, and the game was bagged.

I asked Recktenwald whether he was upset, whether he wished the NHL would've waited another week.

"I knew there wasn’t anything I could do to change it," Recktenwald said. "I was a little upset, just because it would have been a really cool experience. But I understood the reasons why. You kind of just have to move on from it. It’s something you can’t control."

It's a mature stance from a mature kid.

Recktenwald, as you will read, is Peters Township's captain. I asked him whether he's more of a vocal leader or one who would rather lead by example.

"I think I’m a little bit of both," Recktenwald said. "If someone does something, and I think they maybe should be doing something else, I’m not afraid to tell them and explain to them a different way. Also I try to lead by example by going out there and making plays and putting the puck in the net, making sure I’m playing a good defensive game."

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Girls hoops power rankings

There wasn't much movement with the boys power rankings, mostly because everybody was struggling. Different story here. Not a whole lot of movement because nobody has really tanked, and nobody has been world-beaters; West Greene and Charleroi are our closest examples of those.

1. McGuffey (14-1) -- Wins over South Side Beaver, Avella and Burgettstown, two by more than 40 points. Wake me up for a competitive game -- preferably Jan. 28 vs. Charleroi.

2. South Fayette (8-5) -- A loss, yes, but it was to the reigning WPIAL Class AAA runner-up. Should-get wins over Trinity and North Hills. Not too much new here.

3. Charleroi (12-5) -- Winners of six straight, holding opponents to fewer than 30 points per game each time. Mia Woytovich averaging 12.6 ppg over the past six.

4. Carmichaels (14-2) -- Mikes have won three straight since 58-51 loss to Avella. Rematch on Jan. 31. Carmichaels Subway ... look out!

5. Avella (9-6) -- Eagles have dropped two straight. OK on a 74-32 loss to McGuffey, but 52-49 to 4-10 Monessen necessitates a drop.

6. California (11-3) -- Trojans have lost to top two teams in Section 3-A, Carmichaels and Avella. Need to beat one of 'em, at least, to crack the top five.

7. Chartiers-Houston (10-6) -- Looks at the Bucs' losses: Seton-La Salle (twice), Bishop Canevin, Steel Valley and Ambridge ... one at KSA. Not bad. Probably won't be a more battle-tested team come playoff time.

8. Washington (8-7) -- Prexies lost to Charleroi by 15 ... worse than by four earlier in the year. Crushed by McGuffey first time around. Two wins by South Side Beaver. Solid No. 3 in that section.

9. Fort Cherry (6-6) -- Like C-H, losses aren't bad: Seton, Steel Valley, Char-Houston, Canevin, McGuffey and Canon-McMillan. Best win, though: Ringgold. Will be competing with Bucs for No. 4 spot in Section 4-AA.

10. Ringgold (7-8) -- Big game Jan. 28 vs. TJ. Will determine fourth place and final playoff seed in Section 4-AAA. Lopsided win over Waynesburg snapped four-game skid.

Crank up the rumor mill

With two big-time bits of WPIAL football coaching news yesterday -- Gateway's Terry Smith to Temple as a wide receivers coach, Jack McCurry retiring after 35 seasons at North Hills -- I figured it was time to crank up our own rumor mill.

Right now we have openings at Canon-McMillan and California, as Tim Sohyda and Brady Barbero both stepped down. There's also an opening at Chartiers Valley ... not in our coverage area, but close enough that it could impact the Canon-Mac hiring.

One source has told me that there's no urgency for the Canon-McMillan hire, that it could drag on until March.

Several other folks have brought up the idea of Guy Montecalvo coming out of retirement (from coaching; he's currently the AD at Canon-Mac). As interesting as that would be, I've found nothing to lead me to believe that would actually happen.

Seems this happens a lot; weren't there plenty of Guy-to-Trinity rumors, too? To me, it's speculation until I hear something from someone intimately involved, and that hasn't happened yet.

I have been told by a second source that current Seton-La Salle coach Greg Perry could end up at either Chartiers Valley or Canon-McMillan, and that another popular name is Niel Loebig, the former South Fayette and Duquesne University quarterback. Loebig is currently Duquesne's wide receivers coach and passing game coordinator.

Seems if Chartiers Valley takes one, Canon-Mac might make a move for the other. Or neither could be hired. Just the nature of speculating on this stuff in January.

Another name that has been batted around is that of Andrew DiDonato, the WPIAL's No. 3 all-time leading passer and a 2005 South Fayette graduate. DiDonato is currently an assistant coach at South Fayette. One source, I spoke with, though, said DiDonato's name may circulation but that he's still lacking somewhat on experience.

The aforementioned names, of course, are possibilities.

One "possibility" that died yesterday was Canon-Mac luring Smith, one of the names linked to the C-M job after a group of parents went on what they called a "fact-finding mission" ... essentially asking another coach: If this job was open, would you take it?

Many, including myself, believed this to be Smith, though I was never able to confirm that. Regardless, I'm guessing Smith, a former Penn State wide receiver, will be pretty happy in the college ranks.

Monday, January 21, 2013

Boys hoops power outage

My original intent here was to put out a second edition of power rankings. That failed. Seems we didn't have much power around here last week.

OK, not trying to be disparaging , so please don't fire off an e-mail and tell me how stupid I am. Simply put: Last week was a rough one for area boys basketball teams.

Here's why:

>>My No. 1-ranked team, California, barely beat Charleroi (55-52) last Tuesday to stay undefeated in Section 5-AA, then dropped a 68-63 decision at Monessen in a non-section game yesterday. Tough to punish the Trojans, though. At their best, the Greyhounds are really good. Just hasn't been much consistency for coach Joe Salvino's team so far.

>>My second- and third-ranked teams, South Fayette and Wash High, both proceeded to put together three-game losing streaks. Lions lost their three games by 43 points, Prexies 29.

>>In the last edition of power rankings, I wrote Canon-Mac might be the area's hottest team, winners in four of five. What happened? A 10-point loss to Peters Township and a 13-point loss to Bethel Park where the Big Macs made one field and four free throws while getting outscored, 22-6, in the third quarter. Um, might have to amend that.

>>Trinity has lost three straight -- two since the last edition -- and five of six overall, putting the Hillers in a five-way tie for third place in Section 4-AAAA with Canon-Mac, Moon, Peters Township and Mt. Lebanon.

>>Speaking of Peters Township, don't sleep on this team. Yes, I know the Indians were 1-5, 4-9 the last time I did power rankings, but they're coming off wins over Canon-Mac and Mt. Lebanon, with a game at Moon on Friday. If Gabe Pritz is healthy -- his 29 points and 11 rebounds Friday looked pretty healthy -- this could turn out to be one of the area's better teams.

>>Monessen's win over California would be a boost -- the first non-section victory for the Greyhounds that WASN'T a forfeit -- but it must be balanced with a 56-38 loss at Clairton on Friday, one where Salvino openly questioned his team's toughness.

>>Another team that really hasn't played bad recently has been Charleroi. As I wrote last time, two of the Cougars' four losses came at the beginning of the season, to Ringgold and Burgettstown. There was also a nine-point to Yough and last Tuesday's loss to California -- at this point, not a whole lot to hold against Charleroi.

That being said, gonna wait until after this week to put out another set. Let's hope there's a little bit more power to rank.

Ready for some hockey?

Canon-McMillan (9-4-2, 20 points) vs. Peters Township (9-4-0, 18 points)
Southpointe Iceoplex, 8:30 p.m.

Main storyline: With an Indians win, the two will be tied for first place in Section 1-AAA, though Peters Township would hold the tiebreaker because of two head-to-head wins. Should Canon-Mac win, the Big Macs will have a four-point lead in the section with five games to go.

Who to watch: Several players rank among the league leaders. Here are a few:

1. Trevor Recktenwald, Peters Township: 20 goals, 27 assists, 47 points
T-4. Carmen Dalesandro, Canon-McMillan: 18 goals, 16 assists, 34 points
T-4. Adam Alavi, Peters Township: 18 goals, 16 assists, 34 points
5. Alex Debolt, Peters Township: nine goals, 24 assists, 33 points
6. Anthony Tonkovich, Canon-McMillan: 13 goals, 19 assists, 32 points

Last meeting: Peters Township won, 5-2, on Dec. 17. Adam Alavi had three goals -- on a rebound, a dump-in and a wrister. Indians goalie Brian Baker stopped 31 of 33 shots. PT erased an early 2-1 deficit. Here's the link to my game story.

Some context: That game, at the time, pitted two teams moving in entirely different directions. Canon-Mac had gone 5-0-2 in its past seven, averaging 6.7 goals per game. Peters Township, meanwhile, stumbled to a 4-4 start.

The win apparently rejuvenated Peters Township, which has won five straight since and has been averaging eight goals per contest. The exact opposite happened for Canon-Mac, with that loss begetting a three-game losing streak.

Fortunately for this matchup, Canon-Mac has turned things around, winning its past two games over Penn-Trafford (6-3) and Upper St. Clair (3-0). In that last one, on Jan. 17, Austin Tonkovich and Blair Oldaker scored on the power play, and goalie Ryan Christian stopped all 20 shots. Dalesandro added an empty-netter late.

Analysis: A win here is crucial for Canon-Mac, with North Allegheny (12-2), Bethel Park (9-3) and Central Catholic (8-5-1) next on the Big Macs' schedule.

One way Canon-McMillan could change the outcome would be to convert on the power play following an 0-for-6 outing last game that earned the team a tongue-lashing from head coach Yuri Krivokhija.

Last game, Baker had a clear view of most pucks coming his way, something Canon-Mac will surely hope to change this time. But that might be easier said that done with PT's scoring depth  -- three players with 30 or more points, six in double digits -- and the ability of Recktendwald, who can not only score but also distribute the puck quite nicely.

Should be a good one. Following along on Twitter for updates (@mackey_jason).

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Regulation not enough in Section 4-AAAA

If you're looking to play a little extra basketball, and you're a boy, Section 4-AAAA is the place for you.

All eight of the teams in the section have played at least one overtime game so far. And this only halfway through the section schedule. Check it out:


Bethel Park 7-0, 12-1 ... 2-0 in OT (wins over Trinity, Peters Township)
Upper St. Clair 6-1, 10-3 ... 2-0 in OT (wins over Peters Township, Mt. Lebanon)
Trinity 3-4, 9-6 ... 0-3 in OT (losses to Moon, Bethel Park and Canon-McMillan)
Canon-McMillan 3-4, 8-7 ... 2-0 in OT (wins over Trinity, Mt. Lebanon)
Moon 3-4, 7-7 ... 1-0 in OT (win over Trinity)
Mt. Lebanon 3-4, 6-9 ... 0-2 in OT (losses to Canon-McMillan, Upper St. Clair)
Peters Township 2-5, 5-9 ... 0-3 in OT (losses to Bethel Park, Upper St. Clair and Baldwin)
Baldwin 1-6, 5-10 ... 1-0 in OT (win over Peters Township)

No surprise that the standings show Bethel Park and Upper St. Clair up top, a combined 4-0 in OT games, 13-1 in section play.

The glut of teams at 3-4 -- Trinity, Canon-McMillan, Moon and Mt. Lebanon -- is certainly intriguing. Not shocked that Big Macs coach Rick Bell has willed two extra-time wins out of his team, including a triple-overtime thriller over a young Mt. Lebanon squad.

A little surprised that Trinity is 0-3 in overtime games, especially considering the Hillers returned all five starters. Granted one of them, Avery King, has missed time because of an injury, but no doubt the Hillers dropped some games they feel they should have won.

Speaking of that, think there's anybody in the WPIAL happier to close the books on the first half of the season than Peters Township, also 0-3 in the extra session or sessions. Here's a look at the Indians' section sked:

12/14 at Mt. Lebanon ... 48-45 L
12/18 vs. Moon ... 61-49 W
12/21 at Trinity ... 53-51 L
1/4 vs. Bethel Park ... 61-59 L (OT)
1/8 vs. Upper St. Clair ... 67-62 (2OT)
1/11 at Baldwin ... 60-52 L (OT)
1/15 vs. Canon-McMillan ... 59-49 L

Six conference losses by a total of 30 points, an average of five per contest.

"It's been a tough year," Indians coach Gary Goga told me after this past Saturday's loss at Wash High. "But we have a great group of kids, and we're going to keep fighting."

I don't doubt that. But this is one heck of a section to be doing it in.

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Scoring leaders needed

Need scoring leaders this week.

Please let me know of anybody averaging 10 or more points per game by Thursday at 4 p.m.

E-mail to jmackey@observer-reporter.com.

Monday, January 14, 2013

Pregame: Carmichaels at Monessen

Carmichaels (2-1 Section 3-A, 11-2) at Monessen (3-0 3-A, 4-8), 7:30 p.m.

Last game: Carmichaels is coming off a 76-50 win over Geibel on Jan. 11, one where Brandon Lawless scored a career-high 39 points. ... Monessen earned a 91-38 win over Mapletown the same night, getting 28 points from Clintell Gillaspie and 18 from Luke Doptis.

Next up: Both teams stay in Section 3-A. Monessen is at Clairton (3-0, 5-3) Friday, while Carmichaels plays at Mapletown (1-2, 2-10).

Coaches: Carmichaels is coached by Don Williams, Monessen by Joe Salvino.

This 'n at: Carmichaels two losses are to Clairton (-17) and Jefferson-Morgan (-4), a 5-3 team and a 6-7 squad.

Monessen, meanwhile, started the season 0-7 and 1-8, the only reprieve coming with a forfeit win over Imani Christian. But check out how the Greyhounds have rolled through the section.

*60-23 win over Geibel
*85-46 win over Avella
*91-38 win over Mapletown

But, and this is a big one, those teams are a combined 4-28. Not like Section 3-A will be confused with the Big Ten or the Big East, but this will be the Greyhounds' first test against a fellow section title contender. We'll see how those rough early-season outcomes have paid off.

Faces and names: Monessen, which lost four starters from last year's team, is led by Gillaspie, Doptis and Javon Brown. Justice Rawlins is a physical presence, a rebounder, but the scoring comes from the first three. Tyler Yuille has also come on of late.

Carmichaels, meanwhile, gets the ball to Lawless, along with Sean Smoggie, Josh Mundell and Brennan McMinn. At last check, Lawless was around 16 points per game, Smoggie 12. (Brown was close for Monessen, but no one was averaging double figures.)

Athleticism definitely goes to Monessen, though the Mikes are much more experienced.

Analysis: Monessen has been to the playoffs 31 consecutive times. This hasn't been by accident. The Greyhounds don't just luck into it every year; they're well-coached.

Recently Salvino has had a problem not with his team's losses, but with the effort given. Rest assured this has changed. Either that or those not giving it are gone.

While there's no doubt this is one of the best teams Carmichaels has had in years, I'm not sure they're ready to compete with Monessen. This year will yield a closer result than, say, last year, when the Greyhounds went 25-4 and reached the Class AA final. But even though they're young, they're still Monessen.

I like Monessen to get a few buckets in transition early, to surprise the Mikes. Carmichaels will shoot itself back in it, stick around for a while, then Gillaspie, Brown and Doptis will become too much to handle.

See you there.

Girls hoops power rankings

Hope everyone enjoyed the boys hoops power rankings that I posted late Saturday/early Sunday. They seemed to get a fair amount of clicks, though don't be shy about commenting. Would love to hear the feedback on these things -- even if it involves calling me an idiot. I'm OK with that.

Here, without further delay, are the girls power rankings:

1. McGuffey (11-1) -- Highlanders have won five section games by an average of 38.6 points, averaging 71 a game during that stretch.

2. South Fayette (6-4) -- A four-loss team here? Yes, I know. It looks strange. But three of those losses have been to the 2011-12 WPIAL Class AA runner-up (Bishop Canevin), the Class AAA runner-up (South Park) and a 10-1 Central Valley team.

3. Avella (7-4) -- Who expected the Eagles to upset Carmichaels? Not me. But apparently, at least with that win, Avella could be for real in Section 3-A.

4. Carmichaels (11-2) -- Mikes get Anna Cree (824 career points) back tonight. Should be a little better deadline-acquisition than Ryan Ludwick.

5. Charleroi (9-5) -- Losses -- Belle Vernon, Canevin, Carmichaels, Brentwood, McGuffey -- aren't horrible. Have only beaten team without a losing record, and that was 6-6 Washington.

6. California (10-2) -- Trojans have only one section loss: eight points to Carmichaels. But outside of West Greene, they, too, lack any semblance of an above-average win, beating nine teams with losing record.

7. Chartiers-Houston (7-5) -- Bucs have been streaky. Opened with three straight wins, including one at the KSA Classic in Florida. Then lost five of six. Currently riding a three-game winning streak, including Saturday's 47-28 win over the Prexies.

8. Washington (6-6) -- Prexies have the weapons: Mya Gordon, India March, Taylor Ellis and Alyssa Wise. What they don't have is experience -- exactly zero seniors. Been tough to find much consistency.

9. West Greene (8-4) -- Wins over West Virginia schools Hundred and Cameron account for three of the Pioneers' eight wins. Toss in two victories over winless Mapletown and victories over two-win teams in Beth-Center and Geibel, and, man, West Greene needs a win at home tonight against Avella to prove it belongs.

10. Ringgold (6-6) -- The Rams section is brutal, with Elizabeth Forward, West Mifflin and Belle Vernon at the top. But the final playoff spot could come down to a battle with Thomas Jefferson, a team they beat by seven as recently as Jan. 3.

Saturday, January 12, 2013

Boys hoops power rankings

Welcome to the first installment of the Observer-Reporter Power Rankings.

The mathematical formula isn't very scientific here, mostly because there is no mathematical formula. 

This is also not who I think would beat whom on any given night.

Monessen ahead of Canon-Mac? Greyhounds are Class A, you idiot, Big Macs in Class AAAA. Canon-Mac would roll!

No, not evaluating basketball. Evaluating performance.

What these rankings represent is what teams' stocks I think are high at this time, what teams' stocks are dropping, etc. ... all relative to their competition. Big factors, of course, are similar-size schools played (and results), as well as section records and streaks.

Get it? Got it? Good.

1. California (11-1) -- All the Trojans do is beat teams by 30. Winning this section should be a foregone conclusion. Non-section wins (Char-Houston, Mapletown, Belle Vernon twice) could be better.

2. South Fayette (9-2) -- Lions are 5-0 in a section that includes Montour, Char Valley and Keystone Oaks. Tuesday's game against the Colts will feature two 5-0 teams battling for first place.

3. Washington (11-2) -- Losses were to Seton-La Salle (11-2) and Indiana, both fairly respectable. Non-section wins over Canon-Mac, Peters, Saltsburg, Pikeville, Ringgold, Elizabeth Forward and Weir (W.Va.).

4. Canon-McMillan (8-6) -- Big Macs might be the area's hottest team after outlasting Mt. Lebanon in triple-overtime on Friday night. Wins in four of five.

5. Trinity (9-5) -- Hillers would've been higher, but losses in four of six hurts, three of those section games.

6. Monessen (4-8) -- Non-section = eight losses, three by more than 30 points. Section play = three wins by a combined 236-107. This ranking could go up quickly.

7. Carmichaels (11-2) -- I don't know if the Mikes are ready to contend with the Section 3-A title or just really good at beating not-so-good teams. Tuesday vs. Monessen help the decision-making process.

8. Charleroi (8-3) -- Take away losses to Ringgold (1-11) and Burgettstown (6-8) to start the season, and the Cougars are 8-1. Unlike Major League Baseball, I'm actually going to acknowledge that these occurred and put Charleroi near the bottom.

9. Burgettstown (6-8) -- Up-and-down so far for the Blue Devils, but the return of PG Kurt Kowalski (broken hand) should help. 

10. Peters Township (4-9) -- A 4-9 team here? I'm crazy, right? Maybe. But the Indians are better than their record indicates. Nine losses by seven, three, 29, two, 36, two, five, eight and nine points.

Pregame: Peters Township (4-8) at Washington (10-2), 7:30 p.m.


Last game: Peters Township dropped its fourth straight, 60-52, to Baldwin in overtime on Friday night, despite 34 points from Gabe Pritz.

Washington lost to Seton-La Salle, 50-45, on Tuesday night. Josh Wise scored a game-high 25 points, but the Prexies didn't get enough secondary scoring.

Up next: Peters Township hosts Canon-McMillan (3-3, 8-6) in Section 4-AAAA action Tuesday night. ... Washington plays at Burgettstown (2-3, 6-8) in a Section 4-AA contest Tuesday night.

Last year: Wash High went 13-10 and lost to Elizabeth Forward by two in the WPIAL Class AAA preliminary round. The Prexies dropped down to Class AA this season. ... At Chartiers-Houston's Hoopfest, Wash High earned a 66-64 win over the Indians, who were 12-12 and reached the Class AAAA quarterfinals.

Coaches: Peters Township is led by Gary Goga ... Wash High is coached by Mark Gaither.

Analysis: Screw that whole section thing. Peters Township needs a win. Any win.

Not only have the Indians dropped four straight and five of six, but four of those five losses have been by eight points or less, two by two points.

If the loss to Seton-La Salle proved anything, it's that Wash High is capable of stopping big men, not so much when it comes to shifty guards. (Dale Clancy, all 5-8 of him, slashed his way through the Prexies' defense for 18 points. Malik White and Levi Masua, 6-4 and 6-5, had seven points between them.)

Pritz can play inside and outside, though my (Monopoly) money says he'll have more success on the perimeter and driving to the hoop in this one. Nick Parello and Dakota Norton are also the mold of player capable of giving Wash High fits.

As for Peters, I'm thinking they'll try to defend Wise. (Took me a while to come up with that one, right?) But would you allocate too many resources on Wash High's role players? Probably not until they prove they can take advantage.

Bottom line, Peters Township needs this game, very likely more than Wash High does. A win here can get the Indians on a little role; they have Canon-Mac, Mt. Lebanon and Moon in a seven-day stretch starting Tuesday.

None, of course, are cakewalks. But all are winnable.

On the other side, watch for Wash High to try some things in an attempt to generate offense from someone other than Wise.

See you out there.

Friday, January 11, 2013

A few South Fayette/Montour extras

Word on the street was that Montour moved to a more uptempo style this season, which explains why the Spartans entered Friday's game at South Fayette averaging 69.7 points per game -- nearly 10 more than last year.

The Spartans had scored more than 70 points six times in 10 games, but South Fayette put together its most complete defensive performance of the season during a 53-46 win.

Worse, the 46 points are a season-low for Montour (3-2, 8-3), nine fewer than the previous mark.

"I think tonight was the first time we really showed what we could do defensively," senior point guard Evan Bonnaure told me.

South Fayette has now allowed 42, 40, 43 and 46 points over its past four games.

Another theme to this one, and what I wrote about in Saturday's game story, was South Fayette wanting to hold serve on its home floor, especially against a team like Montour.

Zach Challingsworth talked to me a lot about Pat Zedreck and Mike Lamberti, two players from the 2010-11 team that put South Fayette basketball on the map -- at least recently. Those two didn't lose at home. And Challingsworth sure didn't want that to happen his senior year.

"We don't lose often here," said Challingsworth, who finished with 12 points. "It's been like that for a while. Lamberti and Zedreck, their grade started it. When we lose here, we get embarrassed. I think every home team does. They've beaten us the last couple times we've played, so we were definitely looking to get them back."

Didn't get a chance to use this quote either. Here's Rich Bonnaure talking about the timeout he called after Montour made it a 38-35 game early in the fourth. Keep in mind, South Fayette was playing without Lucas Russell, who missed this game with a sprained ankle.

"We used some timeouts for a rest, but that one we actually did want to set up a couple plays, thinking the only way to stem this was to get a couple good shots."

Pregame: Montour (3-1, 8-2) at South Fayette (4-0, 8-2), 7:30 p.m.

Last game: Montour beat South Park, 69-49, on Tuesday behind 17 points from Rob Julian and 13 from Devin Wilson. Kevin Sciulli and Justin Hill added 12 each.

South Fayette crushed McGuffey, 73-43, on Tuesday, getting 32 points and six 3-pointers from Evan Bonnaure. Zach Challingsworth added 14 points.

Up next: Montour has New Castle tomorrow in the Coaches vs. Cancer Clash of the Titans at Geneva College. South Fayette has Chartiers Valley (4-0, 9-1) on Tuesday.

What to watch: Wilson is very likely the Spartans' best player and averages close to 20 points per game. At 6-3, he's also their tallest.

The Spartans, who won a WPIAL Class AAA title in 2010-11, are undergoing a style change of sorts, trading their methodical ways of old for a more uptempo style.

Look for this Montour team to run more than those in years past; not surprisingly, the Spartans are averaging 69.7 points per game, nearly 10 more than last season.

Bonnaure is having a breakout year for the Lions, averaging 21.3 points per contest while also putting up 3.1 assists and 3.1 steals.

C.J. Rudisill has likewise taken on a larger role and is contributing 12 points and 6.9 rebounds per night.

Last year's leading scorer, Zach Challingsworth, has worked his way back into the lineup after missing the first few games of this season after what was feared to be a sports hernia.

Last year: South Fayette (16-7) was upset in the first round of the playoffs by Beaver ... Montour (24-5) reached the WPIAL and PIAA Class AAA semifinals.

Coaches: South Fayette is coached by Rich Bonnaure; Montour is led by Adam Kaufman.

Analysis: Not only is this a battle for first place in Section 5-AAA, but it's also a rematch of the 2011 WPIAL Class AAA championship game, which Montour won, 45-34 -- a huge upset at the time.

In past years, I'd definitely take the under in this one, and this year's game may be low-scoring, too ... in which case it would favor South Fayette. Whatever pace you see, that's probably who'll be winning.

South Fayette can't get too enamored with Wilson and must worry about containing Julian, Sciulli and Hill, all capable scorers.

Meanwhile, much attention will be paid to Bonnaure. He's earned it. The Lions will need a big night from Rudisill and/or Challingsworth. Likely both.

Could this be the first sighting of the Zach Challingsworth we saw last season? Only one way to find out, right?

Thursday, January 10, 2013

More on Wash High's girls

When Washington High School girls basketball coach Mike Maltony says it's been a different player every game for the Prexies, he's not just spitting out one of the overused phrases in all of high school sports.

During the Prexies' last three games, four plays have been in double figures. Check this out:

12/28 48-33 W South Side Beaver -- Alyssa Wise 19, Taylor Ellis 14
1/5 46-40 W Avella -- India March 13
1/7 37-31 South Side Beaver -- Mya Gordon 14

"It really has been several players," Maltony said.

So it has.

And a bit of defense.

Those three games work out to 34.7 points against. For the season, Wash High is giving up 38.3 per contest -- No. 2 in the section behind McGuffey's 36.5.

"The defense has really stepped up," Maltony said. "As you can see by the low scores, we’ve been holding teams down into the 30s."

More will be needed, too. Wash High hosts McGuffey (4-0, 10-1) tonight in a key Section 5-AA matchup -- could force a first-place tie -- and the Sammie Weiss-led Highlanders are averaging 71.6 points per game.

Wash High has also done a nice job late in games. Against Avella, the Prexies trailed by three at halftime but outscored the Eagles, 20-13, in the second half. The second South Side Beaver game featured a 17-11 scoring edge for Wash High in the final period.

The young Prexies have done a nice job weathering the loss of Andrea Sharp, who tore her ACL during 53-42 loss at Peters Township on Dec. 10 and is out for the season. Freshman Tajah Gordon has given the team quality minutes. So, too, has classmate Mikala Maltony.

"We just want to keep the ship righted," Mike Maltony said. "We want to keep building on what we’ve been doing.

"Tonight will be a good test for us. McGuffey has been running the table on a lot of teams lately, but I think if we play a well-disciplined game that we’ll have a good shot."

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

One drawback to the NHL lockout ending

There's not much of a drawback to the NHL, you know, getting back to hockey, at least not in my opinion. Though Joe Tuscano may disagree.

But count Peters Township's Trevor Recktenwald among those who's probably none too pleased that the NHL decided to end the strike and resume play now.

And not, say, Thursday morning.

See, Recktenwald was supposed to play in the Tomahawks Charity Classic Wednesday at Cambria County War Memorial Arena in Johnston -- a charity hockey game that paired members of the North American Hockey League’s Tier II Junior A Johnstown franchise with players from the then-locked-out NHL.

Recktenwald was selected to play through his travel team, the Pittsburgh Vipers.

But around noon today, that game was canceled due to Sunday's news that agreement on a new CBA had been reached and the NHL would resume play on either Jan. 15 or 19.

(I had tried to put together a story on this, though I haven't been able to reach Indians head coach Rick Tingle.)

Recktenwald was supposed to be on a team that included Ben Lovejoy, Brooks Oprik, Matt Cooke, Craig Adams, Tyler Kennedy and Marc-Andre Fleury. Deryk Engelland, Pascal Dupuis, Chris Kunitz, Joe Vitale, James Neal (tentatively) and former Penguin Jordan Staal were supposed to be on the other side, with members of the Tomahawks sprinkled throughout.

Can you imagine that, getting to play on the same team as current professional hockey players ... against professional hockey players? Easily the highlight of any high school kid's career.

I'm beyond thrilled that we're going to have hockey this season, but I could understand if Recktenwald didn't exactly share that sentiment.