Thursday, March 7, 2013

South Fayette, McGuffey to start PIAA hoops playoffs

The South Fayette boys basketball team figured on at least two things prior to the 2012-13 season: An elite scorer would lead the offense, and the Lions would play a whole bunch of games against rivals Chartiers Valley and Montour.

While the latter turned out to be true -- including a PIAA Class AAA first-round game tonight against the Spartans at North Allegheny, the sixth this season against South Fayette's two biggest rivals -- the former took an unexpected twist.

Zach Challingsworth led South Fayette in scoring last season at 15.6 points per game, earning Observer-Reporter first team All-Area honors. But a week before the start of the season, Challingsworth, a Pitt football recruit, said he would skip basketball to let a sports hernia injury heal.

Though Challingsworth has since returned, senior point guard Evan Bonnaure, who averaged 10.4 points per game as a junior, has taken over Challingsworth's role as the go-to scorer by putting up 16.5 points per game.

As a result, the offense has shifted to one that emphasizes Bonnaure's strengths (shooting and passing) versus those of Challingsworth (dribble penetration and athleticism).

"Getting Zach back late, it took us a little while to settle in with everyone in the right positions," Bonnaure said. "But down the stretch, we've done a great job of executing our offense and getting the shots we wanted. I think that contributes a lot to the good open jump shots we've been getting and knocking down."

The change has South Fayette playing more half-court sets, and the Lions expect little to be different Friday against the Spartans, the reigning WPIAL champions.

"Drawing Montour, if that doesn't get their blood flowing, nothing will," head coach Rich Bonnaure said of playing the Spartans, who've won two of the past three WPIAL Class AAA titles and are riding a 14-game winning streak.

South Fayette (14-10) actually beat Montour, 53-46, on Jan. 11 after the Spartans made just two of 14 three-pointers -- no question their bread and butter.

The Lions were comfortable enough playing in the half-court that they led WPIAL runner-up Chartiers Valley by nine with five minutes to go in the Class AAA quarterfinals, though they couldn't hang on to the lead.

"We really feel that whenever you get in the playoffs, the amount of transition points you get decreases a little bit," Evan Bonnaure said. "That was a big part of our offense. We knew the biggest challenge for us would be being able to execute in the half-court offense. We've done a great job of that so far."

The McGuffey girls travel to Gannon University Friday to play North East (22-3), the District 10 champion, in the first round of the PIAA Class AA playoffs.

North East upset Region 4 champion General McLane, 38-36, avenging two regular season losses.

The Grapepickers are led by Mercyhurst recruit Alex Artise, who's the program's all-time leading scorer with 1,421 points, though General McLane held her to just six in the District 10 final.

McGuffey counters with its own 1,000-point scorer: sophomore Sammie Weiss, who's averaging 26.5 points per game.

Tip for the South Fayette boys game is 7:30, while the girls start at 6:30 p.m.

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