Mt. Lebanon and North Catholic both have the best shots at the double titles this year, as both Blue Devil and Trojan squads are the top remaining seeds in the their respective brackets.
In Class AAAA boys, Mt. Lebanon (Pittsburgh) advanced to the semifinals with a 56-44 win over McKeesport thanks to a 15-1 run to start the second half. Paul Lang led the Blue Devils with 16 points and 11 rebounds with Evan Pierce adding 18 points.
"We came out with some fire in the second half, got to the rim, and Paul Lang was all over the boards," Mt. Lebanon head coach Joey David told the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. "He’s a very underrated player. He’s the most productive guy we have when you talk about everything – assists, steals, points and rebounds."
Meanwhile, the Mt. Lebanon girls had an easy time knocking off Fox Chapel 73-45 in Class AAAA thanks to 24 points from Madison Cable.
The North Catholic (Pittsburgh) boys, the defending Class AA champions, found themselves in a tight one with Washington trailing by six at halftime before pulling out a 54-49 win behind 17 points from Martin Long.
The Trojan girls, the defending Class A champs, also had tight one with Winchester Thurston before pulling out a 53-47 win behind 12 points from Kendall Hoffman.
Chartiers Valley (Bridgeville)'s boys team, the top seed in Class AAA, flew past Trinity 85-47 in the quarterfinals thanks to another ridiculous performance by Duquesne recruit T.J. McConnell, the nephew of Duquesne women’s coach and former Olympian and WNBA player and coach Suzie McConnell-Serio. T.J. had 34 points, 11 steals and 10 assists in the victory.
The girls squad from Chartiers Valley, the fourth seed, also had an easy time of knocking off Mount Pleasant, a PIAA qualifier from last season, 61-51 behind 23 points from Erica Resitch, who hit four 3-pointers.
The semifinals will pose issues for each team with Mt. Lebanon taking on Upper St. Clair in boys action and Peters Township in girls play. North Catholic gets South Fayette in boys action and Monessen in girls, while Chartiers Valley faces the Washington boys and the top-seeded Hopewell girls.
2. District 9 boys basketball: The more things change the more they stay the same: In District 9 Class A boys action, this was supposed to be the year new faces made appearances in the semifinals with A-C Valley seeded No. 1 and North Clarion (Tionesta) No. 2 with Cameron County (Emporium) at No. 5. But in the end, it was more of the usual with traditional powers Elk County Catholic (St. Marys), Coudersport, Keystone (Knox) and DuBois Central Catholic advancing to the semifinals.
A-C Valley fell to Keystone 57-36 Monday as the Panthers used a 20-5 run to start the quarterfinal game, while North Clarion was upset in a first-round contest 51-50 by 15th-seeded Clarion-Limestone thanks to 25 points by Brandon Bell. C-L, the highest seed to ever win a District 9 playoff game, then almost duplicated the feat in the quarterfinals Saturday before losing 63-61 at Coudersport. ECC, meanwhile, cruised past Port Allegany and Ridgway while DCC had an easy time beating Clarion in the first round before going double-overtime to knock off Cameron County 71-68 in the quarterfinals behind 27 Chris Marshall points.
3. Ridgway wins four D9 wrestling crowns: Four Ridgway wrestlers won District 9 championships Saturday with Corey Bush winning at 103 pounds, Garet Pisani at 135, Zack Zelcs at 181 and Joe Chittester at heavyweight (285). That helped the Elkers win the team title 190.5-117 over Port Allegany while earning head coach Gary Gerber the Class AA Coach of the Year. Meanwhile, Coudersport’s Dirk Cowburn, a two-time state champ, took home his third straight District 9 title winning at 160 pounds while being named the Outstanding Wrestler.
4. 171 pounds could be classic in WPIAL Class AAA: The 171-pound weight class in the WPIAL Class AAA tournament being held Thursday could be a classic with the top two wrestlers – Butler’s Cole Baxter and Chartiers Valley’s Tyler Wilps – each sporting 33-0 records. Baxter was the WPIAL champion at 145 pounds a year ago as a sophomore, while Wilps took second at 171 pounds.
5. Snow, snow go away, it’s almost time for spring sports: With over a football of snow in many places in Western Pennsylvania, it’s hard to believe that the spring sports season gets underway in less than a week. The first practice day for spring sports is March 8 with the first competition date March 26, which happens to also be the first day of the state basketball championships.