Monday, March 25, 2013

The South girls' All-Stars

There have been three girls' basketball players from The Tribune-Democrat coverage area to score 2,000 career points. One of them - Shanksville-Stonycreek senior Kayla Stockenus - will play in Saturday's AmeriServ Senior Hoops Showcase as part of the South roster.

Stockenus is one of several standouts for the South, which will be coached by Berlin Brothersvalley's Rachel Prosser. Under Prosser's guidance, the Mountaineers defeated Portage in the first round of the PIAA Class A playoffs and held a lead late in the fourth quarter against eventual PIAA runner-up Vincentian Academy in the second round.

The scene at Pitt-Johnstown's Sports Center won't be nearly as intense as the state playoffs. Still, the South roster is filled with players who experienced the thrills of the PIAA tournament.

Coach: Rachel Prosser, Berlin
A perennial contender in District 5 and frequent quest of the PIAA Class A playoffs, Berlin finished 23-5 with only one senior receiving significant minutes.

Players (in alphabetical order)
Carly Baer, Conemaugh Township
Multi-faceted senior averaged 7.5 points, 4.0 rebounds and 3.0 assists.

Lyndy Baer, Conemaugh Township
The Indians reached the second round of the PIAA Class A playoffs behind a balanced attack. Baer, a 1,000-point scorer, averaged 11.8 points, 4.7 assists and made 52 3-pointers.

Elizabeth Chobany, Ferndale
The Yellow Jackets struggled in the win column, but Chobany was a bright spot. Chobany averaged 15.2 points, 7.1 rebounds and 4.9 steals.

Alexis Jo Dona, Richland
Injuries shortened a promising senior season, but she averaged 6.6 points in limited duty.

Katie Gehlmann, Richland
Gehlmann averaged 12.7 points, 5.0 assists and made 32 3-pointers.

Maddy Grimm, Ligonier Valley
It's tough finding a player from District 6 with better numbers than the Kent State softball signee. Grimm averaged team highs in points (13.1), rebounds (6.8), steals (5.9), blocks (2.1) and assists (5.4).

Stephanie Hrbal, Bishop McCort
Hrbal ranked second on team in scoring (8.3) and averaged 3.0 rebounds.

Sarah Pfeil, Richland
Pfeil averaged a team-high 14.1 points with 6.3 rebounds and 1.1 blocks per game.

Marah Riley, Berlin
The lone senior in the Mountaineers' starting lineup, Riley could run the offense and get to the basket.

Kelsey Smith, Conemaugh Township
A combo guard/forward, Smith averaged 9.0 points, 4.0 rebounds and 3.6 assists.

Kayla Stockenus, Shanksville-Stonycreek
Stockenus averaged 31.0 points, 6.8 rebounds, 5.4 steals and made 172 free throws.

The North girls' All-Stars

All-Star basketball teams often feature a collection of scorers, nothing but a group of shooting guards and small forwards that look to shoot the basketball with incredible frequency. It can often lead to boring basketball.

The group comprising the North girls' roster for Saturday's AmeriServ Senior Hoops Classic, which tips off at 1 p.m. at the Pitt-Johnstown Sports Center, is much more than a collection of offensive standouts. It resembles an actual basketball team.

Sure, the North features some of the area's premier scorers, but there are players who rebounded, ran the point and dug down defensively. Another positive for Portage coach Lance Hudak, who guided the Mustangs to one of its best seasons and will lead the North roster, is every player came from a playoff team. Several of those players came from teams that accomplished more than expected in the postseason.

Coach: Lance Hudak, Portage
The Mustangs finished 22-4 and won their first WestPAC championship with a hard-fought overtime victory against Berlin. Portage was the District 6 Class A runner-up and qualified for the PIAA playoffs.

Players (in alphabetical order)
Katie Bracken, Central Cambria
Red Devils' post presence averaged 8.8 points and a team-best 9.1 rebounds.

Jamie Cekada, Conemaugh Valley
Blue Jays point guard did a little bit of everything as she averaged 7.1 points, 4.9 assists, 5.4 rebounds and 2.8 steals.

Casey Gallaher, Forest Hills
Gallaher aggravated an injury in the final game of the season and won't be able to play but plans to attend game. She scored 1,500 career points.

Lexi Hody, Conemaugh Valley
Ranked second on team with 10.1 scoring average.

Taylor King-Brothers, Central Cambria
King-Brothers recently signed with St. Francis track, but she's also a basketball standout who averaged 8.8 points and 3.2 steals.

Paige Lamberson, Westmont Hilltop
Three-point shooting specialist averaged 11.9 points and made 65 3-pointers.

Heather Marsh, Blacklick Valley
Stat-sheet filler averaged 11.0 rebounds and team-high 11.1 rebounds.

Emily McCabe, Portage
Key role player for Mustangs averaged 4.9 points and 4.2 rebounds.

Bri Mulhern, Penn Cambria
Another sharpshooter, Mulhern averaged 11.7 points and made 47 3-pointers.

Candice Ramus, Portage
One of the area's premier shooters in rifle, Ramus was a rare multi-sport winter sports athlete.

Erin Rodgers, Westmont Hilltop
One of area's most complete players averaged 16.7 points, 4.8 rebounds, 4.1 assists and 4.0 steals.

Marlee Zubek, Forest Hills
Key figure for District 6 Class AAA champs averaged 8.3 points, 3.4 rebounds and 3.1 assists while leading team with 30 3-pointers.

Thursday, March 21, 2013

The South boys' All-Stars

The basketball season was a solid team for Somerset County teams. Conemaugh Township and Shade won district championships and state playoff games. In the case of the Indians, they advanced all the way to the PIAA Class AA quarterfinals.

It's no coincidence that those two schools comprise seven of the 12 players on the South roster for the AmeriServ Senior Hoops Showcase, which begins March 30 at 1 p.m. at the Pitt-Johnstown Sports Center.

Coach: Scott Close, Somerset
Close has steadily turned the Golden Eagles from a struggling program into a high-scoring, quick-shooting outfit capable of beating any team in the Laurel Highlands Athletic Conference. Somerset reached the District 6 Class AAA championship game this season.

Brent Barron, Somerset
Barron averaged a team-high 17.1 points and 6.1 rebounds.

Dillon Boyer, Conemaugh Township
The leader of the Indians' balanced offense, Boyer averaged 14.3 points and was a 1,000-point scorer.

Josh Burns, Conemaugh Township
High-percentage shooter averaged 11.4 points and 2.7 steals.

Jake Close, Somerset
The future basketball player at Juniata College averaged 15.8 points and made 78 3-pointers.

Chad Eisenhuth, Ferndale
A 1,000-point scorer, Eisenhuth averaged 21.1 points as a senior.

Jeff Fisher, Conemaugh Township
Football standout averaged 12.5 points, 7.2 rebounds and 3.2 steals.

Ryan Fyock, Shade
A gifted, creative offensive player, Fyock averaged 25.2 points and 5.7 rebounds.

Brock Medva, Shade
The football standout made plenty of big plays for the Panthers. He averaged 10.1 points and 2.4 steals.

Luke Shertzer, Richland
One of the area's premier defensive backs during football season, Shertzer's fine senior year continued in basketball as he averaged 10.7 points and 4.3 rebounds.

Carter Slade, Shanksville
The Vikings' clutch senior averaged 15.7 points and 7.8 rebounds.

Jeremy Sotosky, Conemaugh Township
CT's inside presence averaged 10.9 points and 7.7 rebounds.

Wade Walker, Shade
An athletic gamechanger, Walker averaged 18.0 points and 13.1 rebounds.

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

The North Boys' All-Stars

The AmeriServ Senior Hoops Showcase, which is hosted by The Tribune-Democrat, takes place March 30 with a girls' and boys' game beginning at 1 p.m. at the Pitt-Johnstown Sports Center.

What makes this event unique is that every player selected comes from a school inside The T-D coverage area.

And this year's showcase is shaping up to be a memorable one as the majority of the area's top players have confirmed their intentions to participate.

Over the next few days, rosters for the teams will be released - starting with the North Boys.

Coach: Dan Weber, Northern Cambria
Weber guided the Colts to four consecutive PIAA playoff appearances and the program's first two victories in the state playoffs since 1965. The Colts played in the District 6 Class AA championship game one year after winning the Class A crown.

Players (in alphabetical order)
Mack Behe, Penn Cambria
Two-time All-State linebacker averaged 8.6 points, 4.7 rebounds, 4.4 assists.

Josh Bonatesta, Northern Cambria
Future baseball player at Mt. Aloysius averaged 12.4 points.

Dalton Cesarz, Blacklick Valley
Leading rebounder in Vikings history averaged 25.7 points, 12.1 rebounds, 3.0 steals, 2.6 blocks.

Roshon Fields, Greater Johnstown
Averaged 11.1 points, double-digit rebounds.

A.J. Leahey, Penn Cambria
UPJ signee averaged 20.8 points, 12.0 rebounds, 3.2 assists for District 6 Class AA champs.

Phillip Madison, Greater Johnstown
Averaged 20.3 points, topped 1,000 career points during postseason.

Adam Polites, Northern Cambria
Averaged 20.1 points, topped 1,000 career points.

Scott Ranck, Bishop Carroll
Huskies' on-floor leader averaged 13.8 points, 5.4 rebounds, 2.5 steals.

Nick Roberts, Conemaugh Valley
Averaged 16.2 points, 13.1 rebounds, 2.1 blocks, 2.0 steals.

Johnny Sheesley, Blacklick Valley
PA High School Heisman winner topped 1,000 career points, averaged 17.7 points, 3.0 steals.

Isaac Vescovi, Cambria Heights
One of four people in family to score 1,000 points at CH, Vescovi averaged 21.9 points, 6.7 rebounds, 1.8 blocks.

Mike Vliet, Westmont Hilltop
Averaged 16.1 points, 5.4 rebounds.

Friday, March 15, 2013

Berlin built for the future

Considering how Berlin lost its PIAA Class A second-round playoff game versus Vincentian Academt Wednesday at Hempfield High School, it's easy to understand why the Mountaineers took the loss so hard.

Berlin pushed Vincentian, which entered the game with one loss and not many close calls through 27 games, to the limit. The Mountaineers even led the heavily favored Royals with four minutes remaining.

It ended with a 44-42 loss when Vincentian's Academy Abbey Bartoszewicz putback her own missed layup as time expired. The Mountaineers twice rallied from double-digit deficits, held Royals standout Brenna Wise without a field goal in the second half and Vincentian to just 12 second-half points.

"All the hard work these girls put in, I couldn't be more proud," Mountaineers coach Rachel Prosser said as she held back her emotions in the aftermath of the heartbreaking loss.

Berlin should also be excited for the future.

Marah Riley was the lone senior starter. Jordan Eutsey was also a senior, but she lost her last two seasons to two different knee injuries.

Back will be Shelby Coughenour, arguably the Mountaineers' best player. Erica Craig, who defended Wise exceptionally in the second half, will return. So will point guard Gina Trulick and Aleesa Fieg, who made all eight of her free-throw attempts to lead Berlin with 10 points against Vincentian.

Considering how well Berlin played in the state playoffs and a difficult District 5 Class A bracket, there's reason to believe Berlin can better this year's 23-5 record.

"They should take a lot of confidence from this. They played their hearts out. They did what they needed to do to win against one of the top programs in the state," Prosser said. "This should want to make them get better. They were one turnover away from winning this game. We have room to improve. That's the good thing."

Sorry bout that

My apologies for abondoning the live blog from Wednesday's PIAA girls' basketball playoff doubleheader involving Berlin and Forest Hills.

There were technical issues and I was not able to stay online long enough to continue updating the blog.

Hopefully, this gets worked out for future live blogs as it seems to be a popular feature.

As always, thank you for reading The Varsity Club.

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Live blog: Berlin vs. Vincentian Academy; Forest Hills vs. Blackhawk (girls basketball)

Judging by the pregame dance of Vincentian's Kayla Key, she averages 25.

Then, she comes out and scores the game's first basket on a layup. 2-0 Vincentian.

6:09 p.m. - Not overly impressed with Vincentian at this point, but the Royals are playing defense. Lead 11-3. Berlin has seven turnovers and hit first field goal at 3:10 left in the first.

6:14 p.m. - Berlin outworking VA right now, on an 8-2 run to pull within 13-9 with 58.3 left in first.

6:17 p.m. - Berlin ends first quarter on 11-0 run capped by a Gine Trulick layup to lead, 14-13. Mountaineers have forced 11 turnovers.


6:21 p.m. -Starting to think Berlin will be pretty good next year.

6:22 p.m. - From a fundamental standpoint, Berlin doing a lot of things right. Not dribbling much against the press. Attacking from middle. Nice basketball.

6:25 p.m. - With Brenna Wise back in, Vincentian responds with 10-0 run. Wise has five points during stretch including a putback of her own missed free throw. Royals led 25-16.

6:42 p.m. -Booted off the Internet for a few. Two things changed in the second quarter: 1. Brenna Wise re-entered the game for the Royals and took over. She's got 15 points and 10 rebounds already. 2. The Royals cut down significantly on their turnovers.

6:50 p.m. - Having significant issues with equipment and signals.

6:52 p.m. - Not much happening in third. Vincentian leads 36-26 with 2:38 remaining.

Monday, March 11, 2013

The Somerset County strut

A time once existed, not all that long ago, when the winter sports season was what separated football season from baseball season in Somerset County.

Sure, wrestling had a fervent following, and the slopes at Seven Springs and Hidden Valley were packed with locals weather permitting, but when it came to basketball, Somerset County wasn't exactly a hot spot.

OK, to be honest, with the exception of Windber's rich tradition and of a decent team every five years or so outside of Windber, it pretty much stunk when compared to the rest of Pennsylvania.

Hard to believe, but there was one brief period when Somerset County produced a small handful of highly successful teams.

In 1975, Rockwood lost to Darby in the PIAA Class A championship. In 1977, Shanksville-Stonycreek lost to Elk Lake in the Class A title game. In 1979, Conemaugh Township - with future Super Bowl winning quarterback Jeff Hostetler - lost to Pius X in the Class A championship.

Five years, three championship game appearances for Somerset County teams.

The trend of going one-and-done in the PIAA playoffs appears to be reversing for basketball teams from Somerset County, though not many have noticed.

"District 5 has repped itself the last five to six years," Shade boys' basketball coach Wade Fyock said after his Panthers dismantled WPIAL power North Catholic in the first round of  the PIAA Class A playoffs Friday night. "If you look at the record, we've had some success in the tournament and some success against District 7."

Fyock is particularly correct this year as teams from Somerset County went 4-1 in the first round of states. Count Conemaugh Township's victory in the play-in round of the PIAA Class AA boys' bracket and that record moves to 5-1.

The Conemaugh Township boys have defeated teams from District 8 and District 7 so far. Against Brentwood in the first round, the Indians put together a 15-3 first-half run.

"That was probably the bunch that early in the game that gave us some confidence," CT coach Chuck Lesko said. "We're a little unfamiliar with District 7 even though we played Beaver Falls last year. We know that they have strong competition."

Shade has won three PIAA playoff games since Fyock took over the program. The Conemaugh Township girls have advanced in the state tournament a second-consecutive season. Berlin just won its first PIAA game since Rachel Prosser became coach.

The results indicate District 5 is improving Who knows? Maybe the district's basketball image will start to change as well.

Sunday, March 10, 2013

PIAA basketball second round

Fourteen teams from The Tribune-Democrat coverage area entered the PIAA boys' and girls' basketball playoffs.

A whopping nine remain.

The following are the sites and times for the second-round contests involving local teams.

Tuesday, March 11
High School Boys
PIAA Tournament
Class A – Second Round
At Hempfield
Vincentian Academy vs. Bishop Carroll, 5 p.m.
At Bald Eagle Area
Shade vs. Johnsonburg, 7 p.m.
Class AAA – Second Round
At Hempfield
Greater Johnstown vs. Chartiers Valley, 8 p.m.

Wednesday, March 12
High School Boys
PIAA Tournament
Class AA – Second Round
At Richland
Conemaugh Township vs. Northern Cambria, 7 p.m.
At Clarion University
Bishop McCort vs. West Middlesex, 7:30 p.m.
High School Girls
PIAA Tournament
Class A – Second Round
At Hempfield
Vincentian Academy vs. Berlin Brothersvalley, 6 p.m.
At Indiana
Conemaugh Township vs. Clarion Area, 6 p.m.
Class AAA – Second Round
At Hempfield
Forest Hills vs. Blackhawk, 7:30 p.m.

Friday, March 8, 2013

Oklahoma player scores wrong-basket buzzer-beater

YUKON, Okla. – With a one-point lead, 2.9 seconds to play and possession of the ball, all Hugo High School had to do was inbound the basketball and run out the clock to advance in the Oklahoma state boys’ basketball tournament.
But what followed stunned everyone.
Hugo guard Trey Johnson got confused after he received the inbounds pass and laid the ball into the wrong basket just before time expired, giving the opposing team, Millwood High, a 38-37 win Thursday night and a place in the Class 3A semifinals.
“When I saw the kid going that way, I was like, ‘No, he’s not. No, he’s not ... Oh, yes he is,”’ Millwood assistant coach David Samilton told The Oklahoman ( ). “I couldn’t believe it.”
Johnson needed only to dribble away the remaining seconds to wrap up a victory for Hugo. Instead, he got turned around and dropped in a most bizarre buzzer-beater, Hugo coach Darnell Shanklin told The Associated Press on Friday.
Hugo’s celebrating fans went silent, and Millwood fans broke out in celebration after a moment of silence for reassurance that the points – and the win – were theirs.
“Without a doubt, that’s the toughest locker room I’ve ever had to talk to,” Shanklin said.
Johnson was tough to console, Shanklin said, adding that other players on the team called and texted him on Friday.
“The kid feels terrible. It’s still a game, regardless of what anyone says, basketball is still a game,” Shanklin said.
With the win, Millwood advances to a semifinal matchup against two-time defending state champ, Centennial High.
“I feel sorry for him,” Samilton said. “I really do feel sorry for him. But hey, I’ll take it.”

Live blog: Shade vs. North Catholic (PIAA Class A boys)

Time for something different at The Varsity Club - a live blog from tonight's PIAA Class A boys' basketball game between District 5 champion Shade and North Catholic, the third-place team from the WPIAL.

Shade brings a 25-1 record into the game. The Panthers' lone loss came against Shanksville-Stonycreek on a last-second shot by Carter Slade. Shade played the game without leading scorer Ryan Fyock, who averages 25.5 points per game. Wade Walker averages a double-double (17.8 points, 13.0 rebounds).

North Catholic played in Class AA for some time before recently dropping to Class A. The Trojans reached the PIAA Class AA championship game in 2009. Despite the drop, North Catholic (16-6) is no stranger to playing large-school teams. Among the Trojans' nonsection games this season were North Allegheny and Hampton.

7:04 p.m. - Gotta love the Pitt-Johnstown Sports Center for PIAA basketball. Always loud. Always people hanging over the railing.

Lots of Shade fans rolling in and there's plenty of North Catholic representation.

In girls' Class AA, Mohawk leading Everett 46-39 with 2:54 remaining.

7:19 p.m. -Chalk another one up for the WPIAL over District 5 ... Mohawk 52, Everett 44. D5 produces its share of good teams. The problem is those teams don't get to play enough quality competition.

7:24 p.m. - Ball dropped here at the UPJ Sports Center. Music menu shifts from Motley Crue to Black Eyed Peas.

7:36 p.m. - Both Shade and North Catholic are on the court. Why is there 30 minutes between games?

7:49 p.m. - There's a quiet intensity amongst the Shade players. Senior guard Brock Medva has been locked in for the last 25 minutes and the game hasn't started.

7:59 p.m. - Four baskets, four layups for Shade. Panthers looking quick and determined to get to basket. Leading 8-3 with 5:12 left in first.

8:03 p.m. - Knew Shade was athletic. What's impressive is their speed and strength. Six baskets, six layups. 12-7.

8:08 p.m. - Three consecutive 3-pointers (two from Nash Walker) gives Shade a 23-9 lead after one quarter. Walker is considered one of the area's top defensive players. He's looking good on offense with 10 early points.

8:14 p.m. - Wade Walker is a matchup nightmare. He's been Shade's primary ball handler for most of the game and when he gets the ball on the wing in a one-on-one matchup, he's gotten a layup every time.

8:26 p.m. - As far as I know, I have yet to call North Catholic "Northern Cambria" and on my ride up the Expressway I thought for certain I would.

8:31 p.m. - It's halftime and Shade leads, 37-18. Other than a mini 6-2 burst in the second quarter, North Catholic hasn't shown much. Plus they haven't figured out how to matchup with the Walker brothers. Shade looking like its going to be one tough out in the tournment.

Halftime stats: Wade Walker 11 points, nine rebounds; Nash Walker 12 points; Ryan Fyock 9 points.

8:50 p.m. - Apologies for the technical issues. We're back up for now.

Shade opened the third on a 10-0 as NC missed its first six shots. The Panthers are quicker, stronger and simply better.

8:52 p.m. - Only flaw to be found in Shade's game tonight is occasionally the Panthers force things offensively. Could be first game jitters or adrenaline from running away with this game.

9:03 p.m. - Thinking ahead, Shade vs. Johnsonburg could be an epic matchup. Johnsonburg beat North Catholic by double digits in the season opener.

Monday, March 4, 2013

New Rochelle buzzer beater

Nothing makes for a better video than a buzzer beater, and one would be hard pressed to find one more dramatic than this one.

I haven't covered too many buzzer-beaters in my time (one was Ronald Ramon from the corner as Pitt beat WVU at the Pete), but one that stands out came during my 1997 internship with The Tribune-Democrat. Richland was an underdog against Blairsville in the District 6 playoffs. The Bobcats were loaded and led by point guard Lawrence Westbrook, who drew considerable Division I attention.

Well, Richland was the team that advanced on a last-second layup. Off the top of my head, can't remember the guy who hit the shot. Think the last name was Lohr.

Would love to hear your favorite buzzer beaters.

Area PIAA basketball games

Class AA
Conemaugh Township (22-3) vs. Westinghouse (14-10), 7 p.m. at Somerset
First round
Class AAA
Greater Johnstown (15-7) vs. Lancaster Catholic (18-9), 6:30 p.m. at Central Cambria
Class A
Bishop Carroll (21-5) vs. Shanksville (21-4), 8 p.m. at Central Cambria
Shade (25-1) vs. North Catholic (16-6), 7:30 at Pitt-Johnstown
Class AA
First round
Penn Cambria (20-4) vs. Greensburg Central Catholic (22-2), 4 p.m. at Altoona
Northern Cambria (21-5) vs. Apollo-Ridge (18-8), 7 p.m. at Central Cambria
Bishop McCort (18-8) vs. Burrell (19-7), 4:30 p.m. at Gateway
* Conemaugh Township (22-3) vs. Brentwood (14-10), 7:30 p.m. at Pitt-Johnstown

* - Site and time for Conemaugh Township if victorious in Tuesday's play-in game.

Class AA
First round
Westmont Hilltop (21-5) vs. Bishop Canevin (22-4), 6 p.m. at North Hills
Class AAA
First round
Forest Hills (19-4) vs. Hampton (18-6), 5:30 p.m. at Central Cambria
Ligonier Valley (16-7) vs. Franklin (24-1), 4:30 p.m. at Slippery Rock University
Class A
Portage (22-3) vs. Berlin (22-4), 4 p.m. at Central Cambria
Conemaugh Township (21-4) vs. Quigley Catholic (18-6), 5:30 p.m. at Pitt-Johnstown