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.