Connect with us


Preview: Friday’s state basketball playoff openers

Photo info: Clarion-Limestone’s Noah Rankin (Photo by George Powers/




When: 7:30 p.m. Friday, March 6

Where: Clarion University’s Tippin Gymnasium

Winner gets: Southern Fulton (District 5-2) vs. Vincentian (7-3) winner March 10

Game Notes: The Lions head to the state playoffs for the third time in four years and meet the Trojans, who were knocked out of the WPIAL quarterfinals by eventual runner-up Jeannette, 55-50. From there, the Trojans had to win two consolation round games against Sewickley Academy and Cornell to earn the fifth seed. … Seniors R.J. Laugand (17.9 ppg.) and Kolton Stiglitz (13.4), and sophomore Dan Callen (12.2) average double figures for the Lions with senior Josh Kahle (9.8) not far behind. … The Lions last won a state playoff game in 2002 in their first-round win over West Middlesex. They also beat Linesville in their 2001 opener. Lifetime in states, they’re 4-7. … Last year, the Trojans knocked out D9 champion Ridgway in the second round with a 58-43, then lost to Bishop Carroll in the quarterfinals. This is pretty much a different team from last year as 6-foot-5 center Vince LeGrande (15 ppg.) leads the team in scoring. Guards Tristan Newcamp and Timon Gribbin average around nine points per game. … The Lions and North Catholic are in the “Others to Watch” group in Penn Live’s Class A state rankings.

(9-2) CAMERON COUNTY (22-3) VS. (6-3) SALTSBURG (13-11)

When: 6 p.m. Friday, March 6

Where: Clarion University’s Tippin Gymnasium

Winner gets: Kennedy Catholic (10-1) vs. Eden Christian (7-4) winner March 10

Game Notes: The Red Raiders are playing in their first state playoff game since 1999 when they qualified as the third-place finisher and lost to Duquesne, 86-60. They haven’t won a state playoff game since 1972 in then Class B (Class AA equivalent in three-class system) when they opened with wins over Grove City (69-60) and West Mifflin South (51-44) before losing to Richland (64-54) in the quarterfinals. … The Red Raiders are led by senior big man Nate Sestina (21.4 ppg.), who ranks second in the district in scoring. He’s coming off a monster 27-point, 19-rebound performance in the finals loss to Clarion-Limestone. … Keith Spehalski (12.3) and Trae Smith (11.8) also average in double figures. … The Saltsburg Trojans earned their state berth with a 67-54 win over St. Joseph’s Catholic Academy in the District 6 consolation game. They lost in the semifinals to Bishop Carroll, 70-30. … The Trojans, 11-13 last year, enjoyed their first winning season since winning 20 games in 2007-08. They lost five straight games before winning their regular-season finale and going 3-1 so far in the postseason. … Sophomore point guard Nick Porter (16.1 ppg.), 5-foot-10, leads the team in scoring. Two other sophomores, Jordan Booth (10.2) and Frankie Plowman (10.1) average in double-figure scoring. … The Red Raiders are in “Others to Watch” in Penn Live’s state rankings.

(9-3) ELK CO. CATHOLIC (23-2) VS. (6-1) BISHOP CARROLL (24-1)

When: 6:30 p.m. Friday, March 6

Where: Central Cambria H.S., Ebensburg

Winner gets: Jeannette (7-2) vs. Farrell (10-2) winner March 10

Game Notes: According to Penn Live, Bishop Carroll and ECC are the No. 7 and No. 10 ranked teams in the state. … The third-place Crusaders try to win their first state playoff game since 2011 then they face the D6 champion Huskies who reached the state semifinals last year before losing to eventual state champ Lincoln Park. The Cougars’ only loss came to D6 Class AA champion Blairsville and they’ve won 16 in a row since. They’re averaging over 70 points per game as two-time all-state senior guard Brandon Martinazzi leads the team in scoring (22.6 ppg.) while shooting an impressive 57 percent from the floor. Scott Lucas (11.4) and David Swatsworth (10.8 ppg.) also average double figures in scoring. … The Huskies are 52-2 the last two years, with last year’s lone loss coming to Lincoln Park … Sophomore Nate DaCanal (12.6 ppg.) and senior Mitchell Struble (10.4) lead the Crusaders in scoring. Senior Ryan Seelye (7.5) has scored 19 and 20 points respectively in two of the last three games. … The last time the teams met in the postseason came way back in their pre-PIAA days when they met in the Catholic School state playoffs in 1973 when the Crusaders won, 89-84. … Central Cambria High School is next door to Bishop Carroll’s building in Ebensburg.

(9-4) VENANGO CATHOLIC (16-9) VS. (7-1) MONESSEN (20-6)

When: 7:30 p.m. Friday, March 6

Where: Canon McMillan H.S., Canonsburg

Winner gets: Portage (6-2) vs. McConnellsburg (5-3) winner March 10

Game Notes: This is the first trip to the state playoffs for Venango Catholic since entering District 9 prior to the 2004-05 season. The Vikings haven’t been to states since way back in 1984 when they went as the District 10 Class A champs. They also won D10 titles in 1976 and 1978. Their last state win came in 1984 as well as the Vikings beat Clairton and Windber before losing to Geibel in the quarterfinals. … The Vikings average in double figures, led by 6-foot-11 senior and 1,000-point scorer Devin Zagar (17.5 ppg.). Another 1,000-point scorer Scott Toy (14.9) and Brady Kingston (13.6) are also in double digits. … Monessen is the No. 2 team in the state according to Penn Live. The Greyhounds have won nine straight, including their 73-57 win over Jeannette in the WPIAL finals. It was their first WPIAL title since 2011. Last year, Monessen lost to eventual state champion Lincoln Park in the final and then lost in the second round of the state playoffs to Bishop Carroll, 69-65. Head coach Joe Salvino is in his 31st season. Sophomore Justice Rice and junior Lavalle Rush combined to score 40 points with 22 and 18 points respectively in the win over Jeannette. Those two and senior Noah Rullo are their top players.



(9-1) KARNS CITY (21-3) VS. (7-4) BURRELL (21-4)

When: 7 p.m. Friday, March 6

Where: Clarion H.S.

Winner gets: Everett (5-1) vs. Bellwood-Antis (6-2) winner March 10

Game Notes: The Lady Gremlins moved into Penn Live’s state rankings and are at No. 9. Burrell is No. 8 and was the highest ranked team from the WPIAL at No. 3 before losing in the WPIAL semifinals to Canevin last week. The Bucs reached the state semifinals last year before losing to eventual state champion Seton LaSalle in a rematch of the WPIAL finals. … LeeAnn Gibson (13.7 ppg.), Shanel Preston (12.4) and Emily Hegedus (9.9) lead the Lady Gremlins, who won last year’s state opener against Girard (42-28) for their first state win since 2007. They lost to Canevin in the second round, 64-40. … Gibson, a junior, returned to the lineup after missing three games with broken finger on her left hand and scored 22 points in the team’s playoff opener against Moniteau. … Emily LoPresti (8 ppg.) is averaging 14 ppg. over the last three games. … Karns City is 9-15 lifetime in the state playoffs, including a 5-0 mark in its state championship run in 2000. The Lady Gremlins have won two state games since, the other coming in 2004 against Maplewood. … Burrell is led by Pepperdine recruite Sydney Bordonaro (20.1 ppg. through 22 games) and Youngstown State commit Natalie Myers.

(9-2) REDBANK VALLEY (18-7) VS. (7-3) CARLYNTON (19-6)

When: 6 p.m. Friday, March 6

Where: Plum H.S., Pittsburgh

Winner gets: Harborcreek (10-1) vs. Chartiers Houston (7-7) winner March 10

Game Notes: This is the fourth time that the Lady Bulldogs play Carlynton in the state playoffs, including their last trip to states back in 1999 in a 46-45 loss. Carlynton also beat Redbank Valley in 1992 and 1996. … Lady Bulldogs junior Brooke Hinderliter ranked fourth in D9 at 20.3 points per game and already has a school-record 1,445 career points with a season to go. She’s the only one averaging double figures with Becca Dougherty (7.7 ppg.) and Kaelyn Gruver (7.1 ppg.) the next highest scorers. … Carlynton reached the WPIAL semifinals before losing to eventual champion Seton LaSalle, 40-35. The Cougars are led by Duquesne recruit Conor Richardson. … Redbank Valley’s last state win came in 1998 against Mohawk. It’s 4-7 lifetime in the PIAA playoffs.