Sports Editor

Since 1986, Chris Dugan has been covering local sports for the Observer-Reporter, and named sports editor in 2006. Before joining the O-R, he was sports editor at the Democrat-Messenger, and a former member of the Baseball Writers Association of America.

For the most part, the WPIAL’s boys and girls basketball teams have made it to the end of the regular season. There are a few non-section games remaining to be played this week, and some league games tonight could shuffle the standings, but any regular-season game still to be played will have no impact on playoff seedings. That’s because the WPIAL basketball steering committees will meet today and playoff pairings will be released tonight.

This is the first time since 1984 that the WPIAL is holding open tournaments, meaning any school, regardless of record, can participate. Only 11 boys and 13 girls teams opted out of the playoffs. The only local boys team that will skip the postseason is Bentworth, which is 1-11 entering Monday night, in Class 2A. Three local girls teams, Bentworth, 1-13 in Class 3A, and Beth-Center (3-9) and Carmichaels (2-7) in Class 2A, have declined to participate in the playoffs.

The hard part for the steering committee will be accurately seeding the playoffs because of the disparity in the number of games played between teams in the same classifications. For example, how do you evaluate the California boys in Class 2A? Entering Monday night, the Trojans had played only seven games, and four of those came in a five-day stretch last week. California (4-3) has played only one nonsection game, and that was against a Class 5A opponent.

There is not much of a body of work to evaluate with the Trojans when you compare them to other 2A boys teams such as Burgettstown and Chartiers-Houston. Both the Blue Devils and Bucs have played 17 games, the most by any local teams.

On the girls side, Mapletown in Class A has played only nine games entering Monday, while Fort Cherry in Class 2A and Trinity in Class 5A each have played 16 games.

Preliminary round games are expected to start Saturday but could begin sooner.

  • The PIAA recently announced that it will hold a team wrestling tournament after all, though the finals will not be held at the Giant Center in Hershey as they have every year since the event’s inception.

The state team tournament will begin with first-round matches March 22, quarterfinals will be March 24 and the semifinals and finals will be held March 27 at Cumberland Valley High School in Mechanicsburg.

As the WPIAL Class 3A champion, Waynesburg will be representing District 7.

  • Attendance for the PIAA Individual Wrestling Championships March 12-13 at the Giant Center will be capped at 500. Each qualifying wrestler will be permitted two tickets.
  • The first official practices for spring sports – those teams that had their seasons canceled last year – is March 8. The first games and meets can be held March 26.
  • When the WPIAL Swimming Championships are held March 6-7 at Upper St. Clair High School, one person to keep an eye on is Belle Vernon’s Ian Shahan in Class 2A. Shahan has the fastest time in the WPIAL in three events: 50-yard freestyle (20.91), 200 freestyle (1:45.25) and 100 butterfly (52.08).
  • The Observer-Reporter recently published a story about how there is concern that the WPIAL’s open basketball tournaments will put a strain on the pool of officials, which already is smaller because of pandemic. It will be interesting to see the quality of officiating, especially in the early rounds.

Sports editor Chris Dugan can be reached at dugan@observer-reporter.com.

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