Staff Writer

Luke Campbell has been handling a multitude of tasks since joining the Observer-Reporter in 2015, following his graduation from Waynesburg University. He graduated from Waynesburg with a bachelor’s degree in sports broadcasting and information.

Makenna Marisa

Eleanor Bailey/The Almanac

Peters Township’s Makenna Marisa (20) makes her move against Fox Chapel’s Domenica Delaney during WPIAL Class 6A girls quarterfinal basketball playoff game.

Nine area high school basketball teams have yet to hand in their jerseys.

Can any of those teams make a run?

Like many coaches say, let’s just take it one game at a time. Here is what will allow local teams to have a chance to advance past the first round, which begins this weekend, in the PIAA playoffs:

1.Rediscover balance: For most of the WPIAL Class 6A girls basketball championship game, Peters Township was too reliant on Makenna Marisa.

It worked but barely.

The first girls team in Washington County history to go through a WPIAL regular season undefeated, Peters Township is 25-0 after a fourth-quarter comeback and overtime victory over North Allegheny, 43-40, at the Petersen Events Center last Saturday.

The Indians became only the 18th girls team in WPIAL history win a title with a perfect record.

Now, what matters is if that perfect streak can remain intact. If it does, Peters Township will be only the second Washington County girls basketball team to reach the state finals, the other being Trinity in 2017.

Peters Township’s run will start with a first-round game tonight against Harrisburg (14-10), the sixth-place team from District 3. Tipoff at Mt. Lebanon High School is 6 p.m.

The Indians need to rediscover the balance they had all season and what earned them their first WPIAL championship in school history. Isabella Mills (14.2 points per game) and Journey Thompson (12.8) each joined Marisa (20.9) with double-digit scoring averages. Mackenzie Lehman is averaging 9.1 points per game.

“You can’t have a season that we have had, being undefeated, with one player,” Kendall said. “If you have someone like Makenna on the floor, if you do your job and run the offense she will get you the ball. We’ve had balanced scoring all year long.”

2. Junk it up: Can Canon-McMillan High School boys basketball coach Rick Bell and the Big Macs stop another top Western Pennsylvania backcourt again?

That’s what they face in Allderdice’s Jackson Blaufeld and Bobby Clifford in a PIAA Class 6A first-round game Saturday at Mt. Lebanon. Opening tip against the City League champion is scheduled for 3 p.m.

Stopping the Dragons’ senior guards is a good starting point in halting Allderdice (21-5). Blaufeld, a 6-4, 190-pound guard, is a Dartmouth recruit who is averaging more than 18 points. Jackson is committed to Slippery Rock and also averages more than 18. Both reached the 1,000-point milestone within days of one another in early February.

Canon-McMillan (16-9) has played “junk” defenses a lot this year, focused on shutting down the opponent’s top scorer, or two, and forcing others to win the game.

Look for much of the same thing Saturday, whether it be a triangle-and-two or box-and-one. Those defenses have worked for the Big Macs in the past, just ask Latrobe.

3.Be yourself: Let’s lump a pair of local teams into this category.

First, the Washington boys.

The Prexies had late-season glimpses of making a deeper run in the WPIAL playoffs but were derailed by suspensions and then Seton LaSalle in the quarterfinals.

Washington (14-9) advanced to the state tournament when Lincoln Park won the WPIAL Class 3A title. The Prexies play District 10 champion Sharon (20-4) at 5:30 p.m. Saturday at Farrell High School.

So how do the Prexies pull off the upset?

Slow it down and make Sharon play their game. In three of the Tigers’ four losses they were held to fewer than 55 points.

If Washington makes it into a game in the 30s or 40s, then it has a chance. That’s what Prexies coach Ron Faust will do, but they can’t fall behind and play catch-up.

The Trinity girls, who are 12-12, have the fewest wins of any team in the PIAA Class 5A tournament field. Yet, you aren’t going to find many teams that play better defense better than the Hillers. Trinity will have to play its best defensive game of the season when it plays WPIAL runner-up Thomas Jefferson (19-7) for the third time this season Saturday night. Opening tip is scheduled for 6 p.m. at Mt. Lebanon.

And for the first time, Trinity coach Bob Miles might have his entire lineup at his disposal when playing the Jaguars, which beat the Hillers twice early this season.

“Things have been structured to prepare for Saturday,” Miles said about his team’s work over the past two weeks. “We are approaching as if it were any other game. We can play defense with anybody but we have to score. It’s going to come down to making sure we are efficient on the offensive side of the floor and not having turnovers.”

If Trinity sticks with what it does best – play defense and make the game a grind-it-out affair – it could be a different outcome.

4.Shake it off: West Greene could have been the first girls basketball team from Greene County to win a WPIAL championship.

Rochester prevented that from happening by defeating the Pioneers in the WPIAL Class A final last Friday.

It’s time for the Pioneers to look ahead not back. West Greene (22-3) can become the first Greene County girls team to win a state playoff game when it plays District 10 champion Kennedy Catholic (17-6) at 3 p.m. Saturday at Canon-McMillan.

Yes, both teams somehow got jobbed in the seeding procedure. It is the only game in the lower half of the six girls brackets that features a district champion playing a district-runner-up.

There are no other Class A teams from District 10 in the bracket.

5. Embrace the trip: Many local teams have long bus rides ahead of them over the next two days.

For those making the trip, be it teams or fans, enjoy the experience because you never know when it is going to happen again.

For the Avella girls, it’s the first PIAA trip ever. The Ringgold boys are playing in its first PIAA game since it won the state championship in 1995.

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