Westmoreland basketball teams welcome chance to start playoffs at home

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Wednesday, February 9, 2022 | 5:46 p.m.


A number of basketball coaches have expressed admiration for the WPIAL’s decision to allow top-ranked teams to hold first-round playoffs and quarter-finals last season due to the pandemic.

The WPIAL was listening.

Home sweet home will again be the theme as the league uses the same format for this year’s playoff tournaments.

Opening pairings will be announced virtually Monday, and teams are expected to secure home matches for the first round and quarter-finals, if they qualify.

This news was well received by several teams in the region who were practically unbeatable on their field.

Take the girls from Southmoreland, who haven’t lost on home court since 2018.

The Scotties (16-3) have won 42 straight games at Alverton. They are expected to land a top-three seed in Class 4A.

“Our girls love playing at home because we have such great community support, and our fans and students really engage with the game,” Scotties coach Amber Cernuto said. “We’re lucky to have that. As with most teams, you feel most comfortable and confident on your home pitch.

Southmoreland beat Deer Lakes (53-24) and Mt. Pleasant (54-23) in the first two rounds last year before losing to Quaker Valley in the semifinals (60-50). The Scotties recently celebrated their third straight section title.

“Expectations are high,” Cernuto said. “Some doubt we can reach them. I believe we can if we keep doing what we are doing.

The boys of Belle Vernon (17-3), a title contender in Class 4A, are also expected to draw a high seed and play at home.

“Home advantage is important because it’s good to have the whole town in the game to support the team and cheer us on,” said Belle Vernon senior goalkeeper Daniel Gordon. “It is important to work to have games locally. Long bus rides can exhaust a team mentally and physically.

The No. 1 seed in 4A last year, Belle Vernon played in three playoff games, all at home.

The Leopards lost to North Catholic, 77-76, in the semifinals.

“Knowing the feeling of how we lost, we seek revenge so we don’t feel that way again,” Gordon said. “That’s what sets our gym apart, and all the memories that have been made in this gym.”

Girls Norwin and Latrobe are another badass on their turf.

“You always like to play at home to have the consistency and routine that you know,” Norwin coach Brian Brozeski said. “And generally you can have more family members, friends and community support.”

Norwin (15-4) went 2-0 at home in last year’s Class 6A group as the No. 3 seed, flattening North Hills (55-12) and Butler (53-33) before to lose to Upper St. Clair, 33-31, in the semifinals.

The Knights are 7-1 at home this season, a mark that includes a crushing 56-31 win over No. 1 North Allegheny.

Latrobe (14-3) is 7-2 on his floor. The Wildcats, a returning Class 5A semifinalist, were the No. 6 seed last year and won a first-round game before traveling the next two rounds.

Brozeski said playing at home can also come with a red flag. This can give guests a false sense of comfort.

“You have to make sure you eliminate all unnecessary distractions,” he said.

The Greensburg Central Catholic boys, likely top-three in Class 2A, have won 20 straight games at home.

“It would be a great opportunity, especially for our seniors,” Centurions coach Christian Hyland said of the home game. “They missed three home games without a section this year and didn’t have a chance to play at home in the playoffs last year.”

Returning WPIAL finalist GCC (15-2) did not play at home until Jan. 11 this season due to postponements.

Covid spectator limitations and a water main break at the GCC forced the Centurions to play ‘home’ playoff games on the road last season.

The No. 2 seed, they played 15th-seeded Serra Catholic in the first round – Serra’s gym isn’t much bigger than GCC’s – then played quarter-final matches and semi-final in Norwin.

“Norwin was like our second home,” Hyland said.

The Centurions played OLSH in the WPIAL 2A Championship at Peters Township. This year, the finals return to Pitt’s Petersen Events Center.

The semi-finals will take place at neutral venues.

After sending only champions to the PIAA playoffs last year, the WPIAL should use its winner-tracking format to get multiple qualifiers into the state brackets.

Bill Beckner Jr. is an editor of the Tribune-Review. You can contact Bill by email at bbeckner@triblive.com or via Twitter .

Key words: CC of Greensburg, Latrobe, Norwin

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