Class 5A: Montour and West Allegheny both qualified for the WPIAL Class 5A girls basketball tournament. But both teams had short playoff runs. Montour fell to Mars, 72-57, in a first-round game. The same fate befell West Allegheny as the Indians were ousted by Gateway, 54-45, in overtime.
For Montour, the playoff berth rewarded the late-season surge that saw the Spartans finish play in Class 5A, Section 1 with a 5-5 record and an overall standard of 11-12. Following an 83-39 section loss to Chartiers Valley, Montour won four games in a row to secure the playoff berth.
Playing in the same section with the Spartans, West Allegheny finished a game ahead of Montour with a 6-4 section mark and were 14-9 overall. It was a solid turnaround for West Allegheny. A year earlier, the Indians were 9-13 overall and won only three games in Class 4A, Section 4. The year before that, the Indians were 7-15 overall and 1-13 in Class 4A, Section 4. The good news for coach Reggie Wells and the Indians is that every player on the 11-player roster is scheduled to return.
Prospects are almost as bright for Montour coach Neal Martin. Ten of the 13 players on the Spartans' roster are scheduled to return.
Class 4A: A couple of things had to happen if Blackhawk High was to prevail in its WPIAL Class 4A championship game against Cardinal Wuerl North Catholic.
Unfortunately, neither came to fruition.
"Watching them on film we thought that if they were shooting 3's, that would be good for us," said Blackhawk coach Steve Lodovico. That optimism was short-lived as Trojanettes freshman Tess Myers hit a 3-point goal just 26 seconds into the game and the Cougars were unable to deter North's inside presence as the Trojanettes rolled to a 65-36 victory.
Book-end inside threats Sam Breen and Kylie Huffman played their usually solid games. Breen led the Trojanettes with 34 points and had 21 of her team's 52 rebounds. Huffman added 18 points and cleared 8 rebounds.
"They started three girls over 6-0 [Breen, Huffman and Dani Short] and most of our girls go about 5-4," Lodovico added. "It was a tough match-up for us. We wanted to get up-and-down. The problem is that we couldn't get stops. It seemed every trip down the floor, they had an answer."
Lodovico's Cougars played a challenging schedule, hence their overall record of 17-10. But as has been the case in recent years, Blackhawk won the Class 4A, Section 2 title with an 11-1 record.
As the No. 2 qualifier from the WPIAL, Blackhawk was able to play a game close to home as the Cougars defeated Freeport, 53-32, in the first round of the PIAA Class 4A tournament. Freeport was the No. 6 team from the WPIAL. Blackhawk's postseason journey ended with a 75-50 loss to eventual state runner-up Villa Maria Academy in the second round.
Lodovico has plenty of talent returning next season. While he loses seniors Breanna Hoover, Madison Amalia and Maci Egger, everyone else on the 15-player roster return.
Two other West-area teams -- Beaver and Central Valley -- qualified for the PIAA tournament as the No. 3 and No. 6 qualifiers from the WPIAL. Both teams played in the same section as Blackhawk
Beaver, which placed third in Class 4A, Section 2 with an 8-4 record and were 17-7 overall, fell to Cardinal Wuerl North Catholic, 59-49, in the WPIAL semifinals. The Bobcats' season then ended with a 63-25 first-round PIAA loss to District 6 champion Forest Hills. All but one of the 16 players on the team's roster return next season.
Central Valley was 15-9 overall and 7-5 in section play. The Warriors won a WPIAL first-round game over Mount Pleasant, 49-32, before falling to North Catholic, 51-45, in the quarterfinals. Their PIAA playoff trek ended with a 46-40 first-round loss to District 9 champion Punxsutawney. Thirteen of the 14 players on Coach Chris Raso's roster return next season.
The fourth qualifier from the section, runner-up Ambridge, fell to South Park, 64-57, in the WPIAL Class 4A quarterfinals. The Bridgers were 14-9 overall and finished 10-2 in section play. Like the other playoff qualifiers from the section, Ambridge has plenty of players returning next season. Just three of the team's 19 players graduated.
Class 3A: Two teams from Sports Town's West area qualified for the PIAA tournament, Carlynton and Riverside. Two other teams -- South Side Beaver and Beaver Falls -- saw their seasons come to an end in the WPIAL tournament.
Carlynton had the misfortune of competing in the same section as WPIAL Class 3A champion and PIAA runner-up Bishop Canevin. The teams met four times during the season, and Canevin won all four games by double-digit margins.
When the Cougars were playing practically any other team, they were successful as evidenced by their overall record of 19-8 and the 10-2 record they earned in Class 3A, Section 3.
Their last two losses came against Canevin in the WPIAL semifinals and PIAA quarterfinals by scores of 45-24 and 55-29, respectively. The Cougars will have a new coach next season as Tim Bonner stepped down. The Cougars lose standouts Diamond Thomas and Ashleigh Wilson along with Indya Hainesworth, Hannah Bogats, Lexi Kowal and Janise Williams. Nine players are scheduled to return.
Riverside was the No. 5 qualifier from the WPIAL in the PIAA tournament. The Panthers were 19-7 overall and finished third with an 8-4 record in Class 3A, Section 1 behind WPIAL runner-up Neshannock and Mohawk. Riverside defeated Brownsville, 47-39, in a WPIAL first-round game before falling to Canevin, 54-25, in the quarterfinals. The Panthers earned a 50-38 victory over District 10 champion North East in a PIAA first-round game before falling to Carlynton, 39-31, in the second round.
Beaver Falls (10-12 overall, 6-6 in Class 3A, Section 1) fell to Avonworth, 54-32, in a WPIAL first-round game. South Side Beaver (11-12, 6-6) lost to Carlynton, 51-26, also in the first round. Prospects are bright for South Side Beaver as all 10 players -- five rising juniors and five rising sophomores -- return.
The task is a bit more challenging at Beaver Falls. Nine of the 13 players return for the Tigers.
Class 2A: Our Lady of the Sacred Heart was the only West-area team in Sports Town's coverage area to qualify for the PIAA Class 2A tournament. The Chargers had a solid season, finishing 20-7 overall and finishing second behind WPIAL champion Chartiers-Houston in Class 2A, Section 1 with a 12-2 record.
Chartiers-Houston swept both regular-season meetings with Our Lady of the Sacred Heart by margins of 36-29 and 53-34, respectively. The teams met in the WPIAL semifinals, and the Bucs won that game, too, 54-39.
As the No. 3 qualifier from the WPIAL, OLSH won first- and second-round games, respectively, over District 10 runner-up Reynolds, 42-29, and Leechburg, the No. 5 team from the WPIAL, 51-36. But the playoff journey ended with a 62-34 loss in the quarterfinals to District 6 runner-up Bellwood Antis.
Chargers' coach Don Eckerle has a nice dilemma going into next season as all 15 players on his roster return. Two are rising seniors. Five are rising juniors. The rest are rising sophomores.
Two other West teams -- Burgettstown and Sto-Rox -- qualified for the WPIAL Class 2A tournament. Burgettstown -- 15-8 overall and 8-6 in Class 2A, Section 1 -- fell to Leechburg, 66-38, in the first round of the WPIAL tournament. Sto-Rox, which finished 16-7 overall and 9-5 in Class 2A, Section 2, lost a heart-breaking 33-30 setback to California in the first round.
Burgettstown returns 12 of its 15 players for next season. Nine of the 12 players on Sto-Rox's roster return.
Class 1A: For many years, Quigley Catholic had been the dominant team in Section 1 of the WPIAL's Class 1A alignment.
But Cornell and its coach, Shawn Urbano, knew that a breakthrough might be imminent for another team to break through against the Spartans.
That's what happened this past season as the Raiders' 66-game section winning streak with a 56-48 victory over the Spartans on Feb. 2. After the Raiders defeated Sewickley Academy 45-34 to finish section play, the Raiders and the Spartans were section co-champions with records of 9-1.
"I was very excited [with the victory]" Urbano said. "A few coaches from our section who no longer are coaching reached out to me. Everyone was happy. There are many coaches since 2011 who tried to pull off what we did. That was the only team in our section we've never beaten."
Those victories led to four more triumphs before the streak was snapped with a 52-41 loss to Winchester Thurston in the WPIAL Class 1A championship game at the Petersen Events Center.
Cornell's foray into the PIAA Class 1A tournament lasted two games with a 61-49 victory over District 10 runner-up Farrell in the first round and a 68-58 loss to District 9 champion in the second round.
The Raiders did lose standout senior guard Daeja Quick. However, 12 of the 14 players on the 2016-17 roster return.
Meanwhile, expect Quigley Catholic to return with a strong team in 2017-18. Especially after the way the season ended with successive losses to the same team. St. Joseph ended the regular season with a 74-63 victory over Quigley. Fifteen days later, the No. 3 seed Spartans saw their season end with a 69-65 loss to St. Joseph. Ten of the 12 players on the 2016-17 roster return.