The 2016-17 season began with most eyes on the Beaver Falls Tigers – and for good reason. The year before, the Tigers had won the WPIAL with five underclassmen starters.
Those high expectations proved to a little too lofty, though. First of all, the football team played into the basketball season, winning the state championship. Then, Donovan Jeter, a basketball starter since his freshman season, chose to enroll at Michigan early for football and didn't play hoops.
The Tigers still had a solid season, again reaching the PIAA playoffs, but there was another Tigers team that grabbed the local spotlight.
Moon was coming off a string of five consecutive losing seasons but had a coach in Adam Kaufman who already had WPIAL titles on his resume, won at Montour. Moon also had a 6-8 Division I prospect living within its borders in Jarrod Simmons, who had been playing at a New England prep school. When Simmons decided to play his senior year with the same kids he grew up with, the match proved successful.
Moon won 20 games with the final win a WPIAL championship win over Hampton, 69-62, with Simmons leading the way. Simmons scored 22 points and grabbed 23 rebounds in that championship game and, although the Tigers were upset in the first round of the PIAA playoffs, it was still a year to remember for Moon.
Overall, it was a pretty good year for all the local teams – half of the 24 qualified for the WPIAL postseason and two others reached the WPIAL championship game before falling – Our Lady of the Sacred Heart in Class 2A and Lincoln Park in Class 3A.
Half of the 12 WPIAL playoff teams also qualified for the PIAA playoffs – Beaver Falls, Central Valley, Lincoln Park, Our Lady of the Sacred Heart, Moon, and Riverside – and the group combined for a winning record in the state playoffs.
Riverside won one of those games as the Panthers advanced further than any other basketball team in school history and OLSH won twice to turn the same feat.
Lincoln Park, though, had the best season of any local team, winning 25 games behind the play of Nelly Cummings, the Bowling Green-bound point guard, who averaged almost 30 points per game. Lincoln Park lost in the state championship to Neumann-Goretti 89-58.
The Leopards, playing in the same gym as the fabled Midland Leopards, already have state championship banners hanging so this wasn't the best season in school history... but it was still exceptional.
"I'd say it was still a successful season," said Lincoln Park coach Mike Bariski. "It was disappointing to lose the WPIAL championship (to North Catholic 56-51) but we got vindication in the state semifinals (54-46 win).
"We knew that realistically we had only a 1 in 1,000 chance against Neumann-Goretti, they were just so big but 25-6 is still a great season and we've won 76 games over the last three years."