Sports Town will review the 2011-12 school year during July. Today we are visiting the girls basketball season.
Girls basketball had a very solid year with one WPIAL team (Seton-LaSalle) winning a state championship, and two others (Oakland Catholic and North Catholic) advancing to the state championship game in their respective brackets. Here's a look at a season that had some memorable moments to last a lifetime.
Class AAAA - In what turned out to be a very solid Class AAAA girls basketball section, North Allegheny and Pine-Richland tied for second place in Section 3-AAAA. The two teams were behind state finalist Oakland Catholic. The Rams and the Tigers had respective section records of 8-4, but Pine-Richland received the No. 2 seed in the WPIAL playoffs. This was because the Rams defeated the Tigers twice in the same season for the first time in school history.
North Allegheny was eliminated in the first round of the WPIAL playoffs, 54-36, by Oakland Catholic. The Eagles placed second in both the WPIAL and PIAA Class AAAA state championships.
Pine-Richland edged Plum 46-43, in the first round of the WPIAL Class AAAA tournament. But the Rams lost to Mt. Lebanon, 61-45, in the quarterfinals. Pine-Richland still qualified for the PIAA Class AAAA tournament as the Blue Devils defeated Oakland Catholic 58-49 in the WPIAL Class AAAA championship game.
Class AAA - Hampton and Mars tied for first in Section 1-AAA with identical records of 9-1. Each team defeated the other during the regular season, winning on their respective home courts. (Hampton had eked out a 38-34 victory over the Fighting Planets on Jan. 12, while Mars won a close game in Butler County 48-46.)
Each team saw its season end in the first round of the WPIAL Class AAA tournament. Hampton dropped a 34-31 overtime decision to Elizabeth Forward on Feb. 22 at North Hills High. That same night, Mars fell to South Fayette, 35-28, at Ambridge High.
Hampton, which had just four seniors on a 13-player roster, finished with a 12-10 record. Mars, which finished at 11-12, also figures to have a bright future. On the Planets' 15-player roster, there were just two seniors. Seven players were freshmen.
Class AA - Deer Lakes earned two crucial victories over Burrell to capture top honors in Section 1-AA. The Lancers earned a section record of 13-1 and an overall record of 17-5. The Lancers' season, however, came to a swift end with a 56-38 loss to Keystone Oaks. Keystone Oaks was one of four teams to qualify for the WPIAL and PIAA Class AA tournaments from Section 5-AA.
Two other Northern-area teams qualified for the postseason from Section 6-AA.
Quaker Valley won the section title with a record of 11-1 and an overall mark of 14-10. Avonworth, which was 10-2 in section play, finished with an overall record of 19-6.
Quaker Valley defeated Springdale, 55-20, in a preliminary round game on Feb. 17 at Moon Area High School. But the Quakers' season came to a swift end with a 61-47 loss to Section 2-AA runner-up Beaver Falls in a first-round game.
Quaker Valley head coach Jim Dudas has a lot of talent coming back next year. Just two players -- senior guard Deann Ryan and senior forward Abbey Petronich -- graduated in 2012. The rest of the players on the 15-player roster will be back, and six of them are freshmen.
The Lady 'Lopes had a much longer 2012 postseason. They captured WPIAL Class AA tournament victories over Elderton (38-21) and Bentworth (50-36) before falling to WPIAL runner-up Bishop Canevin 58-25 in the quarterfinals.
Seven teams from the WPIAL qualified for the PIAA Class AA tournament. Avonworth earned a trip to Erie to play in the tournament's first round. At that time, the Lady 'Lopes fell to Villa Maria Academy 55-28.
Avonworth coach Bob Schulz lost standout player Lauren Mayernik from the 2011-12 team. But she was the team's only loss. Thirteen of the 14 players on this team were underclass players, and six of them were freshmen. Mayernik was a third-team All-State selection in Class AA, and she finished her career at Avonworth with 1,376 points and 1,144 rebounds. She averaged 23.3 points and 15.1 rebounds per game in her final season.
Class A - Is there any doubt where the best girls' basketball on the WPIAL Class A level in was played in 2011-12?
Look no farther than Section 2-A where the same two teams -- North Catholic and Vincentian -- met for the WPIAL Class A championship and later met in the PIAA Class A semfinals.
The four games played by these two teams were grudge matches. Each team had bested the other in regular-season section games. In one, play was moved from Vincentian's campus to the Kerr Fitness Center at La Roche College. The Royals snapped a 37-37 tie and went on to defeat the Trojanettes, 57-51. Three weeks later, North Catholic top reserve Tina Ferrari took a picture-perfect pass from Lyzni Mueller. Ferrari then drove the baseline and sank a driving layup as time ran out. The basket gave North Catholic a stunning 45-43 victory that snapped the Royals' 20-game winning streak.
Vincentian and North Catholic met two more times in 2012. In these remaining meetings, each team caused the other some additional heartbreak.
In the WPIAL Class A championship game on March 3 at the A.J. Palumbo Center, Vincentian's Laura Primyon hit four 3-point field goals in the final 6:15 of the fourth quarter. The Royals rallied from a 10-point deficit to stun the Trojanettes, 54-50.
"She's been doing that all year," Vincentian coach Ron Moncrief had said of Primyon's sharp-shooting antics from beyond the arc. "Any time we needed a big shot, she delivered. She's not someone who's afraid to step up and shoot, so any time she's open, I want her to shoot the ball. She's a great shooter."
Eighteen days later, the shoe was on the other foot. The Trojanettes took all possible drama out of a PIAA Class A semifinal at Ambridge. North Catholic raced out to an 18-point halftime lead over Vincentian. The Trojanettes then staved off the Royals' second-half comeback to earn a 71-58 North Catholic victory.
For North Catholic coach Molly Rottmann, the victory did two things. It evened the season series between North Catholic and Vincentian. The win also washed out the awful taste North Catholic had been experiencing since they'd blown a lead to lose to Vincentian in the WPIAL championship game.
Before playing in the PIAA tournament, Rottmann forced the North Catholic team to watch some painful footage from the WPIAL championship game.
"We specifically watched the end where [Vincentian was] celebrating and our girls were down on the ground crying," Rottmann said. "I said, 'That will be it. There will be no more chances for redemption.' They played with a mission since [the WPIAL loss]."
The Trojanettes did lose to Steelton-Highspire 66-59 in the PIAA Class A championship game. Likewise, Rottmann may have some rebuilding ahead as she loses six seniors: Mueller, Sarah Goetz, Courtney Wolosik and Angela Nowacki along with reserves Ferrari and Becky Stark.
One outstanding player, however, returns. That is multitalented 5-10 guard Lauren Wolosik, who averaged 13.3 points, 5 rebounds and 4 assists a game. She earned all-section honors, North Xtra Fabulous Five honors, and Best of the Best in Class A basketball. Wolosik have four new starters to work with, but she will provide an extremely strong foundation for Rottmann and the Trojanettes.
As Rottmann will be putting together a new lineup on Troy Hill, Moncrief's task at Vincentian won't be so daunting. The Royals lost starters Noreen Fischer, Ashlee Darby and Bridget Melvin and top reserve Primyon.
Returning, however, are starters Brenna Wise and Abbey Bartoszewicz. Wise had a particularly phenomenal year as a freshman. She averaged 18.1 points and 10 rebounds per game for the WPIAL champions. Wise also earned all-section, all North Xtra Fabulous Five, Best of the Best, and third-team honors on the Class A all-state team.