Jon's Blog
The early playoff picture
Jan 15, 2008
In four weeks the playoffs will be under way, and there are plenty of possibilities for local teams.

Here’s the quick breakdown.

New Castle boys (3-4 section, 7-9 overall, tied with Shaler and Pine-Richland for third place in Section 3-AAAA):

If they can win at Shaler tonight, they would sit in fourth place and would qualify for the postseason if the season ended tomorrow. A win Friday night at home against Seneca Valley would make Mark Stanley feel a little more comfortable — but tonight’s game is a must.

IN OR OUT: They’re in. And nobody wants to play them now.

New Castle girls (6-1 section, 10-3 overall, second place in Section 3-AAAA):

They will get in, and might even tie Butler for the section crown, but their play must improve in a hurry.

At one time this season, the Lady ’Canes were ranked as the No. 8 team in the eastern United States, according to the USA Today (probably from the reputation they built last season).

Still, there is too much talent not to do well down the stretch.

IN OR OUT: They’re in. If they get it together, they still should make the Quad-A final four.

Mohawk boys (5-1, 8-5, second in place in Section 2-AA):

This team is interesting.

One night, they look like on of the best teams in the area. They get out on the break and play fast, draining the other team by the fourth quarter.

That is against bad basketball teams.

On Jan. 8 against Riverside — a REALLY good team — they got handled pretty well, losing 59-50.

So, is this a good team that played bad against Riverside, or an average team that beats up on bad teams?

Hard to tell right now.

IN OR OUT: In. In a tough Class AA bracket, though, seeding is everything.

Mohawk girls (2-5, 6-11, fourth-place in Section 2-AA):

Huh? Mohawk girls in the playoff picture?

I could hear my boss now — “Jon started drinking again.”

Yes, they are. If it all ended today, the Mohawk girls are in.

They still must play at Neshannock, and at home against Riverside.


But Mike O’Lare has this group playing defense and will keep it close with everyone.

It’s the scoring (34.3 ppg.) that will get them in the end.

IN OR OUT: Out. Just not enough scoring.

Laurel girls (2-5, 6-7 , tied for fifth-place in Section 2-AA):

Same situation as Mohawk.

They have a shot, because out of Laurel, Mohawk, New Brighton and Shenango, somebody will get in.
So ...

IN OR OUT: Aw, what the heck, they’re in.

Shenango boys (4-3, 11-6, third-place Section 2-AA:

Another team nobody wants to play right now is Shenango.

The Wildcats have won four in a row after an embarrassing loss to Wilmington in the Union tournament. After that game coach Bob McQuiston felt his bunch had hit the bottom, and there was nowhere to go but up.

What makes them so dangerous is that all of their struggles early in the year were from shooting. They weren’t playing particularly bad, they just couldn’t shoot.

It looks to be fixed.

IN OR OUT: In. And don’t be surprised if they beat Riverside at home on Jan. 22.

Neshannock girls (6-1, 10-5, first-place Section 2-AA):

What a job Greg Huston is doing this year with the Lady Lancers.

They lost their point guard from last year (Kacey Gibson, who is focusing on running), start two freshman, and don’t score all that much.

But that defense is outstanding.

Kylee Patton is going to be all-section pick, and Caitlyn Bleggi, Courtney Frengel, Chelsea Kauffman and Erika Warvell are all doing a fantastic job.

They aren’t going to score 70 points on anyone, but they won’t give up 50 either.

IN OR OUT: In. And they will give anyone a tough game.

Union boys (6-1, 10-4, first-place Section 1-A):

Sure, they lost at the buzzer against Lincoln Park on the road, but this still is the team to beat.

If the Scotties take care of business the second half of the season, the rematch against Lincoln Park on Jan. 29 at home probably will determine the section title. And a top four seed in the playoffs.

They haven’t regressed all year, and Jason Burkes is starting to shoot the lights out.

Good chemistry. Plenty of athleticism. Deep bench. Good coaching.

IN OR OUT: In. They will make some noise, too.

I left out Ellwood City boys and girls, Neshannock boys, Laurel boys, Shenango girls, Union girls and both Wilmington teams. I don’t think they have a chance.

Prove me wrong.

I need the work during the playoffs.

Donte Calhoun and Markus Allen of Union are terrific off the bench. Both bring energy and play with a passion. Same thing with Linnell Robinson.

Jajuan Jay is going to be a good player next year for New Castle. So is Nick Klein.

With all the talk about Jeannette and Beaver Falls in Class AA this year, I would not be shocked at all if Riverside makes it into the semifinals. They just win.

I feel bad for Laurel. Mike Tinstman is a good guy and his players are all very likeable. Too bad they’re 1-14.

Nick Colella must hate to wear his Hannibal Lecter-style facemask during games.

Why can’t any Lady ’Canes besides Logan Hartman make a free throw this year?

Summit Academy is my favorite place to cover a game. Finding it is another thing.

Everybody hates Jake Wickline for some reason. Probably because he’s really good at what he does.

Coaches who are doing a good job this year.
1. Dave Smialowski, Union boys
2. Greg Huston, Neshannock girls
3. Bob McQuiston, Shenango boys
4. Mike O’Lare, Mohawk girls
5. Kevin Wrona, Mohawk boys

Here’s some of the best players off the bench this season.
1. Carly Senko, Shenango girls
2. Matt Jura, Mohawk boys
3. Donte Calhoun and Markus Allen, Union boys
4. Jazelle Dennis, New Castle girls
5. The guy who shot the ball at Neshannock from the stands and got ejected last week.

See you next week.
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