Scholastic Notebook

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New Castle was a good 3-point shooting team in the regular season. But the Red Hurricanes’ marksmanship has even improved in the postseason, and is it any wonder New Castle hasn’t lost a playoff game?

New Castle won the WPIAL Class 4A championship and romped past Sharon in the first round of the PIAA playoffs. New Castle has averaged nine made 3-pointers a game in four postseason games and coach Ralph Blundo’s team is shooting 43 percent behind the arc in playoff games. That is excellent for any team, let alone a high school team.

New Castle made 11, 9 and 10 3-pointers in three WPIAL playoff games, and then made 7 of 22 against Sharon in the first round of the playoffs.

For the season, New Castle averages 8.3 3-pointers a game (216 made) and the Red Hurricanes are shooting 37 percent overall from 3-point range. Of their 1,276 shot attempts this season, 45 percent are 3-pointers.

Blundo has three players with at least 39 3-pointers for the season. Geno Stone leads with 85 3-pointers and he is shooting 38 percent behind the arc. Gino DeMonaco has 69 3’s and is shooting 49 percent. Garrett Farah has 39 3-pointers and is shooting 36 percent.

New Castle won WPIAL championships in 2012, ’13 and ’14 and always seems to have excellent 3-point shooters unde rBlundo. The 2014 team won a state title with a perfect record. This team also shoots well, but Blundo says this is different than his other championship teams.

Just because there was uncertainty with this team, that I don’t think we had with the other three,” said Blundo. “We weren’t very good early in the year. We weren’t very good 10 games into the year. But we kept working and these kids allowed us to coach them.”

The Behr Facts

It has been documented how some talented football quarterbacks have been major cogs in helping their team to basketball success. Pine-Richland’s Phil Jurkovec and New Castle’s Geno Stone were two QBs who won WPIAL basketball titles. You can add Simon Behr to the list of QBs excelling in basketball.

Behr is a senior at Franklin Regional and scored 19 points to help Franklin Regional knock off WPIAL champ Moon in the first round of the PIAA playoffs.

Behr also played defensive end in football for Franklin Regional and is a West Point (Army) recruit in football.

Memorable Win for McGuffey

When McGuffey edged Clearfield in the First Round of the PIAA 5A boys playoffs, it was a monumental win for two reasons. Not only did the Highlanders set a school record for wins with 19, but it was the first time McGuffey won a PIAA playoff game. It was also the first time McGuffey played in a PIAA game.

In other noteable wins, the Riverside boys defeated Westinghouse for the Panthers’ first PIAA win since 2008. Riverside had made the PIAA playoffs only twice before – 1979 and 2008.

The Little Mac

The Chartiers Valley girls team won its first WPIAL championship a week ago and also was victorious in a PIAA first-round game. One of the players fueling the Colts’ playoff run is a freshman who comes from a basketball family you might have heard of before.

Megan McConnell is a 5-foot-5 freshman guard and the younger sister of former Chartiers Valley stars T.J. McConnell (now with the NBA’s Philadelphia 76ers) and Matty McConnell (now playing at Robert Morris). Megan scored 14 in a PIAA first-round victory and she had 16 in the WPIAL championship.

Megan also had 22 in a WPIAL first-round victory and held Trinity star Sierra Kotchman scoreless in another playoff game.

Suspended Coaches

There were two rather noteworthy coaching suspensions in the WPIAL news this week.

* Clairton football coach Wayne Wade has been suspended for the first four games of next season because of his critical comments about the officials after the PIAA Class 1A championship in December. The PIAA has rules against criticism of officials. PIAA executive director Bob Lombardi said the suspension was agreed on by both the PIAA and the Clairton school district.

Wade was also put on probation for a year and will have to take coaching and mentoring classes.

This was the second time Wade was hit with probation and suspended by the PIAA for something that happened in a PIAA championship. In the 2014 PIAA championship, a few Clairton players were involved in a fight on the field against Bishop McDevitt and a few came off the bench. Wade was suspended one game the following season.

* The WPIAL will suspend Penn Hills’ basketball program from the playoffs next season unless the school suspends coach Dan DeRose for four games at the beginning of the season.

The WPIAL made its ruling this week. The reason is because of DeRose and his team’s actions after a loss to North Hills in the WPIAL quarterfinals, and also because DeRose used former player Drew Schifino to practice with the team before the North Hills game, which is against PIAA and WPIAL rules.

After Penn Hills’ loss, the WPIAL said DeRose verbally abused Hampton athletic director Bill Cardone, who was the WPIAL site director for the game. Also, the WPIAL said Penn Hills’ players damaged some lockers at Plum. DeRose also was critical of officials after the game in comments to the Post-Gazette.

Once the season starts, no sports team in the PIAA can use individuals to practice who aren’t either players or coaches with the team.

Football Coaching News

A few updates on football coaching in the WPIAL.

* Baldwin hired Loran Cooley as its new football coach.  Cooley was Clairton’s offensive coordinator last year. He also had been an assistant at Gateway and Plum. Cooley played college football at Duquesne University.

* Ellwood City hired Nick Hand as its coach. Hand has been a longtime assistant at North Hills, but he is a graduate of Ellwood City and also lives in the district.

* Niel Loebig has resigned as coach at Chartiers Valley after four seasons.

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