Monessen girls basketball coach Major Corley, who will retire after the season with more than 450 victories in 23 seasons, said student-athletes have changed over the years.
“Years ago, kids went out and played all summer, played on their own,” he said. “Now, you are getting a lot of kids that just play basketball during basketball season. I tell my guards to shoot every day (in the summer), and I tell the big people to jump rope. Some do. The majority of them don’t.”
But Corley was instrumental in the development of two of the all-time greatest female basketball players in WPIAL history: Gina Naccarato and Charel Allen.
Naccarato, a coach on Corley’s staff and a candidate to replace him, played in the mid-1990s and graduated with 3,364 points. Allen, who has played in the WNBA, had 3,110 in high school. They remain the all-time leading scorers in girls WPIAL basketball.
Serra Catholic coach Bill Cleary, who had 448 victories in 22 seasons through Friday, has had his share of great female players.
Among them are Laura Grimm, who played on a state championship team as a junior in 2005 and now is at Colgate, and Michelle Manfredi, a professional player in Germany.
Sometimes great things happen by accident. Such was the case when Corley became the varsity coach at Monessen.
Corley, who is 6-foot-8, but was not a starter when he played at Monessen, took the job when boys coach Joe Salvino asked him for a favor. The idea was that Corley would coach the girls for two years until his step-daughter Nadine “Peachy” Turner graduated.
“But we kept on getting better and better over the years, and I stayed,” Corley said.
Corley said he has tried to retire in the past, but he was coaxed into returning.
“Every time I said I was going to retire, a couple of the sophomores and juniors would say, ‘How about staying until I graduate?’
This time, however, he said he won’t change his mind.
“The players are telling me to stay, but my body is falling apart,” he said.
Two more winners
Longevity and success apparently are common traits among the basketball coaches at Monessen and Serra. Bob Rozanski, the boys coach at Serra, has 487 victories. Salvino has 433 at Monessen through Friday.
The wrestlings teams at Mt. Pleasant and Connellsville had their first home matches Wednesday night, six weeks into the season. Mt. Pleasant, which beat Yough, 55-24, canceled several matches last month due to a herpes outbreak. Connellsville — a 66-12 winner in front of the home folks against Uniontown — simply played a demanding road schedule, which will prepare the wrestlers for tough competition in the postseason.
Serra Catholic senior T.J. Heatherington has made a commitment to play basketball next season at Point Park University.
Heatherington, a 5-foot-11 point guard, averaged 27.2 points per game through the first 12 games of this season while leading Serra (11-1) to a No. 1 spot in the Trib’s Class A rankings.
“T.J.is from an area of Pittsburgh that has been really good for Point Park athletics in terms of recruiting,” said Point Park coach Bob Rager, a former player at the school and a native of nearby Munhall. “T.J. is from a long line of tough kids who come out of the McKeesport area.”
Elsewhere, Carmichaels shortstop Chuck Gasti has committed to Division I Cleveland State for baseball. Gasti hit .477 for WPIAL Class A champion Carmichaels last season. Gasti’s teammate Joby Lapkowicz is considering Slippery Rock.
So far, so good
After Beaver Falls lost to Aliquippa in the WPIAL Class AA football title game at Heinz Field, Beaver Falls’ Todd Thomas was angry and frustrated enough to issue a guarantee.
He promised that Beaver Falls would win the WPIAL basketball championship and go undefeated in the process.
More than halfway through the season, Thomas isn’t far off in his prediction. Beaver Falls is 10-2 and the No. 1 team in the Tribune-Review’s Class AA rankings. Its only losses were to Class AAAA Central Catholic by six points and Class AAA Hopewell by eight.
Beaver Falls also has a rare 100-point effort, beating Class AAA Highlands by 27 on Dec. 9. (That victory gets more impressive all the time — Highlands is 8-2 since that game.)
Friday night highlights
Blackhawk defeated Hopewell, 42-38, in double overtime in Section 2-AAA when it hit 20-of-25 free throw attempts in the second half and Ben Rawding blocked seven shots overall. Blackhawk was the only team to score in double digits in any period, reaching 11 in the second quarter. … Class AAAA No. 1 Peters Township (11-1, 4-0) beat a good Mt. Lebanon team (10-3, 4-1), 56-40, even though it scored only seven points in the third quarter. Nick Wilcox scored 15 for Peters Township. … Trinity has an overall losing record (7-8), but it is 5-1 in Section 5-AAA after beating Belle Vernon (8-4, 3-2), 59-50. Trinity rallied from a 37-24 halftime deficit by outscoring Belle Vernon, 35-13, in the second half. Josh Valentic scored 19 for Trinity, whose defense held Josh Pohlot to 11 (10 under his average). … Steel Valley and South Allegheny are at the bottom of Section 4-AA, but they played an interesting game. Steel Valley won in overtime, 75-72, when Anthony Smith hit two 3-pointers in the extra session and finished with 21 points and teammate Andrew McDonald had five 3-pointers and 26 points overall. Meanwhile, South Allegheny’s Mike Pry had six 3-pointers among his 20 points.
On any given Tuesday/Friday
Section 3-AAAA looks like a competitive top-to-bottom league, with three teams within one game of first-place North Allegheny (8-3, 4-1). Second-place Central Catholic (8-4, 4-2) seems right on the cusp of success, but it only beat last-place Butler (5-7, 1-4), 53-49, at home. Third-place Seneca Valley (7-5, 3-2) lost at home to North Allegheny, 50-49, when Nate Herrmann hit a three-pointer to give the Raiders a lead with seven seconds left and NA’s Nick Dvorsky answered with a two-point basket at the buzzer. Meanwhile, a young Shaler team (6-6, 3-2) has a victory against Central Catholic to its credit.