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Monessen, North Catholic and Oakland Catholic keeping streaks alive

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Three impressive WPIAL basketball playoff streaks will continue when the postseason begins Feb. 13.

The Monessen boys are close to clinching their 28th consecutive playoff berth, extending their WPIAL record. The last time the Greyhounds failed to reach the postseason was after the 1981 season. Overall, Monessen has been to the playoffs 55 times.

Monessen, which leads Section 5-AA with an 8-0 record after a 86-44 victory against Frazier on Friday night, has had an interesting season. It has won every section game by an average margin of nearly 26 points, but it is 0-6 outside its league. That includes losses to Jeannette and South Fayette, two of the best teams in Class AA, Section 4-AAAA’s Upper St. Clair, Bethel Park and Canon-McMillan and Uniontown of Class AAA.

In girls basketball, North Catholic (8-4, 5-0) is on the brink of clinching its 34th consecutive playoff berth and Oakland Catholic (10-5, 6-1), which is in 19th year of existence, never has missed the playoffs.

Reaching the playoffs isn’t enough of a prize for these two proud programs. They are accustomed to success on a much grander scale.

Oakland Catholic is tied for first place in Section 2-AAAA with Fox Chapel, and it has won four in a row since returning from a tournament Naples (Fla.). Included in that recent surge was a 34-31 victory at Fox Chapel on Jan. 8. The Foxes get a rematch on their floor Feb. 2.

North Catholic, the No. 1 team in the Tribune-Review Class A rankings, is a lot like the Monessen boys, ambitious to a fault outside the section. The Trojanettes are undefeated in Section 4, but 3-4 against everyone else, with losses to New Castle and South Park, the Class AAA Nos. 4 and 5 teams, and Class AA No. 1 Sto-Rox (15-0).

NA, Seneca Valley emerge

The logjam loosened a bit in Section 3-AAAA when the four teams that were tied for first place played each other Friday on the first night of the second half of the league season.

North Allegheny’s 57-49 victory over a young, but driven, Shaler team was not unexpected. Nick Dvorsky continued his consistent play with 18 points, but it was defense that won the game for NA (9-4, 5-2). Shaler turned the ball over 23 times and scored nine and eight points, respectively, in the first and third quarters.

Seneca Valley (9-5, 5-2) went on the road — far from its Butler County roots — to upend Central Catholic, 65-59. Sophomore guard Christian Durbin scored 21. Again, it’s defense that has shoved Seneca Valley into first place. It has allowed an average of only 51.9 points per game, fourth in Class AAAA and second among the five section leaders, including No. 1 Peters Township (46.5), Mt. Lebanon (49.9) and Latrobe (60.1).

North Allegheny won the first game between the teams, 50-49, and the rematch is in Wexford on Feb. 3. That one might be worth the price of admission.

Seven for the price of one (almost)

Speaking of admission, if you got $6 burning a hole in your wallet, the Pittsburgh Basketball Club has a treat for high school basketball fans.

The 2009 Pittsburgh High School Basketball Classic on Jan. 25 at Robert Morris University features games from 11 a..m. to the final one ends sometime after 10 p.m.

The approximately 11 hours worth of basketball features at least one team that is currently leading its respective section in six of the seven games.

– The first matches Section 1-A leader Lincoln Park against Class AAA Montour.

– Then, it’s Sewickley Academy, tied for first in Section 4-A, against Bishop Canevin.

– Chartiers Valley, one of two undefeated teams in boys basketball (the other is North Catholic), plays Aliquippa in the third game.

– That is followed by the only girls game, Class AAA No. 2 Mars against Mars.

– With Christian Shea recovered from his leg injury, Upper St. Clair (11-3) should be a formidable foe for McKeesport in the fifth game. McKeesport (10-4, 6-1) has a seven-game winning streak after a 3-4 start, avenged an earlier loss to Fox Chapel and is pulling away from the pack in Section 2-AAAA.

– Gateway plays Central Catholic in the sixth game. Central is 2-4 since Christmas, but it has enough talent to challenge the Section 3 co-leaders before the end of the regular season.

– The finale should be a dandy — Class AA No. 1 Beaver Falls (12-2) against North Allegheny.

By the way, tournament organizers will slash the price of admission in half for students and take off another buck all the way down to 200 pennies if you are under 12 or a senior citizen.

Hockey stars

Connellsville senior center Eric Bogden has been selected as the PIHL Open Division player of the month for December. Bogden, 6-foot-3, 155 pounds, recorded 14 goals and 10 assists in five games. The Falcons won four and tied one. Other players chosen were Serra Catholic’s Erik Mannetta (A Division), Chartiers Valley’s Wayland Vaughan (AA Division) and Pine Richland’s Bryan Watt (AAA Division).

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