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WPIAL enjoys big night as PIAA tournament takes off

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The PIAA did the WPIAL a favor by allowing basketball teams forced to play a preliminary-round game in the state tournament to do so at home.

Good idea.

No, great idea.

It saved travel expenses for half of the teams involved in the 10 games, and allowed home fans to see and support their seniors one final time.

The preliminary round turned into a launching pad for the WPIAL, with nine of 10 of its teams winning and moving into the first round. They included Central Catholic, North Hills and Seneca Valley (all from Section 3-AAAA boys), the Washington boys and the Baldwin, Gateway, Oakland Catholic, Mars and Beaver girls.

The Valley boys, who lost to City League also-ran Oliver, turned out to be the only WPIAL team that failed to take advantage of its home court.

This weekend, the tournament sprouts wings and moves into outposts such as Edinboro University, Altoona, Clarion University, Sharon, Ebensburg, Pitt-Johnstown, IUP and Johnstown. Thank goodness, gas prices remain under $2 per gallon.

Best matchups in the boys brackets:

• Peters Township/Central Catholic, featuring the 2009/2008 WPIAL champions, at 3 p.m. Saturday at Chartiers Valley. Peters Township beat Central in the WPIAL quarterfinals, 62-54. Prediction: Central Catholic.

• Chartiers Valley vs. Perry, featuring once-beaten Chartiers Valley and City League champion Perry, 7:30 p.m. Friday at Allderdice. Chartiers Valley was dominant for most of three months, winning 24 games in a row before losing to Highlands in the WPIAL semifinals, 66-59. Perry was 15-2 at one time this season and 21-4 when it beat Allderdice, 61-35, to win the City. Prediction: Chartiers Valley (by at least 15).

• Beaver Falls vs. Jeannette. OK, both teams must win their first-round games and that’s no given for underachieving Beaver Falls (19-5), which gets District 6 champion Cambria Heights (21-5) at Central Cambria High School in Ebensburg. Jeannette should toy with Reynolds (23-2), the third-place team from District 10, before advancing. But if both win and are on their games, Beaver Falls’ Todd Thomas against Jeannette’s Jordan Hall should be a show worth watching. Prediction: If it happens, Jeannette 66, Beaver Falls 60.

On the girls side, keep an eye on Class AAA Mars and its star forward Lily Grenci. She could help the Planets upset District 10 champion General McLane (23-1) after they tip off at 6 p.m. Saturday at Edinboro. Prediction: Mars, 55-52.

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