Another day, another Mercer County cage coaching casualty.
On Thursday, Tom Burns was notified his position as Kennedy Catholic High girls’ basketball coach was being opened to new applicants.
“I don’t want to say a whole lot,” Burns began. “You walk in(to a meeting), and thirty seconds later, you’re out.
“ ... ‘Off-court drama,’ that’s the reasoning,” related Burns via a Thursday afternoon telephone conversation.
“We decided to open the position. We decided to move in a different direction and open the position,” said Kennedy Catholic athletic director Jim Piccirilli.
Burns recently concluded his 6th campaign at Kennedy with a 24-3 ledger. He guided the Lady Golden Eagles to their 4th District 10 Class A title during his tenure, and this year completed a 3-peat. KC copped PIAA playoff wins over North Catholic and Port Allegany before being ousted by eventual state runner-up Vincentian Academy in the state quarterfinals.
After a season-opening setback at D-10 Class AAA titlist Franklin, Kennedy captured 15 consecutive conquests, lost to Vincentian in the postponed finale of Penn State-Beaver’s holiday tourney, then reeled off 9 more victories before being vanquished by Vincentian (68-51) for the 2nd straight season.
“I can’t understand it,” admitted Burns. “Last year there was a parent issue — a fabricated parent’s issue that, obviously, people couldn’t let go. I’d heard rumors all year long that this was going to be my last year, but didn’t put a lot of weight into them.
“It’s always been about the kids, to me,” Burns continued. “Whether or not I’m coaching them, it doesn’t matter; what matters to me is that the kids are okay.”
Burns’ daughter, Rachel, was one of this season’s seniors and she surpassed the career 1,000-point plateau, as did Akron University-bound Alex Ricketts. Earlier this week Ricketts was selected 1st Team All-State by Pennsylvania sports writers.
“I think it’s a well-deserved award for her,” Burns said regarding Ricketts. “She’s worked hard, harder than most kids in the area, to achieve that. I think her four-year tenure for me was ... in my opinion (statewide sports writers) got it right this year, making her First Team. She’s been an outstanding player for me and Kennedy Catholic High for the past four years, and she’ll go on and be a great player at Akron.”
Burns recently had been selected by Youngstown-area’s MyValleySports.com as its coach of the year, so he admitted Thursday’s revelation,
“ ... is disheartening. There’s a lot of upset parents that don’t understand. I don’t think anybody ever will.
“It’s a political move, but it’s happening everywhere,” he added.
Recently, 10-year Hickory High boys head coach Nick Cannone was notified his position was being opened after 7 straight winning seasons.
A telephone call to Father Marc Stockton, president of the Shenango Valley Catholic School System, was not returned. But Piccirilli, speaking on behalf of the school’s administration, said, “Any time (a school) opens a position, everybody’s welcome to re-apply.”
“ ... It’s been a good time, but I’m most upset for my little Hannah,” Burns said regarding his youngest daughter, a 14-year-old 8th-grader.
“ ... That’s my old school,’ Burns said regarding Kennedy Catholic, “but I guess you just roll with the times ...”
Another day, another Mercer County cage coaching casualty.
5 area matmen to quarterfinals in Hershey
HERSHEY — Mercer County matmen had mixed results on the opening day of action in the PIAA State Class AA Wrestling Championships at the Giant Center.
Only 5 of the county’s dozen entries — led by defending state champ Sam Breese of Lakeview (285) — won their preliminary matches to move into the tournament quarterfinals which begin at 9 a.m. today. However the other 7 lost their first matches, although 3 are still alive in the consolations heading into this morning’s action.
Coach Chad Mild's Big Reds are road warriors
West Middlesex High boys basketball team did not play its first home game until after the first of the year, but competing at New Castle, Farrell and Youngstown’s Covelli Centre has served it well.
Witness West Middlesex’s 55-54 win over Fairview in last weekend’s District 10 Class AA championship game — at Edinboro University’s McComb Field House.
Boys PIAA basketball preview boxes
Who: Farrell (22-3) vs. Montour (16-8).
What: Opening round.
When: 7:30 p.m. today.
Where: Sharon High’s Tiger Gymnasium.
Hickory, Mercer, KC girls PIAA playoff boxes
Who: Hickory (25-0) vs. Greater Johnstown (11-14).
What: PIAA Playoffs, 1st round.
When: 5:30 p.m. Saturday.
Where: Slippery Rock University.
Shannonhouse's Steelers set for statewide stage
With the approaching spring, a young man’s fancy turns to ... what else? The PIAA playoffs. And when Shenango Valley scholastic basketball aficionados think of the postseason they think of Farrell.
Recently at E.J. McCluskey Gymnasium, the banners above were blowing in the breeze — ’52 ... ’54 ... ’56 ... ’59 ... ’60 ... ’69 ... ’72 — swaying as sprinting players created a vacuum of air rising from the floor. Melodramatic maybe, but there’s a feeling at Farrell that harkens back to the heyday when playoff success was a rite of passage.
Breese eyes repeat at state mat tourney
There is no doubt that winning a state championship in wrestling is a difficult thing to do. Winning two is even tougher.
“There’s a target on your chest,” pointed out Lakeview High coach Tom Tingley in preseason this year, referring to his star wrestler Sam Breese who won a state heavyweight crown as a junior last year.
Obviously that target hasn’t bothered the Sailors big man who is a perfect 32-0 this season as he attempts to become only the 12th Mercer County matman to win multiple titles.
WRESTLING NOTEBOOK: It's a young group of county matmen headed to state
THERE’S definitely a youth movement in Mercer County wrestling as demonstrated by the group of 11 matmen who are advancing to the PIAA State Class AA Championships on Thursday.
Eight of the locals are underclassmen. The only seniors are Lakeview’s Sam Breese (285), Reynolds’ Levi Stoyer (145) and Jamestown’s Mohamed Messai (182).
Breese and Stoyer are the only returning state place-winners. Breese, who has verbally committed to Kent State University to wrestle next season, won the heavyweight class and is seeking a second gold medal. Stoyer placed 7th at 145 and wants to climb much higher on the medals stand.
Kennedy boys forfeit win, are out of playoffs
The PIAA basketball playoffs do not begin until Friday, but Mercer County already lost a team.
Kennedy Catholic High disclosed Monday the discovery of an academically-ineligible player, who competed in last Friday’s District 10 Class A consolation contest.
Kennedy Catholic edged Eisenhower in double-OT, 66-62, earning a berth in the statewide tournament. The Golden Eagles were to meet District 9 champion Ridgway Friday at Clarion University’s Tippin Gymnasium in the opening round; instead, Eisenhower will represent D-10 as its 3rd-place team.
Raiders win 17th region title; 11 locals to Hershey
When Reynolds senior Levi Stoyer came off the mat after his 145-pound championship at the Northwest AA Regional Championships, he wasn’t celebrating his second straight crown. Instead, he turned to head coach Casey Taylor and said, “I did it for the team.”
And the team needed it!
Stoyer defeated Brookville’s Zach Vroman, 3-0, and sent Reynolds on its way to the school’s 17th region team title Saturday night at Sharon High School. Reynolds finished with 147 points, to Brookville’s 138.
Hickory girls capture 1st district title since 1983
MEADVILLE — Depending upon peoples’ perceptions, 31 years can seem like a lifetime ... but so can 16 minutes.
Hickory High girls’ basketball program’s District 10 drought ended Saturday afternoon as perennial power Villa Maria virtually vanished from the 2nd-half scoreboard.
The Lady Hornets erased a 7-point halftime deficit by yielding just 4 second-half points en route to a 39-24 victory over Villa Maria in the District 10 Class AAA championship game.
KC beats Cochranton for 4th straight D-10 crown
MEADVILLE — Everybody is on April Bocian’s bandwagon — and rightly so. But Tatum Kress helped keep Kennedy Catholic High girls’ basketball program atop District 10’s Class A competition.
Kress connected for all 14 of her points during the 2nd half Saturday afternoon, keying the Kennedy Catholic to a 49-38 conquest of Cochranton.
McLane rallies to beat Mercer in AA title tilt
In 1986, the Mercer Lady M’s won the school’s first and only girls basketball District 10 title at Edinboro University’s McComb Field House, but in the same gym on Saturday in 2014, the squad in blue wasn’t so lucky.
Mercer led the Gen. McLane Lady Lancers 27-19 entering the fourth quarter, but the Lancers outscored the Lady M’s 19-4 in the final frame to win the Class AA title tilt 38-31.
WM captures 3rd straight D-10 crown
EDINBORO — The West Middlesex Big Reds did it again! For the third straight year, the Big Reds, under the leadership of head coach Chad Mild, the winningest coach in West Middlesex school history, won the District 10 title with a thrilling 55-54 victory over the Fairview Tigers on Friday night at McComb Field House.
Farrell beats East for D-10 Class AAA title
MEADVILLE — Malik Miller was playing with a broken hand, but broke the hearts of East High’s basketball team.
Sophomore sharpshooter Miller mustered 19 markers — tossing in 4 from beyond the arc — helping forge Farrell to the District 10 Class AAA championship, 83-78.
Raiders hold lead at Northwest AA Region Tourney
Reynolds coach Casey Taylor had a simple, but fitting comment after the opening night of the Northwest AA Region Wrestling Championships at Sharon High School Friday:
“So far; so good!”
The defending champion Raiders, who are seeking a 17th region crown in school history, jumped into the team lead with 45 points Friday, heading second place Brookville with 35.
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