Chad Mild munched on a piece of pizza following his Big Reds’ opening-round rout of Iroquois. Four nights later, though, Mild was in no mood for post-game snacking after his team fought off Fairview in the semifinals.
Fending off fearless Fairview — which had drawn within 4 with 2:48 remaining — helped make Middlesex mentor Mild appreciate less-pressured moments.
Which makes tonight’s 8 p.m. District 10 Class AA championship game with Lakeview appetizing for area aficionados; not necessarily for coaches’ constitutions.
The title tilt twin bill at Slippery Rock University’s Morrow Field House commences at 6:30 p.m., with Kennedy Catholic competing with Cochranton for the Class A crown.
West Middlesex (21-3) vs. Lakeview (21-3)
State-ranked West Middlesex, winner of 17 consecutive contests and the defending D-10 Class A titlist, has been on a mission since losing to Lincoln Park in last season’s PIAA Final Four.
“It’s just one more goal on the road to our ultimate goal to get to the state championship,” Mild related. “We wanted to go undefeated in our region (2-AA) and win that, and to get to the District 10 championship game, and here we are.
“Trust me,” Mild admitted, ”it can’t be any better, with Middlesex and Lakeview playing in the District 10 championship game.”
Matchups, Mild mused, make championship game storylines. His Reds outlasted Lakeview twice (46-34 in Stoneboro; 62-47 in West Middlesex). As it has been doing for 2-plus seasons, Middlesex made the most of the free-throw line — 30-for-41 (73.1 percent, led by Matt Dogan, 12 for 16, and Trey Staunch, 11 of 13). The Sailors shot 15 for 19 (78.9).
“We’ve had two kids foul out (of a game) the last two seasons — Brandon (Rice) and Coty (Gander) in that second game,” reflected Sailors’ skipper Gary Burke. “They’re a very physical basketball team, so there are certain things we have to do better to be more successful in this game than the last two: ‘Fundamentals 101,’” Burke related. “Rebound the basketball, take care of the basketball, and knock down shots when they’re presented to you.
“You can take all the X’s and O’s and all the Jim’s and Joe’s out of it,” Burke said. “It comes down, pretty much, to the fundamental things. ...The team that does those the best will be holding the trophy (tonight).”
Playing the same opponent 3 times in the same season invokes various theories. Burke said his Sailors experienced a precedent about a decade ago, when current star Casey Greggs’ older brother Chad set the tone in a rubber match against Maplewood, taking a charge early on and setting the tone for the duration.
“ ... That was my first championship,” Burke recalled,
“We’re used to (the 3-game scenario), us and Kennedy in that third game (last year, 41-39 in OT),” Mild reflected. “It’s not easy beating somebody three times, and it wasn’t like we blew (the Sailors) out the first two times. So our kids will be prepared, I’m sure their kids’ll be prepared, and it’s just going to be the team that makes less mistakes.”
Burke said his 13-year tenure will not be validated by victory tonight.
“Down the road it might be. But as far as I’m concerned ... years ago if you’d asked me if I ever thought we’d be in this position, I’d have said no. The fact we’re here, that we’ve put ourselves in this position, is very satisfying to me.
“Win, lose or draw, I couldn’t ask for more out of the four seniors (Greggs, Gander, Dalton Boggs and Zach VanDusen) and the underclassmen. To get to where we are is a nice notch on the belt, but I think this is about kind’ve continuing what we do up here at Lakeview: Doing things the right way, playing to the best of our ability, living up to our potential.
“A win would be very special for all of us — not just me,” Burke emphasized. “Nobody expects this out of us year in and year out. But we’ve earned a lot of respect over the years for our program — and that’s (what) I’m most proud of. People in the county and the district are talking about Lakeview’s program — no one person in particular — and that’s what swells my heart with pride.”
After the foray with Fairview, Mild — basking in the glow of another West Middlesex win, or perhaps momentarily relieved for having survived another challenge — said tonight’s tilt will be tense, but also ... “I think it’s going to be fun,” Mild admitted. “These guys are looking forward to playing us. I know they’re going to be ready, and it’s going to come down to the last couple minutes of that game, man.
“Our kids are confident,” Mild admitted. “We have seniors, we’ve been in big games, we’ve been in big atmospheres all year long. We’ll be ready.”
Kennedy Catholic (16-6) vs. Cochranton (15-8)
There was a time Kennedy Catholic’s program was synonymous with the D-10 Class A championship. A dozen consecutive crowns made it seem like a rite of spring. But owing to the emergence of, first Rocky Grove, then West Middlesex, Kennedy has not captured the crown since ’09. Now with Rocky Grove’s 2-year reign having run its course, and with West Middlesex moving up to AA, the Golden Eagles are embarking on the title they once took for granted.
It almost strikes a chord from the lyrics of Cold Play’s 2008 recording, “Viva LaVida”:
“ ... I used to rule the world ... I used to roll the dice, feel the fear in my enemy’s eyes, listened as the crowd would sing. Now the old king is dead, long live the king ... ”
“The other day I asked my players, ‘How many of you have won a District 10 championship — in anything?’” recently related 4th-year KC head coach Rick Mancino, “and no one raised their hand. So I told them, ‘Here’s your opportunty.’”
Almost a year ago to the day in the same venue, KC was on the cusp of copping the crown, but lost to West Middlesex at the buzzer.
“I told (the Golden Eagles), ‘Last year we were very close, and now you’re fortunate to have a second shot at it, because there’s never any guarantee you’ll get back. We have that second chance, it’s right here for the taking, but we’ll have to beat a very good team to get it,” Mancino said, continuing,
“People around here have gotta get it out of their minds ... there are some very good teams in Mercer County. But in general conversation, for some of them, if they don’t know the name of the school I have to remind them that there other other good teams out there. And in my opinion,” Mancino admitted, “with our team, when we play a ‘name’ school we feel comfortable, our kids come ready to play; but if it’s a team with a name they’re not necessarily familiar with, we have letdowns, even though that has nothing to do with how good that team might be.
“I respect every team we play, and I don’t look past anybody,” Mancino emphasized. “This is the District 10 final, and I don’t care who you’re playing, these teams are good and they’re here for a reason. ... if they’ve gotten to the finals, they’re doing something right.”
The teams met in the regular season, with KC capturing a 69-65 win, and Mancino admitted, “We were very fortunate. We made some plays and they missed some foul shots at the end of the game, and we were able to respond to that. But, it was definitely not an easy win at all. They’re a tough team.”
“We had problems containing their point guard (Logan Herzberger), and (Nick Dickson) ... was able to do whatever he wanted,” recalled Mancino. “Those kids are tough and they have some others who can shoot the ball when they’re open ... ”
Mancino’s legacy is as a starter on KC’s 1st of 6 state championship teams (’85-86). Ironically, that success has been counterintuitive to a point, as it spawned the entitlement mentality once permeating the program’s fan base. Though he’s guided the Golden Eagles to twice as many wins as losses during his 4-year tenure, Mancino related,
“It’d be great for the guys to get the District 10 championship. When you’ve never won something you might not know how good it feels, so I’d like for these guys to experience that. It’d be a program-builder.
“People get spoiled, but you never know when the next one’s gonna come,” he said. “The last four years, our (Region 1-A) has been very good ...
“As a coach, you want to win every game, obviously; you want to win championships — it’s a great feeling! But, moreso, I’d love it for our players,” Mancino admitted, adding, “ ... I would love to win it, but I’m hoping to win other games. ... We want to win in the worst way, and I’d feel great, as a coach. It would be a great accomplishment if we win the District 10 championship. Hopefully, we’ll give it everything we can, and the players will look forward to the opportunity of playing for a District 10 championship.
“I told them,” Mancino concluded, “‘a lot of kids who play high school basketball would love to be in your position. You never know when you’ll have that opportunity again, so you have to take advantage of it.’”
Who: West Middlesex (21-3) vs. Lakeview (21-3).
When: Today, 8 p.m.
Where: Slippery Rock University’s Morrow Field House.
Players to Watch: West Middlesex—Matt Dogan, 6-foot-6 Sr. combo guard (26 ppg.); Trey Staunch, 6-3 Soph. post (16.7); Jeremy Jancso, 6-5 Sr. forward (12.4); Jerrod Palmer, 5-11 Sr. 2-guard (8.3); Roman Klaric, 5-11 Sr. point guard; Christian Porterfield, 5-11 Jr. swingman (5.1); Mike Ginther, 6-6 Sr. post. Lakeview—Dalton Boggs, 6-1 Sr. combo guard (15.1); Casey Greggs, 6-6 Sr. swingman (14.1); Coty Gander, 6-2 Sr. post (9.0); Brandon Rice, 6-2 Jr. forward (8.3); Zach VanDusen, 6-0 Jr. 2-guard; Andrew Fowler, 6-3 Sr. guard; Austin Rice, 5-9 Fr. guard.
Bonus Shots: West Middlesex is ranked 5th in the state (Harrisburg Patriot-News), and the Big Reds have roared to 17 straight successes (12 en route to an undefeated Region 2-AA crown). During that skein West Middlesex surpassed 80 points 9 times, reaching the century mark twice. ... Dogan, Mercer County’s career scoring leader (2,118), has scored in double digits all but once this season. Staunch has scored in double figures in every game, joined by Jancso (15). ... The Big Reds are the defending D-10 Class A champions. ... Coach Chad Mild (14th season, 232-130) is West Middlesex’s winningest mentor. ... The Reds routed Iroquois (82-44) in the D-10 Tourney lidlifter, then trimmed Fair-view (58-48) in the semis. ... Lakeview, led by 13th-year head coach Gary Burke (203 career wins) has outlasted Titusville (48-37) and Mercyhurst Prep (59-46). ... Both Boggs and Greggs surpassed the career 1,000-point plateau this season, a 1st in Sailors’ cage annals, according to Burke. James Charlton (1,259) is Lakeview’s career scoring leader. ... In West Middlesex’s home-and-home regular-season sweep of Lakeview (46-34, 62-47) the damage was done by Dogan (40) and Staunch (37), though Jancso and Palmer evenly divided 20 digits in the 2nd meeting. Boggs bucketed 29 in the 2 tilts, but Greggs garnered only 12, Gander 11 and Rice 10. ... The game will be simulcast on SportsRadio 96.7 (WLLF FM) and NewsTalk 790 (WPIC AM), with Mark Slezak and Bob Greenburg calling the action.
Who: Kennedy Catholic (16-6) vs. Cochranton (15-8).
When: 6:30 p.m. today.
Where: Slippery Rock University’s Morrow Field House.
Players to Watch: Kennedy Catholic—Jeffrey Thompkins, 6-2 Sr. swing-guard (14.2 ppg.); Mac Hartman, 6-6 Sr. post (14.0); Chris James, 6-0 Jr. combo guard (12.9); Jimmy D’Ono-frio, 5-11 Sr. 2-guard (7.1); Gerald Zachar, 5-9 Jr. point guard; Arlen Brewer, 6-0 Sr. swingman (7.2); Sam Crow, 6-1 Jr. forward, Brennan Wassil, 6-4 Jr. forward. Cochranton—Nick Dickson, 6-1 Jr. guard (14.8 ppg., 83 FT); Logan Herzberger, 5-11 Jr. guard; Andy Saunier, 5-11 Sr. swingman; Nate Roche, 6-0 Sr. forward; Garrett Adams, 6-0 Jr. swingman; Josh Vanderhoof, 6-0 Jr. guard; Jed Villamar, 5-11 Sr. swingman.
Bonus Shots: KC captured 12 consecutive crowns, but has not won District 10 since ’09. ... Coached by Rick Mancino (4th year, 61-31), KC is in the title tilt for the 2nd straight season. ... James has a team-high 17 double-figure games, followed by Hartman (16) and D’Onofrio (6). ... Thompkins is playing with an ALC tear to his left knee that cost him 3 games and snapped a 10-game double-digit skein. He has 13. ... The Golden Eagles edged Cochranton (69-65) in Hermitage at midseason, led by Thompkins (19), Hartman (17) and James (16). Herzberger hit a game-high 21 (11-for-11 free-throw shooting), duplicated by Dickson for 1st-year coach Scott McCurdy. The Redbirds roarded to an 18-13 first-quarter lead and held a 31-30 margin at intermission before the Golden Eagles erupted for 23 third-period points. Cochanton collected 21 fourth-quarter points, but the Redbirds’ rally fell short. KC converted 21 of 32 free-throw attempts, compared with Cochranton’s 17-for-21 accuracy. ... KC routed the Redbirds (50-28) in last year’s semifinals and 2011’s opening round (68-49). ... The game will be simulcast on SportsRadio 96.7 (WLLF FM) and NewsTalk 790 (WPIC AM), with Mark Slezak and Bob Greenburg calling the action, beginning with the pre-game show at 6:05 p.m. Games streamed at www.790wpic.com and www.sportsradio967.com — By Ed Farrell, Herald assistant sports editor.
Who: Kennedy Catholic (21-2) vs. Cochranton (16-8).
What: D-10 Championship.
When: 2:30 p.m. Saturday. Where: Farrell High.
Players to Watch: Kennedy Catholic — Alex Ricketts, 5-11 Sr. (17.4 ppg.); Courtney Sargent, 6-2 Sr. (12.9); Rachel Burns, 5-10 Sr. (11.0); Taylor Hood, 5-7 Jr. (7.8); Rebekah Kish, 5-7 Soph. (6.8). Cochranton — Madison Bernarding, 5-6 Jr. (12.9); Kendell Dickson, 5-8 Jr. (9.8); Morghan Egli, 5-11 Soph. (7.7); Abby Clulow, 5-4 Soph. (6.5); Kassidy Dickson, 5-9 Soph. (5.7).
Bonus Shots: Kennedy Coach Tom Burns (6th year, 112-34) and his Lady Golden Eagles are the kingpins of Class A in District 10. Burns has led his team to the past 2 titles and another in ’09. KC has a total of 16 D-10 championships and won the state title in 2001 under former coach Father Rick Tomasone. ... KC was never challenged in D-10 this season, going 10-0 in Region 1 with the closest region game being a 66-35 win vs. Commodore Perry. KC has outscored their opponents 1,407-694 this year. ... KC’s 2 losses have come against Franklin (62-45) in their season-opener at the Franklin Tipoff Tournament and Vincentian Academy (70-53) in the title game of the Penn State-Beaver Holiday Tourney. Franklin is 23-1 and will defend its Class AAA championship Saturday against Gen. McLane, while Vincentian is 24-1 and is playing for the WPIAL Class A title on Saturday vs. Serra Catholic at Duquesne University’s A.J. Palumbo Center. ... KC had a D-10 tourney opening-round bye. On Wednesday, they rolled past Commodore Perry (68-28) in the semifinals at Sharon High. Sargent (16), Ricketts (15), April Bocian (11) and Kish (10) scored in double digits ... Ricketts, a D-I Akron University recruit, has 1,347 career points while Burns, the coach’s daughter, has compiled 1,040. ... Last season, KC beat Conneaut Valley (56-21) for the D-10 crown. In the PIAA playoffs, they rolled past Riverview (59-30) and Clarion (59-43) and were ousted by Vincentian Academy (56-51) in the western region semifinals. Cochranton Coach Gary Egli’s (7th year) Lady Cardinals finished 3rd in Region 3 with an 8-4 record, behind Conneaut Area (12-0) and Saegertown (9-3). ... Cochranton beat Reynolds (60-19) in the D-10 quarterfinals as Bernarding rifled in 24 points and Kendell Dickson added 20. ... The Lady Cards handed Farrell a crushing 47-46 loss in the semifinals at Sharon High. Farrell led 44-37 with 2:06 left, but Cochranton rallied to notch the win. Bernarding (13), Kassidy Dickson (11) and Egli (10) scored in double digits while Kendell Dickson grabbed 10 rebounds. ... Their 8 losses this season have come against Grove City, Cambridge Springs, Clarion Area, Seneca, Conneaut Area (twice), Saegertown and Hickory. ... The Lady Cards did not qualify for the playoffs last season after going 13-8. ... The game will be broadcast on SportsRadio 96.7 (WLLF FM), with Jeff Wimer and Chris Burtch calling the action.
Who: Sharpsville (16-8) vs. Mercer (17-7).
What: D-10 Consolation.
When: 1 p.m. Saturday. Where: Farrell High
Players to Watch: Sharpsville — McKenzie Popatak, 5-9 Sr. (21.5); Megan Davis, 5-8 Jr. (11.0); Natalie Henwood, 5-5 Sr. (4.1); Kayla Kurelko, 5-5 Soph. (3.9); Paige Scurpa, 5-9 Sr. (2.4). Mercer — Alexis Arkwright, 5-7 Jr. (17.3); Megan McKinney, 5-7 Jr. (10.4); Adelyn Cook, 5-4 Soph. (4.9); Analise Whenry, 6-0 Sr. (4.3); Alexis Mills, 5-4 Jr. (4.0).
Bonus Shots: Sharpsville Coach Jeff Hanley’s (12th year, 184-112) Blue Darlings are led by Popatak, who owns the school record (1,630 career points and counting). The previous girls mark (1,440) was set by ’08 graduate Kasey Gardner, who played at Shippensburg University. ... Some fans were concerned with Sharpsville’s record early on when they started the season 1-4, but the losses were against Cranberry, Grove City, Slippery Rock and Kennedy Catholic. ... The other losses on their schedule were to Sharon, Girard and North East (twice). ... Sharpsville, the Region 2 champions, ousted Seneca (34-29) in the D-10 quarterfinals, but lost to North East (42-38) in the semifinals at Conneaut Lake Middle. Popatak fired in 20 vs. Seneca while Davis (12), Henwood (12) and Popatak (11) scored in double digits vs. NE. ... Sharpsville led NE 15-10 after 1 quarter and 22-14 at halftime, but was outscored 11-6 in the 3rd quarter and 17-10 in the 4th. ... Last season, Sharpsville lost to Seneca (51-46) in the D-10 quarterfinals. Mercer head coach Aaron Cook (2nd year, 23-23) is the son of former longtime Mercer High boys basketball coach Dave Cook. ... The Lady M’s went 6-16 last season and did not qualify for the playoffs. ... Mercer and Sharon both finished with 9-3 records in Region 2 behind the Blue Darlings. ... Arkwright has fired in 407 points this season, 2nd to Popatak (507) among area girls teams. ... Sharpsville swept the season series vs. the Lady M’s (46-27, 42-32). ... In the 1st matchup Sharpsville led 20-9 at half and rolled. Popatak (22) and Davis (15) led the Blue Darlings while McKinney had 12 for Mercer. In the rematch, the Blue Darlings jumped out to a 9-3 first-quarter lead, but Mercer outscored them 11-1 in the 2nd for a 14-10 halftime lead. Sharpsville came out in the 2nd half and outscored Mercer 17-13 and 15-5 in the 3rd and 4th quarters. Popatak again had 22 while McKinney bucketed 13. Arkwright had 9 points in the 1st meeting and 5 in the 2nd. ... Mercer’s other 4 losses this year were to Sharon, Mohawk, Farrell and Hickory. ... Mercer beat Girard (45-34) in the D-10 quarterfinals (Arkwright 25) and lost to Gen. McLane (56-42) in the semis. Cook was Mercer's only double-digit scorer with 15 points. ... The game will be broadcast on SportsRadio 96.7 (WLLF FM), with Ryan Briggs and Chris Burtch calling the action.
Who: Hickory (20-4) vs. Mercyhurst Prep (16-8).
What: D-10 Consolation.
When: 1 p.m. Saturday. Where: Meadville Area High’s “House of Thrills.”
Players to watch: Hickory — Nikki Arbanas, 5-7 Jr. (17.9 ppg.); Holly Grober, 5-11 Jr. (15.9); Jenna Placzek, 5-8 Jr. (6.2); Brandi Beader, 5-9 Soph. (5.6); Megan Chess, 5-4 Soph. (4.7). Gen. McLane — Brenna Robbins, 5-10 Sr. (9.8); Chloé Wright, 5-11 Soph. (7.6); Elysha Chrzanowski, 5-10 Sr.; Emily Stoicovy, 5-5 Soph.; Annie Popoff, 5-3 Soph.
Bonus Shots: Hickory head coach Jeanette Whitehead’s (17th year, 252-163) Lady Hornets finished 2nd in Region 5 with a 10-2 record, behind defending D-10 champion Franklin (12-0). ... Hickory is led by Arbanas (427 points this season), and Grober, who has compiled 379 this year and sits at 1,064 career points. ... Hickory beat Warren (58-43) in the D-10 quarterfinals. Grober scored 19, Chess had 14 and Arbanas and Beader each bucketed a dozen. ... The Lady Hornets had won 6 straight before falling to Villa Maria in the D-10 semifinals at Meadville. That game was tied at 23-all at halftime before Villa outscored Hickory 12-4 in the 3rd quarter and 14-10 in the 4th. Arbanas (14) and Grober (13) scored in double digits. Villa has won the previous 6 District 10 Class AA crowns, but was bumped up to AAA this season. ... Hickory’s other 3 losses were to Franklin (48-36 and 46-30) and to Canfield, Ohio, which was still alive in the OHSAA Division II playoffs (Austintown Sectional). They faced Struthers on Thursday night in the semifinals. ... Last year, Hickory beat Warren (54-43 in OT) in the D-10 quarters and Gen. McLane (58-51) in the semis before falling to Franklin (48-38) in the D-10 title tilt. Their season came to an end with a loss to South Park (46-35) in the opening round of the PIAA playoffs. ... Mercyhurst Prep Coach Dan Perfetto’s (7th year, 162-33) Lady Lakers won the D-10 championship 2o years ago and in ’05. They won back-to-back state titles in ’03-04 and ’04-05 and in ’90-91. ... MP finished 2nd in Region 6 with a 7-3 record, behind Villa Maria (10-0). ... Robbins has overcome a midseason shoulder injury and is a D-I Longwood University (Farmville, Va.) recruit, while Wright is the daughter of Gannon University women’s basketball coach Cleve Wright. ... One of Prep’s wins late in the season came against McDowell (39-33), which is playing for the D-10 Class AAAA title Saturday night against Central Tech at Edinboro University. ... MP beat Slippery Rock (36-31) in the D-10 quarterfinals. Chrzanowski had 12 points and Wright tallied 11 points and 10 rebounds. ... In the semis, Franklin held a slim 50-45 lead with 2:26 remaining, but Franklin (23-1) went on a 10-0 run to close it out. Robbins (14) and Chrzanowski (11) led the Lady Lakers. ... Prep’s other 7 losses were against Blackhawk, Mother of Mercy (Cincinnati), Villa Maria (twice), Warren, Altoona and Hollidaysburg. ... Last season, MP beat Grove City (48-26) in the D-10 quarters, lost to Franklin (39-33) in the semis and rolled past Gen. McLane (53-36) in the consolation game. They wereousted by Hopewell (51-23) in the state playoffs. ... The game will be broadcast on NewsTalk 790 (WPIC AM), with Mark Slezak and Bob Greenburg calling the action. — By Rob Malsom, Herald sports writer.