STEVE MILLER, the 1970’s rocker, once wrote, “ ... You’ve gotta go through hell before you get to heaven ... ”
Perhaps that’s the mind-set for the West Middlesex High boys’ basketball team.
Including Saturday’s 55-50 overtime PIAA Class AA playoffs opening-round win over Jeannette, the Big Reds have rolled to 19 consecutive conquests.
In essence, West Middlesex has not yet lost midway through the 3rd month of this calendar year.
But with approximately 2 weeks remaining in this season, one of the program’s most painful moments in the last 2 years may have set in motion Middlesex’s momentum this March.
Losing to Lincoln Park Charter, 47-45, at the buzzer in last season’s Class A western regional championship game — convoluted logic though it may appear to be — renewed the Big Reds’ resolve to close the deal this year by hoisting hardware in Hershey.
Ironically, Lincoln Park’s Leopards appeared locally Friday night. For the 3rd in as many years, eliminating a Mercer County club, this time Kennedy Catholic, 54-45. There were many Middlesex people in attendance. However, exorcising demons did not interest Middlesex mentor Chad Mild.
“I’ve kind’ve put that to rest. I’m more worried about who’s in front of us right now,” admitted Mild. “I really haven’t throught about Lincoln Park since we played them last year; I’m more focused on (Wedesday’s opponent) Bishop McCort.”
While speaking, Mild was en route Sunday afternoon for a film exchange, fresh off one of the shorter — albeit enjoyable — night’s of rest he’s had in some time. Given that his club played in the finale of Saturday’s quadruple-header at Slippery Rock University, the fact the Reds were extended to overtime — though a quartet of extra sessions shy of their District 10 title tilt meeting with Lakeview a week earlier — and daylight savings time advancing clocks ahead by an hour — Mild might’ve been weary. Rather, he sounded energized.
“That was a quality win (over Jeannette), and we knew going in it wasn’t going to be easy,” he related. “Even though (Jeannette) got upset earlier (in the WPIAL tournament by Apollo-Ridge), I still think that was one of the top five teams in the west that we beat (Saturday) night,” he related.
“We ended up pulling it out in overtime (on Jerrod Palmer’s go-ahead corner triple, plus the free-throw shooting of Matt Dogan — 5 for 6 during the 4th quarter and OT — and Trey Staunch —14 for 16 overall, including 7 for 8 during the 4th frame and OT),” Mild said, emphasizing, “but when you look at that game, we won it at the defensive end. We held that team to fifty points, including the overtime (on 17 for 49, 34.6 percent shooting from the floor, while outrebounding the Jayhawks, 25-23, led by Dogan’s 8, Staunch’s 7, and Jeremy Jancso’s 6).
“That was the big key,” Mild admitted, “keeping them from getting inside the paint (6--foot-5 senior post Seth Miller, in early foul trouble — 3 with 1:17 remaining to intermission; 4 with 6:35 remaining in regulation) — not only did not score, but did not attempt a shot). And we know,” Mild added, “if we’re going to win big games down the road, we have to be able to to it on the defensive end.”
Regarding last year’s loss to Lincoln Park, Mild reflected, “I would agree with the statement that that gave us confidence. A lot of people — WPIAL teams — feel that because we’re from Mercer County, District 10, that we can’t compete. But we got a lot of confidence last year when we beat Beaver Falls (in New Castle’s Tipoff Tourney), then we beat North Catholic in the first round of the state playoffs. So we definitely know now that we can play with those teams.”
Mild is in the midst of his 14th year as Middlesex’s mentor. He’s the program’s winningest coach (234-130, 64.2 percent). He’s a product of the school — where he now teaches — and played for its basketball program, as did his father, brothers and nephews.
But in the spring of 2013 Mild is living in the moment, which makes driving to Cambria County on a Sunday afternoon almost a pleasurable experience. He and his Big Reds (23-3) will be traveling to Clarion University of Pennsylvania’s Waldo Tippin Gymnasium for a 7:30 p.m. date with Bishop McCort (19-8) Wednesday in the western regional quarterfinals.
“ ... I just want to make sure we’re well prepared,” Mild mused, adding, “We like (SRU’s Morrow Field House) — it’s like our home-away-from home, so we wish it was there. But I’d drive anywhere to go play right now.
“I don’t want to let any moment slip by,” Mild emphasized, adding, “This is a once-in-a-lifetime, and I want us to give ourselves every opportunity to win ... and I know our kids’ll leave it all on the floor.”
STEVE MILLER, the 1970’s rocker, once wrote, “ ... You’ve gotta go through hell before you get to heaven ... ”
Breese defends heavyweight title at PIAA Championships
HERSHEY, Pa. — Move over Rod Wright!
Lakeview senior heavyweight star Sam Breese had a goal coming into the PIAA State Class AA Wrestling Championships this weekend at Hershey Giant Center — besides winning a second state crown, that is.
WM knocks off Neshannock in PIAA playoffs
SLIPPERY ROCK — The notion of Trey Staunch sneaking up on opposing teams is laughable. At 6-foot-3 and approximately 225 pounds, the stout Staunch is not sneaking up on anyone.
However after posting a game-high 31-point, 18-rebound performance in West Middlesex High basketball team’s 76-66 PIAA Class AA playoffs opening-round win over Neshannock Saturday night, Staunch said opponents may have been overlooking the Big Reds.
Hickory girls 26-0, oust Johnstown
SLIPPERY ROCK — At Morrow Field House Saturday evening, the Hickory Lady Hornets kept the perfect season alive with a 63-37 state playoff first round win over the Greater Johnstown Trojans from District 6.
“It feels great to get the win (Saturday),” said veterans Hickory coach Jeanette Whitehead. “We’ve been at this place over the last few years and we’ve been sent home in the first round so it was a huge win for us. I’m very proud of our team effort."
KC girls roll past California in PIAA playoffs
SLIPPERY ROCK — Kennedy Catholic High girls’ basketball team was in the ’hood Saturday afternoon.
Led by senior Taylor Hood, the Lady Golden Eagles eased past California, 53-34, in the opening round of the PIAA Class A playoffs.
Lakeview's Breese to defend PIAA title
HERSHEY, Pa. — If you are Major League Baseball player, a .333 batting average is great. But in wrestling at the state tournament — not so much!
Out of the dozen wrestlers that Mercer County sent to Hershey for the PIAA State Class AA Wrestling Championships, only four (.333) will reach the medal stand today — led by Lakeview senior Sam Breese who shoots for a second straight gold medal.
Farrell edges Montour, 60-57, in PIAA opener
Montour High boys’ basketball coach Adam Kaufman lamented another season-ending setback. However there are several hundred coaches across the Commonwealth who envy his program’s recent success and would trade places with him in a heartbeat.
But during Friday night’s PIAA Class AAA playoff opener, Kaufman & Co. could not overcome those streaky Steelers ... those survivin’ Steelers.
“ ... Hey, survive and move on,” summarized Steelers’ skipper Roland Shannonhouse following Farrell’s 60-57 win at Sharon High.
GCC ousts Mercer in 1st round of PIAAs
The Mercer Lady Mustangs were outscored 16-4 in the final quarter of the first round of the state playoffs by the Greensburg Central Catholic Centurions, ending their season Friday night 56-31 at Sharon High School.
Senior Lexie Arkwright had a 20-point, 10-rebound double-double performance for the Lady M’s. She also snagged three steals. Adelyn Cook and Haylie Glass each added 4 points for Mercer.
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.
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- Breese defends heavyweight title at PIAA Championships