THEY’RE CELEBRITIES now. Not like Elvis, or The Beatles, or even the Michael Jordan-led 1990’s Chicago Bulls.
But in rural Mercer County, Lakeview High basketball players Dalton Boggs and Casey Greggs are as close as its gets to teen-aged head-turners.
Even on a Saturday afternoon at a girls’ basketball game, Boggs — blending into a crowd seems more in keeping with his personal profile preference, and his sidekick, the perpetually-grinning Greggs — draw attention.
Having played, less than 24 hours prior, in one of the most memorable games in the county’s tradition-rich hardwood history will do that.
The irony is that — while West Middlesex won the District 10 Class AA crown in 5 overtimes, 71-65 — in losing, Lakeview is lovable, because the Sailors showed no fear and so much heart.
As Herald sports writer Rob Malsom recently observed, years from now a million people will claim to have been in Slippery Rock University’s Morrow Field House on the night of March 1, 2013. But in reality it was the communities of West Middlesex, Sandy Lake/Stoneboro, and people on the periphery, mainly from the media.
But the stage belonged to Boggs, Greggs and their teammates; Middlesex’s Matt Dogan, Trey Staunch and the remainder of the Big Reds, and the respective coaches Chad Mild and Gary Burke.
Boggs boasted a 25-point, 6-rebound, 6-assist line, while Greggs grabbed a half-down rebounds in addition to scoring 16 points and handing out a handful of assists, and Coty Gander got a 10-point, 10-rebound double-double. They were outdone — slightly — by Dogan’s 36-point, 9-rebound, 6-assist performance and Staunch’s 16-point, 13-rebound twin-killing, and Jeremy Jancso joined in with a dozen points (statistics courtesy of Grove City College sports information director Ryan Briggs).
More impressive, Boggs, Dogan and Staunch played all 52 minutes, Jancso 51, and Greggs 49 before fouling out.
“It was a crazy game,” began Boggs, while standing in iconic E.J. McCluskey Gymnasium, where 7 state championship banners blew back and forth in a breeze. He paused, pondering the game’s historical significance before adding, “It’s definitely going to go down as one of the best games in District 10 history. We went out there and played tough.
Looking back,” Boggs admitted, “I’m not mad that we lost the game now. It was a hard-fought battle. We knew, coming in, we wanted to give them a dogfight. It was the third time we played them, so we got excited for that game.”
While the outcome played out over the course of those five 4-minute extra sessions, frenetic fans and families felt helpless, coaches called an endless series of times-out, writers ran out of adjectives. But one constant remained — a smile plastered on Greggs’ face each time he emerged from one of Burke’s huddles. Fearful? Nervous? Nah. Greggs would look up into the rafters waving his arms to exhort Lakeview’s fan-base.
“I just figured, whatever happens, I’m just taking in the moment, enjoying myself and trying to get everyone else to enjoy it, you know what I mean,” Greggs rhetorically asked, smiling at the recollection.
West Middlesex won the regular-season Region 2-AA championship, in part by sweeping the Sailors. But Greggs said the D-10 title tilt was different because, “We went out in the first two games and they put double digits (losses) on us both times. But we decided we weren’t going to take it this time, and we gave them a dogfight.
“We know who we are,” Greggs emphasized, “and we came in and did what we could do and gave them a game.”
“It was the most fun game I’ve ever played in,” Boggs admitted. “Great atmosphere, and I’ll never forget it.”
Echoed Greggs, “It’s unbelievable, the support that we get! When we can do things like that just to make it worth (fans’) while to come, it means so much to all of us.”
Boggs and Burke celebrated on the same evening in Sharpsville a few weeks ago. Boggs — as Greggs had previously done — reached the 1,000-point plateau while Burke brokered his 200th career coaching win in his 13th season as Sailors’ skipper.
Greggs, regarding Burke, observed, “We get along. We have a good relationship in basketball, and he pushes me more than anyone’s ever pushed me before, so I have ‘mad’ respect for him for that.”
“Like Casey said, (Burke) pushes us all and he cares about us all,” Boggs agreed. “He’s a great coach, and we just go out and play hard for him every game.”
Boggs’ dynamic is different as his dad, Larry, is Burke’s lead assistant. The son said of his father, “Basketball definitely brings us closer together, and he’s good at knowing when to be a coach, and when to be my dad.”
The best part? Both teams are preparing for the PIAA playoffs, which commence this coming weekend. And perhaps the most salient point made Friday night was by Burke.
Mere moments after the Sailors suffered the setback, Burke brought some perspective by peeking from the present to the immediate future:
“Let’s see,” he said, eyes sparkling, “if we can’t find that same basketball team (West Middlesex) for a fourth time in one year, because it was a heckava battle. Two teams that didn’t want to lose. It was a heckava six-dollar event for most of these people who walked in the door.”
“I hope so. It’d be a great story ... western final,” Boggs said. “It’s been our goal all year to make a state run, so we’re gonna see what we can do in the state playoffs, and hopefully meet ’em for a fourth time. It’s all we can wish for at this point.”
“I’m hoping to go the whole way, that’s the only goal in mind right now, “Greggs added. “We were looking for D-10 and we didn’t get that, so we might as well make another step.”
The question remains, however: Following Friday’s phenomenal feature, how much more can the rest of us take? Or, perhaps, it’s that we can’t get enough of this.
Ed Farrell is assistant sports edtior for The Herald.
5-overtime game was one for the ages
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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.
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.
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