High School Sports

High school boys’ basketball: Penns Valley, Bald Eagle Area face formidable WPIAL opponents to open PIAA Class AA playoffs

Penns Valley coach Terry Glunt didn’t dwell on it, but he did recall a memorable upset when addressing his team heading into its PIAA Class AA opener.

The Rams face Seton-LaSalle (25-1), a team ranked second in the state by PennLive.com. And Glunt knows his team is in for a challenge as it aims to come away with a win.

That’s why Glunt mentioned Villanova’s historic upset of Georgetown and Patrick Ewing in the 1985 national championship game. Even though everyone expected the Hoyas to roll to the win, the Wildcats shot the lights out and won it all.

“This week, it’s all about believing,” Glunt said. “You have to believe that you can win no matter who your opponent is. There’s always a first time that some young upstart team slays the giants. We have to believe that we can do it.”

Glunt hopes Penns Valley (19-6) takes the message to heart before it plays the Rebels on Saturday at 5:30 p.m. at Penn Hills High School in Pittsburgh. Seton-LaSalle beat Greensburg Central Catholic 52-51 to win the WPIAL championship last week. The Rams lost to Richland and Bald Eagle Area in the District 6 tournament.

The Eagles (20-5) face a similar challenge against Greensburg Central Catholic (22-3) on Saturday at 5:30 p.m. at Hempfield Area High School in Greensburg. The Centurions were ranked third in the state by PennLive.com.

Like Glunt, Bald Eagle Area coach Bill Butterworth is preaching about believing this weekend.

“We have to believe that we can win,” Butterworth said. “As long as I can go into practice (Friday) night and convince our kids that we can beat them and keep them from looking at the papers and they’re No. 3 in the state. Realistically, do we have a chance? I think so.

“My problem is can we get our kids convinced that we can beat them because just watching them in all the tapes that I saw, I really think we have a chance to win this. And I think we can surprise some teams.”

Glunt said Seton-LaSalle has a talented all-around team based on tapes he’s watched and other coaches he’s talked to in preparation for the game.

He sees a team that can knock down 3s, while also throwing it to strong big men in the paint. The Rebels rotation includes 6-foot-6 center Levi Masua and speedy point guard Dale Clancy.

The balanced attack will be tough for the Rams to defend, but Glunt said his team will try to establish its style of play and stay in the game.

“This is our third state playoff game in the last five years so we’re not new to it,” Glunt said. “We realize the teams that we have to play from Pittsburgh are pretty special. Hopefully by the time Saturday rolls around, we’re ready to go out and give it a good effort.”

That all starts with believing for the Rams.

“They’re No. 2, but they’re also like us, they’re in the top 32,” Glunt said. “They’re in that same boat we’re in right now. I guess we just have to see if we can knock them out of it.”

Butterworth is confident in his team’s chances.

He saw Greensburg Central Catholic play in the WPIAL championship, and he thinks his team can matchup.

He said the Centurions depend on its guards and likes to get out in transition. Greensburg Central Catholic is led by guards Brian Graytok and Billy Hipp and 6-foot-8 center Collin Bisignani.

With Bryan and Bryce Greene and Brandon Gettig, the Eagles have a strong backcourt to counter that attack.

“It’s definitely a challenge,” Butterworth said. “We went and watched them play in the WPIAL final against LaSalle, and they’re good.”

But Butterworth thinks his team has enough to be better on Saturday.

“I like our chances,” Butterworth said. “I’m excited. I think we got a chance to beat them.”