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Four Westmoreland teams earn top-2 seeds in WPIAL basketball playoffs | Trib HSSN

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Monday, February 12, 2024 | 5:42 PM


When Jesse Reed played Division I college basketball, he and his American University teammates made the NCAA Tournament.

Now, Reed has the Franklin Regional boys in the WPIAL’s big dance.

The third-year coach finally broke through — and in a big way — as the Panthers (19-2) earned the No. 2 seed in the Class 5A playoffs.

After winning its first outright section title since 2007-08, Franklin Regional is back with a vengeance, posting the most wins its had in a season since 2017-18.

The Panthers will host No. 15 Mars (10-12) at 7 p.m. on Monday.

“I’m proud of our guys,” said Reed, who played at Greensburg Central Catholic, Saltsburg and The Kiski School. “The 2 seed shows you had a great regular season and showed you played consistently good basketball. But 5A is so tough that seedings kind of go out the window. There isn’t a single game that is going to be an easy one.”

Three other Westmoreland County teams also are highly regarded in the postseason brackets that were released Monday afternoon.

The Norwin and Greensburg Central Catholic girls received No. 1 seeds, in 6A and 2A, respectively, and the GCC boys are rated No. 2 in 2A.

Nine county teams will play at home in the opening rounds.

Norwin (18-3) won’t play until next Thursday when it hosts No. 8 Seneca Valley (12-10) in the quarterfinals.

The Lady Knights were likely getting the No. 2 seed until Canon-McMillan upset previously undefeated Peters Township on Friday.

Norwin and North Allegheny are on opposite sides of the eight-team bracket.

The GCC girls (16-5) will host No. 16 Northgate (6-14) at 7 p.m. on Friday. A PIAA semifinalist last year, the Centurions are hoping to extend the WPIAL season further after losing to Burgettstown in the quarterfinals.

“We’re grateful to get No. 1,” GCC coach Chris Skatell said. “It’s not like we don’t play again until we get to the Pete. There is work to do.”

GCC boys coach Christian Hyland is glad his team is hosting a playoff game again after playing its first-round game at Penn-Trafford last year.

“It will be nice to be at home,” Hyland said. “I thought we’d be the 2 or 3. Understandably, Aliquippa are the (returning) champs, and they have a lot coming back.”

GCC lost to Aliquippa in the semifinals last year. It would not get a rematch with the Quips until the finals this time.

Other top-five seeds from the area are the Monessen boys (17-4), who are No. 4 in Class A and will host No. 13 Summit Academy (4-13) 7 p.m. Friday; Monessen’s girls (16-5), who host No. 12 Leechburg (8-10) 7 p.m. Monday in Class A; and the Greensburg Salem girls (15-7), who are No. 8 in 4A and welcome No. 9 Hopewell (10-11) 7 p.m. Tuesday.

“I knew the loss at Riverview hurt us from being a 4 seed,” Monessen girls coach Janine Vertacnik said. “You have to play them all anyways, so we’ll just start with Leechburg and, hopefully, move on and get a little revenge for the Riverview game. I like our chances to advance and taking a shot at getting to the Pete.”

Jeannette (14-7) earned a No. 6 seed in the 2A boys tournament and will host No. 11 Sewickley Academy (12-9) at 7 p.m. Tuesday.

The Yough boys (18-4) are No. 7 in 3A and will host No. 10 South Park at 7 p.m. on Monday.

Yough coach Jim Nesser thought his team might get a better draw, considering it has won 11 in a row and captured back-to-back section titles. Through the weekend, the Cougars had the most wins of any team in 3A.

“I thought maybe a 5 or 6,” Nesser said. “I mean, we’re 18-4. I guess we don’t have that reputation, but what’s done is done. I’m not complaining. I just thought we had a strong schedule and (the winning streak).

“It’s all about matchups. If you get through the first round, anything can happen.”

The WPIAL finals will be Feb. 29, and March 1-2 at Pitt’s Petersen Events Center.

Bill Beckner Jr. is a TribLive reporter covering local sports in Westmoreland County. He can be reached at bbeckner@triblive.com.

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