A high school basketball season once surrounded in uncertainty now heads into the playoffs, with health and safety remaining a high priority as taking home a trophy.
Catholic school student-athletes will continue to wear face coverings during competition, but some school districts may not require their players to do so in the playoffs. In response, parents and guardians of Catholic school players have been asked to sign permission forms indicating they understand the risks associated with exposure to the coronavirus.
“All of our parents signed the waiver,” said Brian Miller, athletic director of North Catholic High School. “We’ve had to adapt to get games played safely. Our ultimate goal is to keep our kids playing and in school.”
“Our players are used to the masks by now,” said Bill Cleary, Serra Catholic’s longtime girls coach and athletic director. “It could be different going forward but we’re not foreseeing any real difficulties.”
Serra Catholic girls completed an undefeated season on February 25 (see video below).
Several other Catholic high school basketball teams among the favorites to win championships, including a North Catholic girls team that has only two losses.
North Catholic boys are top-seeded, along with the undefeated Our Lady of the Sacred Heart team, while Bishop Canevin has a bye into the second round.
For the first time since 1984, the WPIAL playoffs are open to all schools that decide to participate, no matter their team record, to allow for additional competition during a season in which a number of games were cancelled or rescheduled due to positive cases.
“We have done our best to keep our players safe and our schools open, and will continue to do so,” said Michelle Peduto, diocesan director of Catholic schools. “We want our student-athletes to be able to participate in the playoffs and give them solid experiences while also caring for their mental, physical and social well-being.”
Gary Roney, diocesan athletic director, said the season has gone well after an initial delay when the pandemic surged regionally and nationwide.
“We have to strike a balance,” he said. “We’re pleased that we’re playing and students are in school.”
WPIAL 2021 BASKETBALL PLAYOFFS – Catholic high schools
First round- Tues. March 2-Central Catholic (12-9) at North Allegheny (13-6), 8 p.m.
First Round- Thurs. March 4- Hopewell-Mount Pleasant winner at North Catholic (15-4), 6 p.m.
First Round- Thurs. March 4- Seton LaSalle (9-8) at Brentwood (8-6), 6 p.m.
Preliminary Round- Sat. Feb. 27- Carmichaels (9-4) at Serra Catholic (2-11), noon
First Round- Wed. March 3- California-Chartiers-Houston winner at Our Lady of the Sacred Heart (17-0), 6 p.m.
First Round- Tues. March 2- Avella (7-10) at St. Joseph (8-10), 6 p.m.; Nazareth Prep (3-14) vs. Imani Christian (10-2) at Peters Township, 6 p.m.; Aquinas Academy (7-7) at Union (6-4), 6 p.m.
Bye – Bishop Canevin (13-4)
Preliminary Round- Mon. March 1- Laurel Highlands (4-13) at Oakland Catholic (9-9), 6 p.m.
First Round- Wed. March 3 — Steel Valley-Brownsville winner at North Catholic (15-2), 6 p.m.
Preliminary Round- Sat. Feb. 27 — Jeannette (0-18) at Seton LaSalle (5-5), noon
First Round- Tues. March 2 —South Side Beaver-Sto-Rox winner at Serra Catholic (13-0), 6 p.m.; Apollo-Ridge (6-4) at Our Lady of the Sacred Heart (12-5), 6 p.m.
First Round- Thurs. March 4 — St. Joseph (6-11) at Avella (9-8), 6 p.m.; Jefferson-Morgan (3-11) at Aquinas Academy (12-4), 6 p.m.; Riverview (5-6) at Bishop Canevin (5-6), 6 p.m.
Serra Catholic photos courtesy of Premier Photo Works