Mt. Lebanon was the last local boys basketball team remaining in the suspended PIAA playoffs. The Blue Devils also reached the WPIAL championship finals for the second season in a row. So the team accordingly dominates The Almanac All-star list.
While Jake Hoffman earned MVP honors, his teammate Blaine Gartley joined him on the first-team roster. Mt. Lebanon’s head coach Joe David also again gained Coach Of The Year accolades.
David refashioned a championship-caliber team around Hoffman and Gartley as well as three additional seniors – Andy Sapp, Joey King and Jake Reinke.
The longtime head coach, in his 19th season with 361 career wins, guided the Blue Devils to their fourth consecutive section title and sixth WPIAL title game appearance during his tenure. The Blue Devils, who won titles in 2006, 2010 and 2019, were looking to reach the PIAA finals for the first time since 2011 before the coronavirus pandemic put the state playoffs on hold.
Lebo was 19-7 heading into a second-round playoff game against Cheltenham when action was postponed.
Gartley, a three-year starter, was a critical cog in Lebo’s offensive attack. From the point-guard position, he dished up 5.5 assists per game. The senior also contributed 13.8 points and 2.5 steals an outing.
Gartley finished his career ranked fourth among Lebo’s all-time assist leaders with 280. He scored 790 points, picked up 163 steals and drained 114, 3-point field goals in his scholastic tenure.
A two-time Almanac all-star and an all-section performer, Gartley will continue his career at Washington & Jefferson College.
“Blaine has a keen eye and a great range. He’s fearless and one of our hardest workers. A true leader on the court,” David said.
Ryan Meis was that leader at Bethel Park. The senior captain led the Black Hawks to a 14-9 record and a WPIAL quarterfinal appearance.
Meis reached the 1,000-point plateau Dec. 13 and averaged 22.4 points per game. He tallied a game-high 24 points in BP’s 53-50 playoff win against North Allegheny. He was as one of the WPIAL’s top 15 scorers.
Meis added 6.6 rebounds, 4 assists and 1.4 steals per game for the Black Hawks.
He was the top vote getter among coaches in the all-section balloting. A two-time Almanac all-star, Meis will continue his basketball career at Seton Hill.
Tom DiRienzo joined Meis on The Almanac and all-section first teams. The senior guard averaged 18.6 points and pulled down 4.1 rebounds a game. He also contributed 1.9 assists.
DiRienzo set a new school record when he scored 51 points during BP’s 108-80 win against Trinity Dec. 10. He was 19 of 22 from the field and 9 of 11 from beyond the 3-point arc in the win and was also 4 for 5 from the charity stripe.
Gensler nets Top 5
Luke Gensler rounds out The Almanac’s Top 5. The junior captain led Upper St. Clair to a 21-5 record that featured a championships in the USC Tip-off Tournament and Bobcat Classic in Greensboro, N.C. The Panthers also reached the WPIAL semifinals and second round of the PIAA tournament only to fall twice, after leading by double digits, to Butler.
Gensler led the Panthers in scoring with 14.9 points per game. The all-section selection dished up 4.1 assists.
“Luke leads by example, a quiet leader,” said USC head coach Dan Holzer. “He really stepped up, particularly in the latter part of the season. He played a huge part in our being a balanced team. That was a big key to our success. That and we had amazing team chemistry.”
PT’s 1-2 punch
Colin Cote and Sam Petrarca meshed together so well that Peters Township overcame a slow start to qualify for a playoff spot. The Indians finished 14-11 after back-to-back losses to Butler 78-76 in double overtime in the WPIAL playoffs and Erie McDowell 69-58 in the state tournament.
While both earned all-section acclaim, Cote merited a spot on The Almanac’s all-star list for the second season. The 6-5 guard scored 17.5 points and grabbed 5 rebounds a game.
A University of Pittsburgh-Johnstown recruit, Cote finished his career with 1,103 points.
Meanwhile, Petrarca scored 15 points with 8 rebounds and 3 assists per game. The guard scored 28 points in a WPIAL playoff win against Hempfield.
Duo lead SF
Senior Connor Mislan and sophomore Brandon Jakiela represented the present and future at South Fayette.
Mislan and Jakiela led the Lions to a 14-9 campaign that feature WPIAL and PIAA Class 5A playoff berths. Both earned all-section honors.
A 5-10 guard, Mislan averaged 12 points per game. He converted 42% of his 3-point field goals. He also led the Lions in assists and steals.
A 1,000-point scorer, Mislan capped his career with invitations to play in the Dapper Dan and Roundball classics.
“Connor sacrificed points and shot attempts this year for the good of the team,” said SF head coach David Mislan. “He was our shooter when we need a three. Our ball-handler when we’d get pressured. But, this year, he became a great leader for a young team. He has made their transition painless. I could not be prouder of his unselfishness and leadership.”
Jakiela averaged a team-high 16 points per game. He also managed 5 rebounds in his first full season of varsity action.
As a result, he was named The Almanac Rookie of the Year.
CV, SLS also strong
Braeden Reynolds and Michael Bigley complete The Almanac All-Star list. Both were all-section picks.
A relentless ball handler, Reynolds guided the Colts to a 19-6 record that featured both a WPIAL and PIAA playoff appearance. The junior guard ranked among the leading scorers in the WPIAL with his 19-point average.
A four-year letterwinner and three-year starter, Bigley guided Seton LaSalle to a 16-7 record and a second-place finish in Section 2, 3A. He also excelled on two previous section championship clubs and played in the 2018 WPIAL finals.
The 5-11 point guard averaged 17.5 points per game and garnered the second-most votes in the all-section balloting. Bigley eclipsed the 1,000-point plateau when he scored 22 points Feb. 10 against Serra Catholic.
Among the players earning honorable mention recognition are:
- Anthony Chiccitt — This three-sport standout averaged 12 points and 5 rebounds for Bethel Park. The senior guard added 7 assists a game.
- Jared Goldstrom and Sean Banas — These seniors played key roles in Chartiers Valley claiming a section title and reaching the WPIAL Class 5A semifinals.
- Andy Sapp — This senior averaged 7.5 points, 3.8 assists and 4 rebounds per game for the Blue Devils.
- Joe King — This versatile forward led Lebo in rebounding with 11 boards a game. The senior also provided 9 points per game. He led the way with 18 in the Blue Devils’ last game, a 69-43 win against Cedar Crest in the PIAA playoffs.
- Jake Reinke — Yet another Lebo senior, scored 7.3 points per game.
- Kade St. Ledger — This South Fayette junior earned honorable mention status on the all-section team.
- Andrew Casey – This senior led USC with a team-high 5.5 rebounds a game. He also averaged 10.3 points per game.
- Landon Rauch – This senior averaged 8.6 points and 4.5 rebounds a game for the Panthers.
- Ethan Dahlem – This senior directed the USC offense. From the point guard position, he dished up 6.7 assists per game. He also managed to pitch in 8.2 points.
- David Pantelis – USC lost section games this season when this senior was out of the line-up because of a high ankle sprain. He averaged 10.7 points per game.