Warren has every right to be confident
There’s a confidence, sometimes an arrogance surrounding top programs from the WPIAL.
They look at themselves as the cream of the crop in the western half of the state, and when the don’t win at the state level against teams from any other district this side of State College, they don’t know how to handle it.
I’ve seen this first hand, whether it was the Clairton boys, led by soon-to-be NFL player Tyler Boyd losing to Smethport and then blaming the officials, or when Warren’s boys beat West Allegheny in 2007 and postgame comments from losing coach Josh Bears insinuating that they take districts so seriously that there’s sometimes a letdown for their kids in states.
Nine years later, not much has changed in that regard as Bears, now the coach at Bethel Park, had this to say to the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review: We’re so focused on the WPIAL that sometimes the state tournament isn’t held in as high a regard. … I love the WPIAL. But there’s another stage out there.”
To be honest, that might not be the case at all for the Pine-Richland girls when they play Warren tomorrow. But make no mistake, the Lady Dragons District 10 championship meant the world. They also know, however, that there’s still more to play for.
“We’re the top-seed, but we’re the underdogs,” Warren coach Lisa LaVan said. “I told the girls it’s a great accomplishment what we did, it’s unbelievable. We know it means something, but the WPIAL is the WPIAL. They always have a chip on their shoulder. They always think their district is better than everybody else’s. I have no doubt they’re underestimating us.”
On the court, the two teams seem to be a contrast in styles in many ways. Warren has won its two playoff games by playing championship defense, while Pine-Richland likes to get up and down the court and get as many offensive possessions as possible.
It’s one area where Warren and their disciplined zone defense could take advantage.
“They like to go, go, go,” noted LaVan. “I think when you go up against a team that doesn’t want to be patient against our zone, than it definitely plays to our advantage as long as they’re not hot. They’re a 3-point shooting team they pride themselves on it. They’ve gone 3-for-25 in games and they’ve gone 12-for-25 in games.”
Warren’s length has worked to it’s advantage in the zone, and could again today.
The teams that have has success at the state level against the WPIAL have two common traits: They aren’t intimidated and they know they are just as good and play like it.
“I think in the back of our minds we knew that, even though we were pitted as the underdogs in districts, we knew we were the better basketball team,” LaVan said. “We’re the underdog now. Even though we’re the one-seed, we’re the underdog. That’s what people in District 7 think and that’s what a lot of people think around here, too.”
At the end of the day, however, it doesn’t matter what anyone else thinks.
This Warren team has accomplished so much this season and they are a confident group. And guess what? They have every right to be.
Win or lose, they will go into today’s game believing they can win. And they are more than capable of doing so.
“The way that my kids are playing right now, I’m not going to discount anything,” LaVan said. “My kids are gamers.”