New Castle News

March 12, 2014

The Sports Blog: WPIAL title games, Steelers signings, Pitt’s miracle and Bucs on TV

Greg Huston
New Castle News

NEW CASTLE — Some musings from a WPIAL basketball championship weekend at the Palumbo Center ...

•First, the Palumbo Center is a great place for the WPIAL championships, because it has a big college feel to heighten the excitement, but it's just small enough to be quaint. However, the WPIAL may need to look into a change of venue for the boys games, which were all filled to the brim. I was just lucky to get a ticket for Friday night's Class AAA championship game between Central Valley and Chartiers Valley, and I was leaving on Saturday as hundreds of fans lined up at 4 p.m. for New Castle's Class AAAA championship with Hampton, which didn't start until 7 p.m.  If people are being turned away, a larger venue, such as Pitt's Petersen Events Center, would certainly be appreciated by fans.

•Secondly, the Palumbo Center might want to look into a less sensitive microphone for the announcer seated courtside, for two reasons. One, during the lightly attended girls' games, his voice was so overwhelming that it became impossible to talk to those seated right next to you, which is annoying. Two, the microphone was picking up the screams of fans seated behind the scorer's table. If you were wondering if the referee missed a foul or travel call, the woman in the maroon shirt in Row 1 would certainly let you know. 

•The Steelers made a bevy of moves over the past week in order to save money and cap space, restructuring the contracts of stars Troy Polamalu, Heath Miller and Antonio Brown, while releasing the elder Larry Foote and disappointing Curtis Brown. They also got at least one more year from half-season sensation Jason Worilds, when he signed his transition tag contract for a cool $9.75 million. While the combination of all of these moves got the Steelers under the salary cap for the upcoming season and shored up a couple of key spots, it seems like more of the same from the team in terms of pushing today's problems to tomorrow. Converting salary into signing bonuses relieves today's cap pressure, but it also pushes money onto the following years' cap, and oftentimes that turns into dead money if the player is released. It's nice that the Steelers are working to stay relatively competitive, which has gotten them wonderfully frustrating seasons of 8-8 football, but they really are just handicapping their future competitiveness to do so. A healthy cap situation (which would probably mean a losing season or two) would be a nice start toward building a championship caliber team, and right now the Steelers seems to be stuck on life support.

•Speaking of life support, Pitt may have saved its NCAA Tournament life with an improbable win over Clemson last Saturday in overtime. If you missed it, Pitt was trailing by two with 2.4 seconds left in regulation and Clemson was in-bounding the ball under its own basket. As every semi-competent coach in the world screamed to just throw the ball in deep past half court so that even if Pitt stole it, they'd have to make a beyond half court shot to win, the Clemson player did the exact opposite and threw the ball two feet in directly under his own basket. The ball was tipped away from the Clemson receiver, bouncing off his foot and right to Pitt's Josh Newkirk, who inexplicably double pumped his shot, wasting precious ticks off the clock, before finally releasing a 10-footer that was nothing but net. The shot counted even though replays clearly showed the ball on his fingertips while the red light was on behind the hoop — so kudos to the effectiveness of the replay system. In any event, Pitt went on to win in overtime, earning the five-seed in the ACC Tournament and regaining a little bit of hope in saving their season. However, unless anyone else besides Lamar Patterson learns how to score, it won't much matter.

•The Pirates were on television Sunday for the first time this year, as Root Sports aired a spring training game between the team and the Red Sox. I'm ready for the season, but baseball sometimes lacks excitement, and this game was brutally boring. Watching a bunch of players that no one has ever heard of and probably never will was not worth a Sunday afternoon.