Area deep in Class AA basketball

Here’s a question for you: What do the Central, Tyrone, Northern Cambria, Chestnut Ridge and Northern Bedford boys basketball teams have in common with Penns Valley, Conemaugh Township and Mount Union?

The answer is that all eight have won at least two-thirds of their games or are at least four games over .500 and none of them were able to crack the Mirror Fab Five high school rankings this week.

Although it’s usually the powers from Pittsburgh that go far when it comes to the PIAA tournament, Class AA basketball in District 6 and District 5 this year has such a deep pool of good, seemingly evenly-matched teams – that goes for the girls as well as the guys – that it’s shaping up for a second half of the regular season and district tournaments that should be as exciting as anywhere in the state.

That’s been evident already.

Defending District 6 finalist Bellwood-Antis, which took over the top spot in this week’s boys rankings with its 9-0 start despite starting late due to its extended football season, has beaten Penn Cambria by one point and Tyrone by three. Tyrone went to Bald Eagle Area on Friday and only lost to the undefeated Eagles by four. Penns Valley prevailed over Central by four points. Chestnut Ridge has a five-point win over Southern Fulton – up from Class A – and a two-point win over Ligonier Valley, which only lost to Northern Cambria by three.

Northern Bedford and Cambria Heights could be the poster children for the depth and parity of Class AA boys basketball in this part of the state. Heights won at Northern Cambria by two, Richland by eight and Central Cambria by six and only lost to reigning 6-AA champ Bishop McCort by seven. Northern has an eight-point win over Conemaugh Township, a seven-point win over Mount Union, a five-point loss at Tussey Mountain and a three-point win over Southern Fulton.

Those are just a handful of examples.

District 6 and 5 girls teams are nearly as good. Even with defending champion Forest Hills moving up to triple-A, 11 teams already have at least seven wins.

Bald Eagle Area hasn’t been able to make the Mirror’s top five yet. The Lady Eagles are 9-1. Their only loss is to Forest Hills. Unfortunately for BEA, Bellwood, Westmont and Blairsville almost have identical marks against somewhat more demanding schedules, and its only loss is to Forest Hills, which, in turn, has lost to Richland, which, in turn, has lost to Tussey Mountain.

By the way, after just missing out on Mirror girls basketball coach of the year last season, Tussey’s Todd Gates is looking like he is worthy of strong consideration again this year; the Lady Titans are 7-3 despite graduating all five starters from a PIAA playoff team and lacking a player taller than 5-foot-8.

With things this tight, seedings and draws will be exceedingly important when the district tournaments tip off in a month. That will make the next four weeks crucial.

It will almost be like playoffs before the playoffs, and it should be a lot of fun to watch … as long as you aren’t on one of the teams involved.

Cmor can be reached at 946-7440 or