The 2021-22 high school sports year was a great one.
COVID-19 had little impact this time.
That, in itself, made it a great year.
There were, however, individual and team championships to celebrate, more than a few fantastic finishes and some individual performances that will become the stuff of legend. And, yes, there were even heartbreaking defeats and disappointments. Those victories and defeats are memories now. And regardless of the outcomes, having the opportunity to compete was better than what too many local athletes experienced far too often the last two years. This was probably the closest thing to a normal school year – at least sports-wise – that anyone at the high school level has been part of since spring of 2019.
Along the way, we lost some coaches – retired and active – to the COVID-19 virus, a reminder that we should take nothing for granted. Enjoy your sport and the people playing, coaching and officiating, because you never know what the future holds for any of us.
The 2021-22 sports year began with the Tri-CADA golf tournament in mid-August and ended with the Bethel Park baseball team doing the required dogpile on the pitcher’s mound at Penn State’s Medlar Field at Lubrano Park after winning the PIAA Class 5A championship for the second consecutive year.
Between those two events there were more stellar accomplishments and performances than one can be expected to recall, so this is where we come in.
The Observer-Reporter and The Almanac have again combined for the “Best of Sports” for the 2021-22 high school sports year.
With this year’s edition, the sports staffs at the Observer-Reporter and The Almanac have tried to answer some tough questions about the recently completed high school seasons. Who was the most valuable player in a particular sport? Who were the best players in the area? Which local teams were the best?
Choosing from the 22 schools in the O-R’s coverage area, along with The Almanac’s circulation area, which includes sports-crazed communities in the South Hills, we put together what we believe is the best of the best. As was the case in past years, we made any athlete who lives in Washington or Greene counties and attends Bishop Canevin, Seton LaSalle or Central Catholic eligible to be an MVP or honoree.
The format for “Best of Sports” is the same as past years – one MVP in each sport. For the first time, we have had a co-MVP in a sport, baseball. Honorees were to be limited to the number of players a team has in its lineup for its particular sport, though those numbers have been increased over the years. This year, we’ve doubled the honorees in basketball because of the growing number of elite players coming from this corner of the state. Baseball and softball also saw a bump in honorees. In individual sports, how an athlete finished in the postseason was used to determine the honorees.
When compiling such lists, the best place to start was Mt. Lebanon High School. The Blue Devils’ sports year was one that leaves other WPIAL schools green with envy. Mt. Lebanon, under head coach Bob Palko, won a state football championship in Class 6A. It was only the second for the WPIAL in the classification.
Mt. Lebanon’s big year also included WPIAL championships in baseball and girls basketball, and runner-up finishes in boys lacrosse and girls lacrosse. The Blue Devils’ girls basketball team also took home the PIAA runner-up trophy.
With all the success Mt. Lebanon had on the fields of competition, it’s no surprise that the Blue Devils produced both the Boys and Girls Athletes of the Year.
In this edition you will read about other champions and terrific athletes, and one wrestler who showed the heart of champion by competing with the use of only one arm.
During the past year, we said goodbye to several coaching legends who touched the lives in positive ways of so many young people that their accomplishments go far beyond wins in the standings. It is hard to imagine Washington High School boys basketball without legendary coach Ron Faust on the bench, but he retired after the 2021-22 season, his 36th year as a head coach.
We hope the 2022-23 sports season will be as successful and as fun as this one was. There are new section alignments that are sure to bring new rivalries and storylines. But before pushing ahead, let’s take one look back at 2021-22.