Aron Minkoff (@AronMinkoff)
Taylor Allderdice High School, a name made famous by its alumni such as Wiz Khalifa and Mac Miller, is proving to be more than just a factory for modern musical artists, thanks to its quality basketball program.
The same program that received national attention for having four sets of twins in the lineup is the same Allderdice team that has proved itself to be a powerhouse on the western side of the state.
Regardless of what happens in the Tuesday night semifinal matchup between Allderdice and Martin Luther King, the run that Allderdice has made is a bit historic.
The last time a Pittsburgh city league team made it to the state semifinals was in 2007, when the Schenley Spartans won the AAAA championship. That Schenley team was led by two future NBA players in DeJuan Blair and D.J. Kennedy.
This Allderdice team, though, is not led by a group of stars; rather, by a coach with an idea for a team to play together as a whole, unselfish unit.
“We don’t have a 20 point-per-game average scorer,” Allderdice coach Buddy Valinsky said. “We don’t have an 18 a game guy either, we have 12-13 points per game scorers and we have about six of them who can put up double digits.”
The scary thing about this Allderdice team is their youth. With the exception of senior big man Alex Bell, the Dragons use a starting five comprised of four juniors.
Two of those juniors are twins, James and Tim Jackson, who are known in the Pittsburgh area for their football exploits but are blossoming into terrific basketball players. The other two juniors, big man Jordan Rawls and point guard Ramon Creighton, boast a more physical style of play one that could spell problems for King late in the game.
“Our slogan this year is he [Creighton] is gonna carry us on our shoulders in the fourth quarter,” Valinsky said. “He is a strong kid, about 6-foot-1, 195 pounds, he can really handle the pressure.”
With the Dragons down to Harrisburg by as many as eight late in the third quarter Creighton did just that, scoring 17 of his team-high 21 points in the second half.
This Allderdice team’s path to the state semifinals is nearly identical to Schenley’s in 2007. Both teams opened up the state tournament at the bottom of the bracket with a match against Fox Chapel.
For Schenley, that game was played at Allderdice, and for the Dragons that game was played at Obama High School (formerly known as Schenley). Each team played Mt. Lebanon in the second round and each team beat Harrisburg at Altoona High School.
The only difference is Alldredice had to play Harrisburg in the quarters whereas the Spartans beat them in the semifinals. Schenley was fortunate enough to advance through the state bracket without playing a team from the Philadelphia area, until they beat Nasir Robinson and Chester in the championship game.
Valinsky knows though that this matchup with King presents quite the challenge. The Cougars did not win the public league championship this year but are ranked as high as second in AAAA by some outlets.
“We are going to have to play one of our best games, no question about it,” Valinsky said. “I thought with harrisburg we struggled a little bit, it was the first time that we had to take a two hour bus ride for a game.
“If we don’t come out with anything Tuesday, we could be down 20, early. We need to come out and give it our all and not let ourselves get behind early.”
Valinsky is not selling the team’s success short either, even if their historic run comes to a conclusion at the hands of King. He added that when “you make the final four in the state thats successful right there.”
The Allderdice student section as Valinsky noted has been incredible every step of the way for the Dragons with fan busses organized to take students the distance whether it be a game 20 minutes away or Saturday’s game in Altoona, Allderdice fans are showing up in numbers.
“The attention that we have been getting from alumni and students is incredible,” Valinsky said. “Our student section has been unbelievable. We have been bringing the community together and rallying together, its really been special.”
For a school that has not made a run past the second round of states since 1988, the support of the community and now the city is something that could help propel Allderdice into the championship game.
The semifinal game will take place on Tuesday at Chambersburg high school at 7:00 p.m. as Martin Luther King looks to get themselves a potential rematch of the City title game against Roman Catholic in the state championship.