Monday, December 3, 2012 | 7:39 PM

When it comes to finding the top girls basketball teams in WPIAL Class AAAA this season, the South Hills are alive.

Section 4 of Class AAAA is loaded with strong teams this season. The section always is good, but got even better this season with the addition of Chartiers Valley. Bethel Park, Mt. Lebanon and Upper St. Clair are three other teams in the section that are among the best in Class AAAA.

The season gets underway Friday night and here is a preview:



Team to beat

Penn-Trafford. The Warriors finished 18-5 last season and have a strong backcourt tandem with senior guards Taylor Cortazzo and Nicole Hyland.

Two more to watch

Kiski Area and Norwin.

Key players

Maddie Antone, Kiski Area, F

Monica Burns, Hempfield, G

Taylor Cortazzo, Penn-Trafford, G

Marisa Erminio, Laurel Highlands, G

Madi Guffey, Norwin, F

Nicole Hyland, Penn-Trafford, G

Rachel Keto, Norwin, F


Team to beat

Woodland Hills. The Wolverines tied for second place last year but could have enough to win the section this year. Senior forward Delrika Jones-Carey and senior guard Desiree Garland are the go-to players.

Two more to watch

Plum and Gateway, but don’t overlook Franklin Regional

Key players

Baylee Buleca, Franklin Regional, F

Desiree Garland, Woodland Hills, G

Delrika Jones-Carey, Woodland Hills, F

Maggie Kimmich, Franklin Regional, F

Erin Mathias, Fox Chapel, C

Krista Pietropola, Plum, G

Chelsea Richardson, Gateway, G


Oakland Catholic

Though not as strong as last year’s team that lost in the WPIAL and PIAA championships, the Eagles still are the team to beat in this section. Defense will be the mainstay of the team and senior Mara Fitzgerald returns at guard.

Two more to watch

North Allegheny and Butler

Key players

Taylor Brennan, North Allegheny, G

Mara Fitzgerald, Oakland Catholic, G

Carly Harris, Shaler, G

MacKenzie O’Donnell, Butler, F

Abby Trzeciak, Seneca Valley, F


Team to beat

Bethel Park. The Black Hawks will be led by 6-1 junior guard-Megan Marecic, a starter since her freshman year who was all-section the past two seasons. Senior guard Mariah Penascino also could have a big season.

Two more to watch

Chartiers Valley and Mt. Lebanon, although Upper St. Clair might be just as good as anyone in the section – or WPIAL.

Key players

Christine Ehland, Mt. Lebanon, F

Jordan Holmes, Mt. Lebanon, F

Olivia Lorusso, Canon-McMillan, F

Megan Marecic, Bethel Park, F

Mariah Penascino, Bethel Park, G

Jordan Serio, Upper St. Clair, G

Madison Serio, Upper St. Clair, G

Mariah Wells, Chartiers Valley, G



Team to beat

Mars. It should be a good year for both the boys and girls teams at Mars. Ali Goetz was an all-section pick last year as a freshman after averaging 13 points a game.

Two more to watch

Hampton and Knoch.

Key players

Jessica Aulicino, Freeport, F

Ali Goetz, Mars, F

Emily Knepshield, Kittanning, G

Sam Logan, Knoch, G

Sara Pilarski, Hampton, F

Celina Sanks, Knoch, G-F


Team to beat

Hopewell. The Vikings are the defending WPIAL champion and feature the premiere player in the WPIAL in senior Shatori Walker-Kimbrough. She is ranked among the top 100 players in the country and has signed with the University of Maryland. She averaged 25 points and 10 rebounds a year ago. Walker-Kimbrough’s supporting cast is a little more experienced and improved this year.

Two more to watch

Blackhawk and Central Valley. Blackhawk beat Hopewell in the PIAA playoffs a year ago.

Key players

Seairra Barrett, Central Valey, F

Asia Borders, Ellwood City, G

Hallie Denman, Blackhawk, G

Chassidy Omogrosso, Blackhawk, G

Dana Perrotta, New Castle, G

Shatori Walker-Kimbrough, Hopewell, G-F

Madi Rowan, Central Valley, G


Team to beat

Mount Pleasant. The sectin is fairly balanced, but Mount Pleasant is as good as anyone. The Vikings won’t run away with the section, but will be strong. Senior forward Casey Zelenak and sophomore guard Alexa Szelong both averaged 10 points last season.

Two more to watch

Greensburg Salem and Uniontown.

Key players

Lydia Dennis, Uniontown, G

Claire Oberdorf, Greensburg Salem, G

Jayne Oberdorf, Greensburg Salem, G

Audrey Stapleton, Indiana, G

Alexa Szelong, Mount Pleasant, G

Casey Zelenak, Mount Pleasant, F


Team to beat

Elizabeth Forward. The Warriors will certainly have their challengers, but three starters return from a team that finished second in the section to South Park last year. South Park is now in Section 5. Top returners for Elizabeth Forward are senior forward Dana Buck, junior forward Natalie Fekula and Junior forward Kylie Owoc.

Two more to watch

Belle Vernon and West Mifflin

Key players

Dana Buck, Elizabeth Forward, G

Josie Schmidt, Ringgold, F

Jessica Slagus, Belle Vernon, F


Team to beat

South Park. The Eagles have enough to make a deep postseason run again. They lost in the WPIAL championship game last season to Hopewell. Guard Shelby Lindsay is one of the best players in Class AAA and averaged 15 points last season. Junior forward Halie Torris averaged 14.

Two more to watch

Montour and South Fayette. Watch for Keystone Oaks, which moves up from Class AA.

Key players

Maryssa Agurs, Keystone Oaks, G

Sophia Esposito, Montour, G

Morgan Kurtz, Trinity, G

Shelby Lindsay, South Park, G

Emily Mastroianni, Montour, G

Cait McLockie, South Fayette, F

Sierra Perlik, Quaker Valley, G

Hallie Torris, South Park, F




Team to beat

Deer Lakes. The Lancers are shooting for their third consecutive section title. Defense was a mainstay for the Lancers last season as they allowed only 34 points a game. But they should be strong offensively also, with the return of all section guard Becca Babincak.

Two more to watch

Burrell and Ford City

Key players

Becca Babincak, Deer Lakes, G

Sydney Bardonaro, Burrell, G

Alyson Cujas, Ford City, F

Ashley Emminger, Apollo-Ridge, F

Jill Glover, West Shamokin, F

Danielle Kearns, Deer Lakes, G

Nichole Kearns, Deer Lakes, G


Team to beat

Riverside. The Panthers feature senior Alex Deep, one of the top guards in Class AA who averaged 15 points a game last season. Forward Nicole Mansfield also returns.

Two more to watch

Mohawk and Beaver Falls, although New Brighton might be just as good.

Key players

Shelby Brown, Mohawk, G

Alex Deep, Riverside, G

Alexandra Fischer, Neshannock, F

Taylor Grybowski, Neshannock, G

Kaitylyn Hopkins, New Brighton, C

Nicole Mansfield, Riverside, F

Ellen Shaffer, Laurel, F

Ayana Vaughan, Beaver Falls, G


Team to beat

Jeannette. The Jayhawks are going for the four-peat. They have won or tied for the section title three years in a row. One of the main reasons Jeannette is favored to win again is Ciara Gregory. She is a senior guard who has been a starter since her freshman year and led the WPIAL in scoring last year at 26.7 points. She is a Division I recruit (Charlotte).

Two more to watch

Greensburg Central Catholic and Riverview

Key players

Carolyn Appleby, Greensburg Central Catholic, G

Heather Bosco, Greensburg Central Catholic, G

Ciara Gregory, Jeannette, G

Katlyn Keenan, East Allegheny, G

Jaylee Patterson, South Allegheny, G

Monique Redman, Jeannette, G


Team to beat

Seton-LaSalle. This is an easy pick. A year ago, Seton-LaSalle had only one senior on a team that became only the third from the WPIAL to go through an entire season undefeated. The Rebels are the favorite to win a second consecutive PIAA title. The team is loaded with future Division I college players. Senior guard Angela Heintz already has committed to Duquesne University, as has sophomore point guard Cassidy Walsh. Junior forward Naje Gibson has Division I college offers. Natalie Piagessi, a senior forward who averaged 14 points last sason, also returns. Seton-LaSalle also has a new coach in John Ashalou.

Two more to watch

Bishop Canevin (led by Duquesne recruit Erin Waskowiak) and Fort Cherry.

Key players

Rachel Bellhy, Fort Cherry, F

C.C. Dixon, Steel Valley, F

Carly Forse, Bishop Canevin, F

Naje Gibson, Seton-LaSalle, F

Angela Heintz, Seton-LaSalle, G

Natalie Piagessi, Seton-LaSalle, F

London Wade, Wilkinsburg, G

Cassidy Walsh, Bishop Canevin, G

Erin Waskowiak, Bishop Canevin, G


Team to beat

Washington. The Little Prexies finished in a tie for second place last season, but could be on top of the heap come February. Forwards Shyahian Rutter and Mya Williams are the top returners.

Two more to watch

McGuffey (moved down from Class AAA) and Bentworth.

Key players

Anna Bartman, Beth-Center, G

Erin Ritzer, Bentworth, G

Shyahian Rutter, Washington, F

Sammie Walsh, McGuffey, G

Mya Williams, Washington, F

Mia Woytovich, Charleroi, G


Team to beat

Avonworth. The Antelopes and OLSH could be 1 and 1A in this section. For Avonworth, Lauren Mayernik (23 ppg) has graduated, but her sister, Mackenzie, is expected to be a leader now. Lauren Mayernik was the only senior on the roster last season. Defense will be a big thing for Avonworth, as the Antelopes gave up only 31 points a game last season.

Two more to watch

OLSH and Beaver (moved down from Class AAA)

Key players

Dinazhia Barksdale, Sto-Rox, G

Maddie Lewis, Freedom, F

Mackenzie Mayernik, Avonworth, F

Jacqueline Matthews, OLSH, G

Aimee Miller, Sto-Rox, F

Tia Scuilli, OLSH, G




Team to beat

Quigley. The team will have to replace two all-section players in Drew Meeker and Jen Deltondo, but the cupboard is not bare. Junior guard Kristen Jackson averaged 15 points last season and figures to be one of the best guards in Class A.

Two more to watch

Cornell and Union

Key players

Mason DePetro, Cornell, G

Morgan Dillon, Quigley, F

Marissa Heaney, Union

Miranda Heaney, Union

Kristen Jackson, Quigley, G

Demi McFrazier, Rochester, F

Marcen Shepherd, Cornell, G


Team to beat

Vincentian. The Royals and North Catholic should battle for the section title once again. Vincentian defeated North Catholic in the WPIAL championship, but North Catholic beat Vincentian in the PIAA semifinals. Vincentian’s Brenna Wise is only a sophomore, but is expected to be a dominant force for Vincentian after averaging 18 points and 10 rebounds as a freshman.

Two more to watch

North Catholic and St. Joseph.

Key players

Abbie Bazzoli, Eden Christian

Mallory Heinle, St. Joseph, F

Kayla Key, Vincentian, G

Brenna Wise, Vincentian, F

Lauren Wolosik, North Catholic, G


Team to beat

Carmichaels. The Mikes are looking for big things with the return of three starters. Senior guard Morgan Berardi is the leader, averaging 16 points last season. Also back are senior guard Anna Cree and junior forward Amanda Brown.

Two more to watch

California and West Greene.

Key players

Morgan Berardi, Carmichaels, G

Tristen Conoway, California, G

Anna Cree, Carmichaels, G

Olivia English, Avella, F

Courtney McMasters, California, G

Cheynne Miller, West Greene, G


Team to beat

Monessen. The Greyhounds are good enough to contend for a WPIAL title. They will have one of the best one-two punches in Class A in senior guard Mariah Ward and senior guard-forward Chelsea Szakal. Ward averaged 21 points a game last season and Szakal 13.

Two more to watch

Serra and Clairton

Key players

Peyton McIntyre, Geibel, G

Taleese Ogletree, Clairton, G-F

Megan Sieg, Serra, G

Chelsea Szakal, Monessen, G-F

Mariah Ward, Monessen, G

More Basketball

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Penn Hills notebook: Drew Schifino plans basketball camp
Freeport grad takes over boys basketball program
Former OLSH basketball star Jake DiMichele commits to Duquesne
Penn Hills notebook: Daemar Kelly earns all-state honors