2014 WPIAL Girls Basketball Playoff Preview

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Thursday, February 13, 2014 | 11:02 PM


There are plenty of teams looking for gold, but after two weeks of on-court battles, only four will come away with district gold. Here is a preview of the 2014 WPIAL Girls Basketball Playoffs which tip off this weekend and conclude at Duquesne University’s A.J. Palumbo Center on Friday, February 28th and Saturday, March 1st.

CLASS AAAA:

Top four seeds: North Allegheny is first, Mt. Lebanon second, Fox Chapel third and Bethel Park fourth.

Leading scorers: Monica Burns, Hempfield, 20.1; Maria Palarino, Penn-Trafford, 18.1; Alayna Gribble, Norwin, 17.6; Krista Pietropola, Plum, 17.3; Erin Mathias, Fox Chapel, 16.4; Christine Ehland, Mt. Lebanon, 15.5; Rachel Mazzie, Upper St. Clair, 15.2.

What to look for: This is not an overly strong year for Class AAAA teams. North Allegheny might have the best overall team, but the Tigers have never won a WPIAL title. But could this be another year for a new champion? Bethel Park won its first championship a year ago. … Don’t ever count out Mt. Lebanon, which has won three of the past five championships. … Fox Chapel has something unlike any other team – a dominant post player. Erin Mathias is a 6-3 center who already has signed with Duke. But the Foxes’ fortunes could hinge on what the supporting cast does. The Foxes allow only 36 points a game. … Watch for Bethel Park or Upper St. Clair to make some noise. … Will a team from Section 1 finally break through to the finals? History tells us probably not. Of all the teams in Section 1, not one has ever made it to the title game.

Qualifiers for PIAA tournament: Five

History lesson: Thirty years ago, the first Class AAAA championship was played and Seton-LaSalle defeated Beaver Falls, 71-59. Seton-LaSalle had two sisters starring at the guard positions – Suzie and Kathy McConnell.

CLASS AAA:

Top four seeds: Blackhawk first, Elizabeth Forward second, South Park third and Hopewell fourth.

Leading scorers: Seairra Barrett, Central Valley, 24.3; Kaitlyn Slagus, Belle Vernon, 22.9; Chassidy Oogrosso, Blackhawk, 21.7; Kiana Law, Central Valley, 20.0; Karly Mellinger, Greensburg Salem 18.7; Amirah Moore, Moon, 18.5; Alexa Szelong, Mount Pleasant, 18.3; Allison McGrath, South Park, 17.1; Halie Torris, South Park, 16.7; Alexis Yanief, Thomas Jefferson, 16.1; Taylor Thomas, West Mifflin, 15.5; Zoe Soilis, Freeport, 15.0.

What to look for: Blackhawk can be a dominant team and has outscored opponents, 68-43. Chassidy Omogrosso is a tremendous junior point guard. But the Cougars did lose twice – once to Central Valley, 71-61, and once to Seton-LaSalle, 64-46. So, Blackhawk is not unbeatable. … What are the chances of a rematch of last year’s title game? Elizabeth Forward lost to South Park in 2013 and both are strong again. … South Park has a strong one-two punch in Allison McGrath and Halie Torris and has been in the title game two consecutive years. … The most potent one-two punch belongs to Central Valley’s Kiana Law and Seairra Barrett. They are one the few duos from the WPIAL in the past 30 years to average more than 20 points. But their scoring slowed some in recent weeks. … Hopewell no longer has star Shatori Walker-Kimbrough but the Vikings are still a team worth watching.

Qualifiers for PIAA tournament: Six

History lesson: Twenty-five years ago, East Allegheny’s Krissy Carr scored 41 points against Burrell. It is still the third-highest point total in a Class AAA playoff game.

CLASS AA:

Top four seeds: Seton-LaSalle, Burrell, Greensburg Central Catholic, Neshannock.

Leading scorers: Sammie Weiss, McGuffey, 23.4; Lexi Posset, Beaver, 22.1; Monique Reman, Jeannette, 20.9; Conor Richardson, Carlynton, 20.9; Madison McHale, Neshannock, 20.4; Carolyn Appleby, Greensburg Central Catholic, 20.3; Rachel Bellhy, Fort Cherry, 19.5; Mia Woytovich, Charleroi, 19.0; Sadie Buchser, Riverview, 15.0.

What to look for: Although Seton-LaSalle has four losses, only one was to a WPIAL team. Seton-LaSalle has three Pitt recruits – seniors Naje Gibson and Yacine Diop, and junior Cassidy Walsh. The Rebels are talented, and are motivated after being upset in last year’s WPIAL final by Bishop Canevin. Seton-LaSalle has played in the title game five consecutive years. … Burrell is the only undefeated girls team in the playoffs in any classification. The Bucs have never played in a girls title game but are experienced after a semifinal playoff run a year ago. … There are a number of teams in the Class AA field who allow fewer than 40 points a game. Beaver is the best, giving up only 28 ppg.

Qualifiers for PIAA tournament: Six

History lesson:  Twenty-five years ago, with stars Mona Gaffney and Carrie Bordas leading the way, Aliquippa won its third of four-consecutive WPIAL titles with a 69-63 victory against Mount Alvernia.

CLASS A:

Top four seeds: Vincentian first, Serra second, Cardinal Wuerl third, St. Joseph fourth.

Leading scorers: Mallory Heinle, St. Joseph, 23.7; Brenna Wise, Vincentian, 18.6; Sam Breen, Cardinal Wuerl North Catholic, 16.3; Madison Raber, West Greene, 15.2.

What to look for: Vincentian is trying for its fourth title in five years. Vincentian beat Serra last year, and Cardinal Wuerl North Catholic in 2012 and 2010. Vincentian is strong again and features junior forward-center Brenna Wise, who already has some Division I college scholarship offers. … Serra is strong defensively, allowing only 31 points a game. … Cardinal Wuerl North Catholic finished in second place in Section 2, but defeated Vincentian. … California might not be a threat to win the title, but the Trojans are one of the stories of the Class A field, winning a section title for the first time since the early 1980s.

Qualifiers for PIAA tournament: Five

History lesson: Thirty-five years ago, Avonworth had 43 field goals in a game against Carmichaels. That still stands today as the record for most baskets in a Class A game and is tied for the second-most in any classification.

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