2024 WPIAL Class A boys basketball championship breakdown: Imani Christian vs. Neighborhood Academy

Thursday, February 29, 2024 | 2:08 AM

WPIAL Class A boys basketball championship

No. 1 Imani Christian vs. No. 2 Neighborhood Academy

5 p.m. Thursday at Petersen Events Center

On the air: Audio broadcast: TribLive HSSN; Video livestream: NFHS Network

WPIAL titles: Imani Christian 1 (2023), Neighborhood Academy 0

Imani Christian (13-10)

Coach: Khayree Wilson

Projected starting lineup

No., Name, Ht., Yr., Pos.

0, Markus Williams, 6-3, jr., G/F

1, R.J. Sledge, 5-11, jr., G

2, Kylan Holmes, 6-3, sr., G

4, Avery Wesley, 6-0, sr., G

5, Nate Brazil, 6-0, sr., G

How they got here: After a first-round bye, Imani Christian defeated No. 8 West Greene, 60-26, in the quarterfinals; and No. 5 Union, 101-67, in the semifinals.

Notable: Imani Christian is the defending WPIAL and PIAA champion. The Saints defeated Union, 64-41, in last year’s WPIAL finals. This is the team’s third finals appearance, including a runner-up finish to Monessen in 2017. The team’s overall record this season is misleading since it played nine games against teams from Ohio, Georgia, South Carolina, Washington D.C., and Florida. The out-of-state schedule included a matchup with national power Montverde Academy of Florida. The team’s top scorers are Nate Brazil (18 ppg), Avery Wesley (11 ppg) and R.J. Sledge (8 ppg). Sledge lists college offers from Bethune-Cookman, Canisius, North Carolina A&T and Fordham. Khayree Wilson was an assistant on the coaching staff a year ago under Omar Foster. Wilson was promoted to head coach in August. Since last season the team also saw Alier Maluk, a 6-foot-11 center and Florida State recruit, transfer to a school in Long Island, N.Y. Imani Christian, which opened in 1993, is located in the Pittsburgh neighborhood of East Hills.

Neighborhood Academy (18-5)

Coach: Jordan Marks

Projected starting lineup

No., Name, Ht., Yr., Pos.

0, Courtney Wallace, 6-3, jr., G

1, Shamar Simpson, 6-1, jr., G

2, Junior Onwubiko, 6-3, jr., F

11, Kedron Gilmore, 5-11, fr., G

21, Derick Hardeman, 6-5, so., C

How they got here: After a first-round bye, Neighborhood Academy defeated No. 7 Aquinas Academy, 79-56, in the quarterfinals; and No. 3 Rochester, 62-41, in the semifinals.

Notable: This is the first finals appearance for Neighborhood Academy, which joined WPIAL basketball in 2021. The team shares a section with Imani Christian and lost both matchups this winter (80-51 and 72-56). Courtney Wallace is a Yale commit who averages 21 points, eight assists and eight rebounds per game. Kedron Gilmore is a 15-point scorer and Shamar Simpson averages 13. Before coaching Neighborhood Academy, Jordan Marks had roles as director of basketball operations at Robert Morris for men’s basketball coach Mike Rice and video coordinator at Pitt under coach Jamie Dixon. Neighborhood Academy, located in Pittsburgh’s Stanton Heights, was founded in 2001.

Chris Harlan is a TribLive reporter covering sports. He joined the Trib in 2009 after seven years as a reporter at the Beaver County Times. He can be reached at charlan@triblive.com.

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