5 things to watch in the opening round of the WPIAL boys basketball playoffs

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Thursday, February 14, 2019 | 1:30 AM


Good bye or bad bye?

Each of the past two years, Fox Chapel drew a first-round bye and then lost in the quarterfinals to a team that hadn’t rested. This time, the Foxes didn’t receive a bye, and coach Zach Skrinjar is OK with that.

“I’m happy that we’re playing a little bit earlier,” said Skrinjar, whose team drew the No. 6 seed in Class 6A. “I think any coach would like to play sooner than later, just because that’s what we’re used to. We’ll see. If we win Tuesday, I’ll like what we did a lot more.”

Seventeen boys basketball teams received a bye in the first round of the WPIAL playoffs when brackets were announced Tuesday, so they will need to find ways to fill their free time.

Fox Chapel has eight days between its regular-season finale and Tuesday’s playoff opener against No. 11 Seneca Valley.

2. Class 5A ‘wide open’

Mars, Penn Hills, Moon and Woodland Hills create a strong foursome at the top of boys Class 5A, but the competition doesn’t stop there. The Class 5A bracket could be the deepest in the WPIAL this year, with Class 6A a close second.

That also makes it the most unpredictable.

“I wouldn’t be surprised if one of the top four seeds is not in the semifinals,” Penn Hills coach Dan DeRose said, “that it doesn’t play out one, two, three and four. One of the bottom seeds — five, six, seven or whoever — will knock somebody off.”

Top-seeded Mars (21-1) is the defending WPIAL Class 5A champion. Second-seeded Penn Hills (19-3) is the defending WPIAL Class 6A champion.

Third-seed Moon (21-1) lost only once all season, a double-overtime defeat to fifth-seeded Chartiers Valley (16-5). And fourth-seeded Woodland Hills (17-5) was a WPIAL Class 6A semifinalist last season.

After them are No. 6 Franklin Regional (16-6), who was last year’s runner-up, and No. 7 Montour (14-8), which defeated Chartiers Valley twice this season.

3. Class A leads the way

The Class A boys teams are the first to start the WPIAL playoffs with games Friday.

The first-round matchups are No. 8 Bishop Canevin (14-7) vs. No. 9 Leechburg (12-9) at Fox Chapel, No. 5 St. Joseph (17-5) vs. No. 12 West Greene (7-14) at Mt. Lebanon, No. 7 Greensburg Central Catholic (16-6) vs. No. 10 Geibel Catholic (11-11) at Charleroi and No. 6 Union (16-6) vs. No. 11 Clairton (9-10) at Hampton.

4. Ringgold rebounds from rough 2017-18

Did any WPIAL team have a bigger resurgence this year than Ringgold?

The Rams didn’t win a section game last season, finished 3-19 overall and 0-12 in Section 1-5A. But they dropped to Class 4A this season, improved to 13-8 overall, finished second in Section 1 and earned their first playoff berth since 2014.

Now, they will seek their first playoff win since 2011.

No. 9 Ringgold (13-8) plays No. 8 Freeport (11-9) on Wednesday at Gateway.

5. Early start for Lincoln Park

Lincoln Park is the only defending WPIAL champion with a first-round game as Class 3A has a 16-team bracket. The Leopards (18-4) face No. 16 Shady Side Academy (9-11) on Saturday at Fox Chapel.

Lincoln Park seeks its fourth consecutive appearance in the WPIAL finals.

Chris Harlan is a Tribune-Review Staff Writer. You can contact Chris by email at [email protected] or via Twitter .

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