5 things to watch in the PIAA girls basketball playoffs

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Thursday, March 7, 2019 | 10:21 PM


There are 192 girls basketball teams across Pennsylvania with visions of state championships dancing in their heads as the 2019 PIAA playoffs tip off with first round play Friday and Saturday.

Thirty-five of those teams are from the WPIAL, and there is one representative from District 8, the City League.

Six girls’ teams will be crowned champions at the three-day title event at the Giant Center in Hershey March 21-23.

Of the WPIAL contingent of teams, six are reining district champions crowned last weekend at the Petersen Events Center and are now on the hunt for double gold.

The other 29 WPIAL teams have been given a second chance at a basketball title in 2019.

A year ago, Mars didn’t even play in the district title game, losing in the WPIAL semifinals. But the Fightin’ Planets made the most of their second chance, winning five state playoff games to capture the PIAA Class 5A championship.

Everyone has hope, but as North Catholic coach Molly Rottmann said, “All you have today is one game. You either come out and play (this weekend) or you don’t. That will determine the length of your season.”

History lesson

The move to six classifications has been a tough one for WPIAL girls basketball teams.

Mars’ Class 5A state crown a year ago followed up no PIAA championships for District 7 teams in 2017, the first year of six classes.

However, overall, this decade has been a bonanza for WPIAL girls basketball teams, with 12 state championships since the start of the decade in 2010.

Mt. Lebanon, Blackhawk, Seton LaSalle and Vincentian Academy won two state titles this decade while South Park, Bishop Canevin, North Catholic and Mars won one each.

This is the 46th season the PIAA has hosted a girls’ basketball championship with Allentown Central Catholic the lone winner back in 1973.

The first WPIAL girls team to win state gold happened 40 years ago when Franklin Regional won the Class AAA championship in 1979.

Defending champs

Five of the six 2018 PIAA girls basketball champions are back to defend their state titles.

There will be a new champion in Class 5A as Mars did not qualify for the PIAA postseason after losing in the WPIAL quarterfinals.

In Class 6A, Upper Dublin finished as the No. 5 seed out of District 1 and will open up the PIAA playoffs Friday against Central Dauphin.

Lancaster Catholic won the District 3 championship and opens its Class 4A title defense Saturday against Quaker Valley.

District 12 champion and state power Neumann-Goretti has won four straight PIAA titles and will face Susquenita in the first round of the Class 3A tournament Friday.

Bellwood-Antis is coming off another District 6 championship in Class 2A and plays Friday against Windber.

In Class A, Jenkintown is fresh off a District 1 championship and faces Harrisburg Christian Saturday in the first round.

Friendly faces

While the PIAA changed up the brackets to not include as many WPIAL vs. WPIAL matchups in the opening round, there are a pair of inter-district contests slated on the girls’ first-round schedule.

In Class 5A, WPIAL runner-up Thomas Jefferson will take on Trinity. While the two did not play in the district playoffs, they are Section 1-5A rivals and met twice during the regular season, with the Jaguars winning 65-57 and 72-41.

In Class 4A, WPIAL champion North Catholic opens up the state playoffs against McKeesport. The Trojanettes did not play the Tigers this season.

No. 1 but not done

Of the six WPIAL champions crowned last weekend, four of them were top seeds in their classification.

The only two not to win it all after being seeded No. 1 was Bishop Canevin in 2A and West Greene in A.

The Crusaders were stunned by eventual champion Our Lady of the Sacred Heart in the WPIAL semifinals.

Bishop Canevin was No. 1 in the Trib HSSN Class 2A district rankings all year and on top of the state rankings for most of the season. Keep an eye on the Crusaders as they open up Friday against District 10 runner-up Maplewood.

WPIAL runner-up West Greene takes on District 10 champion Kennedy Catholic on Saturday afternoon. Last year as the WPIAL runner-up, the Pioneers lost to District 10 runner-up Farrell, 67-63, in the PIAA first round.

Where are the champs?

It’s all about what class you are in.

In the 2019 City League girls basketball championship game, Allderdice beat Obama Academy, 67-58.

Allderdice, a Class 6A school, needed to win a subregional to qualify for the PIAA playoffs.

After beating Erie, 52-40, in the regional semifinals, the Dragons lost to State College, 58-46, in the regional finals. State College advanced, Allderdice was done.

However in Class 5A, the regional finalists both advance. So even though Obama Academy lost to Hollidaysburg, 40-26, in the Class 5A regional finals, both teams have a spot in the state playoffs.

Obama Academy will face Slippery Rock on Saturday afternoon at Sharon.

Don Rebel hosts the Rebel Yell podcasts for HSSN.

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