A-K Valley boys basketball teams heading for thrilling conclusion on season’s final Friday

Thursday, February 8, 2024 | 11:01 AM

The final night of WPIAL boys basketball section play could provide a wide array of outcomes for Alle-Kiski Valley teams.

Fox Chapel is playing for a share of the Section 2-5A title, and three other teams — Springdale, Freeport and St. Joseph — have win-and-in scenarios.

There are also some other matchups that will affect seeding.

It all adds up to some intense and fun atmospheres across local gymnasiums Friday night.

The Foxes host Shaler, which is one game ahead of them in the standings. A win splits the season series and the section championship. If Fox Chapel prevails, it’ll be a fourth section title in five years.

Shaler won 39-27 on Jan. 16.

“It’s a great opportunity,” Foxes coach Zach Skrinjar said. “Shaler’s a good team, and obviously we didn’t play our best basketball the first time we played them. We’re looking round into playoff form, and this is a playoff opponent. It’s always good to be able to compete for a section title.”

It’s a matchup that features the two top defensive teams in Class 5A. Shaler yields 45 points per game, and Fox Chapel limits opponents to 47.3 points a game.

“Every time we get together with them, it seems to turn into a defensive struggle,” Skrinjar said. “We have to do a better job of finding some more offense. We had a lot of self-inflicted wounds the last time. A lot of careless turnovers. After watching those on film, hopefully we can clean them up and do a better job on the offensive end.”

Springdale travels to Section 3-2A leader Greensburg Central Catholic needing a victory to clinch. The Dynamos would tie Clairton for fourth place, and since the two teams split in the regular season, both would get in.

It’ll be a tough task going on the road to face the Centurions, who are ranked fifth in the state, but if the Dynamos can pull the upset, they’ll extend their season.

“It will definitely be a tough challenge, but for most of our seniors, this is the last time they could put on a Dynamo uniform,” Springdale coach Kobe Phillippi said. “That is not something they take lightly.”

St. Joseph has only three wins this year but is still alive for the playoffs and has multiple ways to get in. A win would guarantee it.

The Spartans are tied with Hillel Academy and Summit Academy at 2-7 in Section 3-A. Each one split with the other.

St. Joseph hosts Aquinas Academy and a win would clinch a spot, but if all three of the teams tied for fourth lose, they all get in, meaning all six teams from the section would qualify for the postseason.

Freeport travels to Indiana, and the winner advances to the playoffs. The teams are tied for fourth in Section 1-4A with Greensburg Salem. The Lions face section leader Hampton, but even if they win Friday, the Freeport-Indiana winner gets in as well because both split with them.

Indiana took the first meeting, 53-44, on Jan. 18, but an upset win by Freeport over Knoch two weeks ago got the Yellowjackets back into the race.

“We are looking at Friday as if it’s a playoff game, and a win will give our seniors the opportunity to play one more game with their Freeport basketball family,” coach Rich Macura said.

Meanwhile, another Section 1-4A matchup with seeding implications is Knoch at Highlands. The winner gets second place and likely a home game in the first round. Knoch beat Highlands, 65-58, in overtime in the first meeting.

In Section 3-5A, Kiski Area hosts Penn-Trafford and a win for the Cavaliers would pull them into a third-place tie with the Warriors. Since Kiski Area won the first meeting, it would have the tiebreaker and get the third-place spot.

Deer Lakes has locked up the Section 3-3A title, but the defending WPIAL 3A champs can finish off an unbeaten run in section play with a win over Shady Side Academy.

Burrell can clinch third place outright in Section 3-3A with a win over Valley.

Jerin Steele is a freelance writer

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