A-K Valley high school basketball playoff preview capsules for Feb. 16, 2024

Thursday, February 15, 2024 | 4:12 PM

WPIAL basketball playoffs


Class 4A

First round

16-Freeport (7-14) at 1-Lincoln Park (19-3), 7 p.m.

7 p.m. Friday

Winner plays: Winner of 8-Knoch (14-8)/9-Beaver (12-10) Wednesday in quarterfinals (time, site TBD)

Section finish: Freeport 4th, Section 1; Lincoln Park 1st, Section 2

Players to watch: Brady Sullivan, Freeport; Meleek Thomas, Lincoln Park

Layup lines: Freeport snapped a three-game skid with wins over Indiana and Eden Christian in the past week. Senior Brady Sullivan leads the Yellowjackets at 16.5 points per game. He scored 33 against Indiana and 21 vs. Eden Christian. The Yellowjackets’ last playoff win came at Uniontown in 2022. … Lincoln Park, which has won six district championships, is looking to defend its WPIAL Class 4A title. Meleek Thomas and Brandin Cummings form one of the most talented tandems in the state. Cummings, a Pitt recruit, averages 22.8 points, and Thomas scores 21.1 ppg. Thomas, a 6-foot-4 junior shooting guard is among the top-rated recruits in the Class of 2025 with more than 20 Division I offers, including Kentucky, Kansas, Duke, UConn, Michigan and Pitt, among others. The pair combined for 53 points in an 83-74 nonsection win over Imani Christian on Saturday. The Leopards have outscored opponents 79.6-58.3 on average this season and did not lose to a WPIAL opponent.

9-Beaver (12-10) at 8-Knoch (14-8), 7 p.m.

Winner plays: Winner of 16-Freeport (7-14)/1-Lincoln Park (19-3) Wednesday in quarterfinals (time, site TBD)

Section finish: Beaver 3rd, Section 2; Knoch 2nd, Section 1

Players to watch: Brady Mayo, Beaver; Jackson Bauman, Knoch

Layup lines: Beaver won its final five games in Section 2 to finish 8-4, including a 69-61 victory over North Catholic. Brady Mayo, one of the WPIAL’s top scorers, leads Beaver at 25.0 points per game, and Ty Butler averages 15.1 ppg. Against North Catholic, Mayo scored 25, Butler had 19 and Nick Krzeczowski added 16. Beaver is looking for its first WPIAL title and first playoff win in more than a decade. … A pair of losses to Hampton and a loss to Freeport kept Knoch from a section title, but the Knights had a solid finish with wins over Greensburg Salem, Indiana and Highlands in recent weeks. Knoch is paced by Jackson Bauman at 16.5 ppg, though the Knights have several other key contributors, including 6-foot-11 forward Zane Pacek, 6-7 guard/forward Derek Lang and guard Teegan Finucan.

11-Highlands (14-8) at 6-Avonworth (15-7), 7 p.m.

Winner plays: Winner of 3-Montour (19-3)/14-Southmoreland (16-6) Wednesday in quarterfinals (time, site TBD)

Section finish: Highlands 3rd, Section 1; Avonworth 2nd, Section 4

Players to watch: Bradyn Foster, Highlands; Rowan Carmichael, Avonworth

Layup lines: Highlands has won six of its last nine games but ended the regular season with a 58-53 loss to Knoch, which cost the Rams a runner-up finish in Section 1. Senior 6-8 forward Bradyn Foster, a Penn recruit, averages 21.6 points and surpassed 1,000 career points in December. Cam Reigard (17.8) is another 1,000-point scorer and Jordyn Tavaerz (14.2 ppg) also is a scoring threat. Highlands is looking for its third title after winning in 2020 and 1995. …. Avonworth, which has won three of its last four games, allows just 52.2 points per game, good for third in Class 4A behind Hampton (45.8) and Knoch (51.8). Rowan Carmichael averages 20.0 ppg to lead the Lopes, and Noah Goetz and Anthony Arlia have been regular double-digit scorers. Avonworth has one one WPIAL title (1959).

Class A

First round

St. Joseph (3-19) at Rochester (15-6), 7 p.m.

Winner plays: Winner of 6-Carlynton (7-14)/11-Jefferson-Morgan (13-9) Wednesday in quarterfinals (time, site TBD)

Section finish: St. Joseph T-4th, Section 3; Rochester 1st, Section 1

Players to watch: Charlie Ross, St. Joseph; Xavier Rigby, Rochester

Layup lines: St. Joseph earned a spot in the playoff field after finishing in a three-way tie for fourth place in Section 3 with Hillel Academy and Summit Academy. All three teams finished 2-8 in section. St. Joseph has lost six straight since a 67-48 win over Geibel. Senior point guard Charlie Ross returned as the Spartans’ lone player with starting experience and has been a key contributor all season, along with junior guard Gabe Maltese and senior forward Cole Spencer. … Rochester had an eight-game winning streak snapped Monday against OLSH. The Rams went 9-1 to win Section 1. Xavier Rigby averages 19.7 points to lead Rochester, but the Rams also get balanced scoring from Brady Gorman, Jayvin Hemer, Dom Guido and Jayden Norman.

Bill Hartlep is the TribLive sports editor. A Pittsburgh native and Point Park graduate, he joined the Trib in 2004, covering high school sports. He held various editing roles before assuming his current position in 2019. He can be reached at bhartlep@triblive.com.

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