A-K Valley high school basketball playoff preview capsules for Feb. 22, 2024

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Wednesday, February 21, 2024 | 4:27 PM


WPIAL basketball playoffs

Boys

Class 5A

Quarterfinals

1-Moon (20-3) vs. 8-Fox Chapel (13-10)

8 p.m. Thursday at North Hills

Winner plays: Winner of 4-Thomas Jefferson (20-3)/12-Kiski Area (16-7) on Monday in semifinals (time, site TBD)

Coaches: Gino Palmosina, Moon; Zach Skrinjar, Fox Chapel

Players to watch: Elijah Guillory, Moon; Jefferson Moorefield-Brown, Fox Chapel

Layup lines: Top-seeded Moon defeated No. 17 Woodland Hills, 73-39, in the first round behind 19 points from Guillory and 18 points from Aiden Reesman. Michael Santicola added 12 points. The Tigers won Section 4 with a 10-0 record and have won eight straight games. They hold teams to just 49.8 points per game, good for third in Class 5A. … Fox Chapel also relies on a stingy defense that allows just 49.3 points per game, second in Class 5A behind Shaler (46.1). The Foxes finished 7-3 and in second place in Section 2. They beat North Hills, 94-84, in double overtime in the first round. Moorefield-Brown had a career-high 27 points, including all nine in the first overtime period. He banked in a shot at the buzzer to send the game to double overtime. Asher White added 23 points, including four 3-pointers, and Will Siegel had 20. Caden Kaiser had 15 points, 10 rebounds and six assists.

4-Thomas Jefferson (20-3) vs. 12-Kiski Area (16-7)

7 p.m. Thursday at Gateway

Winner plays: Winner of 1-Moon (20-3)/8-Fox Chapel (13-10) on Monday in semifinals (time, site TBD)

Coaches: Dom DeCicco, Thomas Jefferson; Corey Smith, Kiski Area

Players to watch: Evan Berger, Thomas Jefferson; Isaiah Gonzalez, Kiski Area

Layup lines: Five Jaguars were in double figures as Thomas Jefferson rolled past Penn-Trafford, 72-53, in the first round. Berger, who averages 16.9 points, had 18 to lead the way. Noah Prosser added 16. The Jaguars went 10-0 to win Section 1 and averaged a classification-leading 72.7 points. They have won eight straight games, including a high-scoring 99-90 win over Belle Vernon in the regular-season finale. … Kiski Area got 15 points from Gonzalez and 14 from Noah Thimons, including four 3-pointers, in Monday’s 58-51 upset win over No. 5 Peters Township. It was the Cavaliers’ first playoff win since 2014. Kiski will rely on its stingy zone defense that has held opponents to 51.2 points per game this season.

Class 3A

Quarterfinals

1-Deer Lakes (18-4) vs. 9-Ellwood City (16-7)

8 p.m. Thursday at North Allegheny

Winner plays: Winner of 4-Neshannock (18-3)/12-Derry (14-6) on Monday in semifinals (time, site TBD)

Coaches: Albie Fletcher, Deer Lakes; Dan Bradley, Ellwood City

Players to watch: Billy Schaeffer, Deer Lakes; Joseph Roth, Ellwood City

Layup lines: The defending WPIAL champion Lancers opened the postseason with a convincing 62-32 victory over Sto-Rox on Monday. Four players were in double-figures, led by Collin Rodgers’ 16 points and Nathaniel Moore with 14. Schaeffer, who leads the team in scoring at 17.5 ppg, had 12, and Wayne Love scored 11. Deer Lakes has won 11 of its past 13 games. … Ellwood City finished third in Section 1 with a 9-3 mark behind a defense that holds teams below 50 points per game. The Wolverines feature one the area’s top scores in Roth, a senior closing in on 2,000 career points who averages 25.6 points and scored a school-record 51 against Mohawk in January. Ellwood City has won six straight games, including a 53-36 win over Washington in the first round where Roth had 18 points.

3-Shady Side Academy (16-7) vs. 11-Burrell (14-7)

8 p.m. Thursday at Fox Chapel

Winner plays: Winner of 2-Mohawk (16-7)/7-Yough (19-4) on Monday in semifinals (time, site TBD)

Coaches: David Vadnais, Shady Side Academy; Mike Fantuzzo, Burrell

Players to watch: Eli Teslovich, Shady Side Academy; Macky Bennis, Burrell

Layup lines: Shady Side Academy split its two-game series with Burrell in Section 3 this season, losing 46-41 on Dec. 15 and winning at home 65-50 on Jan. 20. That sparked the Bulldogs’ strong 9-1 run to finish the regular season. Teslovich, who averages 21.0 points, scored 40 on Monday to lead the Bulldogs to a 79-62 win over Beaver Falls in the first round. … Burrell upset No. 6 Seton LaSalle, 55-50, behind 21 points from Tucker Bitar and 15 by Bennis, who averages nearly 20 points. Esau King-Buchak added 12 points. The Bucs hold teams to 45.8 points per game, and SSA averages 64.1.

SWCAC semifinals

Cheswick Christian (10-3) vs. Harvest Baptist (4-4)

7 p.m. Thursday at Portersville Christian

Winner plays: Winner of Portersville Christian (5-3)/Pittsburgh Christian (7-1) at 5 p.m. Saturday in SWCAC championship at Beaver County Christian

Coaches: Todd Rosio, Cheswick Christian; Matthew Osborn, Harvest Baptist

Players to watch: Grant Rochkind, Cheswick Christian; Austin Holcomb, Harvest Baptist

Layup lines: Rochkind scored 19 points and pulled down 10 rebounds to lead Cheswick Christian to a 66-33 win over East Liverpool Christian in the quarterfinals. Brady Rochkind added 17 points, and Joseph Rosio had 15. Cheswick Christian finished first in the Greater Pittsburgh Conference at 7-1. The Chargers beat Harvest Baptist twice this season — 62-40 on Jan. 11 and 44-36 on Jan. 27. … Harvest Baptist advanced after beating Jefferson County Christian, 69-49, on Tuesday. Harvest Baptist finished third in the Greater Pittsburgh Conference with a 4-4 record. Holcomb had 13 points in the team’s most recent matchup with Cheswick Christian.

Girls

Class A

Quarterfinals

6-Bishop Canevin (7-13) at 3-St. Joseph (19-3)

8 p.m. Thursday

Winner plays: Winner of 2-Aquinas Academy (15-6)/10-Eden Christian (9-13) on Monday in semifinals (time, site TBD)

Coaches: Geoff Dutelle, St. Joseph; Rob Travis, Bishop Canevin

Players to watch: Anna Kreinbrook, St. Joseph; Amari Elliott, Bishop Canevin

Layup lines: St. Joseph is in the WPIAL playoffs for the fifth season in a row. The Spartans made the WPIAL semifinals the past two seasons, falling to Aquinas in 2021 and Union last year. St. Joseph has a senior-laden starting lineup with Kreinbrook, Julie Spinelli, Emma Swierczewski and Maggie Bernat leading the way. Junior Gia Richter also is a scoring force for the Spartans, who averaged 62 points. The Spartans had a 14-game win streak snapped at the hands of Class 3A No. 2 Shady Side Academy in the regular-season finale. St. Joseph’s only other losses were to Class A No. 2 Aquinas Academy in overtime and to Class 5A quarterfinalist Kiski Area. … Bishop Canevin advanced to the quarterfinal with a 53-17 win over No. 11 Mapletown on Monday. Elliot, a sophomore center, led the way for the Crusaders with 17 points, and sophomore guard Isabella Sysak added 13. Bishop Canevin beat Aquinas Academy late in the Section 1 schedule. The Crusaders won three of their final four in the regular season to recover from a 1-10 slide. A perennial playoff qualifier, Bishop Canevin has won six WPIAL championships, the most recent in 2022 with all six since 2013.

5-Monessen (18-5) vs. 4-Riverview (15-6)

6 p.m. Thursday at Fox Chapel

Winner plays: Winner of 8-West Greene (10-13)/1-Union (16-5) on Monday in semifinals (time, site TBD)

Coaches: Janine Vertacnik, Monessen; Jill Catanzaro, Riverview

Players to watch: Madison Johnson, Monessen; Katerina Tsambis, Riverview

Layup lines: Monessen was met with little resistance in the first round as the Greyhounds handled Leechburg, 63-15, jumping out to a 21-0 lead after the first quarter. Hailey Johnson had 15 points, Madison Johnson added 13 and Na’Jaziah Carter put in 11 for the Greyhounds, who lost to St. Joseph in last year’s quarterfinals 53-46. Monessen has not been to the semifinals since 2011. … Riverview, which owns a 50-25 win over Monessen from earlier this month, had a first-round bye. The Raiders have won four of their last five games with the loss coming against St. Joseph (54-32). Tsambis, Lily Bauer and soccer star Lola Abraham are among the key scorers for the Raiders, who lost to Avella in the first round last season 62-38.

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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