A-K Valley high school basketball playoff preview capsules for Feb. 26, 2024

Sunday, February 25, 2024 | 3:57 PM

WPIAL basketball playoffs


Class 3A


1-Deer Lakes (19-4) vs. 4-Neshannock (20-3)

6 p.m. Monday at Fox Chapel

Winner plays: Winner of 2-Mohawk (17-7)/11-Burrell (15-7) at 5 p.m. Friday in WPIAL championship at Petersen Events Center

Coaches: Albie Fletcher, Deer Lakes; John Corey, Neshannock

Players to watch: Billy Schaeffer, Deer Lakes; Talan Anderton, Neshannock

Layup lines: Top seed and defending WPIAL champion Deer Lakes survived a scare from Ellwood City in the quarterfinals, pulling out a 39-38 win in overtime when Collin Rodgers hit a buzzer-beater in the lane as time expired. Schaeffer, who led the Lancers with 12 points, was the team’s only returning starter this season. Deer Lakes still managed to win the Section 3 title at 11-1 and has outscored opponents 63.5-46.5 on average. … Anderton had 21 points, and David Kwiat added 16 as Neshannock beat Derry, 65-57, in the quarterfinals. Kwiat averages 16 points. Neshannock’s Lancers finished second in Section 1 with a 10-2 record. They have averaged 65.7 points and allowed 43.5 per game. Neshannock won its only WPIAL title in 1987.

2-Mohawk (17-7) vs. 11-Burrell (15-7)

8 p.m. Monday at North Allegheny

Winner plays: Winner of 1-Deer Lakes (19-4)/4-Neshannock (20-3) at 5 p.m. Friday in WPIAL championship at Petersen Events Center

Coaches: Mike O’Lare, Mohawk; Mike Fantuzzo, Burrell

Players to watch: Bobby Fadden, Mohawk; Macky Bennis, Burrell

Layup lines: Mohawk is making its first trip to the WPIAL semifinals since 1970 when the Warriors won their lone WPIAL title. Fadden scored 28 points, and Jay Wrona added 16 as Mohawk beat Yough, 54-48, in the quarterfinals. Fadden, a sophomore, has surpassed 1,000 career points. He averaged 22.1 this season. Wrona is also a football and baseball standout for the Warriors who will play baseball at Youngstown State. … Bennis, who surpassed 1,000 career points earlier this season, had 23 as the Bucs beat section rival Shady Side Academy, 48-44, in the quarterfinals. He averaged 19.1 points in the regular season. The Bucs have held teams to 45.8 ppg and finished third in Section 3 at 8-4.


Class A


4-Riverview (16-6) vs. 1-Union (17-5)

Monday at 6 p.m. at North Allegheny

Winner plays: Winner of 2-Aquinas Academy (16-6)/3-St. Joseph (20-3) in WPIAL championship game Saturday at 11 a.m. at Petersen Events Center

Coaches: Jill Catanzaro, Riverview; Rob Nogay, Union

Players to watch: Katerina Tsambis, Riverview; Kelly Cleaver, Union

Layup lines: Riverview will play in the WPIAL semifinals for the sixth time, the most recent in 2015. The Raiders hope to break a tough streak as they are 0-5 in those five previous appearances. Riverview punched its ticket to the semifinals and also clinched a spot in the PIAA playoffs for the first time since 2020 with Thursday’s 44-23 victory over No. 5 Monessen at Fox Chapel. Junior Tsambis led the way with a double-double, scoring 20 points and adding 10 rebounds. The Raiders have won five of six games with their only loss coming at the hands of No. 3 St. Joseph. Riverview limited Monessen to 48 combined points in two games. … Union, the defending WPIAL champion, has not lost in 2024. The Scotties won their 12th in a row with a dominating 59-16 victory over No. 8 West Greene in Thursday’s quarterfinals. Senior forward Kelly Cleaver led Union in the win with 16 points, four assists and five steals. Junior guard Kylie Fruestorfer and junior guard/forward Mia Preuhs each added 11 points. Union’s last loss was to Class 4A No. 1 Blackhawk, 43-35, at the Blackhawk holiday tournament Dec. 29. The Scotties’ other losses were to Blackhawk on Dec. 20 and to Greensburg Central Catholic, Upper St. Clair, and Class 3A No. 1 Avonworth. Union scores 49.7 points a game, and Riverview surrenders 30.7 a contest.

Class A


3-St. Joseph (20-3) vs. 2-Aquinas Academy (16-6)

Monday at 8 p.m. at Fox Chapel

Winner plays: Winner of 1-Union (17-5)/4-Riverview (16-6) in WPIAL championship game Saturday at 11 a.m. at Petersen Events Center

Coaches: Geoff Dutelle, St. Joseph; Chris Lebakken, Aquinas Academy

Players to watch: Gia Richter, St. Joseph; Tess Duer, Aquinas Academy

Layup lines: St. Joseph will attempt to reach the WPIAL championship game for the third year in a row. The Spartans fell to Aquinas Academy in the Class A semifinals two years ago and lost to eventual WPIAL champion Union in the semifinals last year at North Allegheny. The Spartans also hope to avenge a 66-62 overtime loss to Aquinas when the teams met in December. St. Joseph punched its ticket to this year’s championship round and also clinched a PIAA playoff spot with a dominant 66-36 victory over Bishop Canevin in its 2024 playoff opener last Thursday. The Spartans stars were out and shining in that game as senior Julie Spinelli scored a game-best 24 points; fellow senior Emma Wwierczewski added 18; and Richter, a junior, tallied 16 points. St. Joseph averages 62.2 points. … Aquinas Academy lost three of four to end the regular season but got back on track Thursday in the quarterfinals with a convincing 16-point victory over Section 1 rival Eden Christian. Duer, a sophomore guard/forward, scored 13 points in the win; and sophomore guard Ellie Junker added 11. Aquinas is in the WPIAL semifinals for the fourth year in a row. It hopes to reach the finals for the third straight season. It fell to Union in last year’s title game and to Bishop Canevin at Petersen Events Center in 2022.

Class 4A

Fifth-place consolation semifinals

8-Greensburg Salem (16-8) at 4-Highlands (16-7)

6 p.m. Monday

Winner plays: Winner of 7-Central Valley (12-11) at 6-Knoch (14-10) in fifth-place consolation final Thursday (site/time TBD)

Coaches: Rick Klimchock, Greensburg-Salem; Shawn Bennis, Highlands

Players to Watch: Kaitlyn Mankins, Greensburg Salem; Jocelyn Bielak, Highlands

Layup lines: The Section 1 rivals meet for the third time this season. Highlands swept the regular-season series, winning 54-47 at Highlands on Jan. 11 and 55-45 at Greensburg Salem on Feb. 45. The winner clinches a spot in the PIAA playoffs. … Highlands saw its run in the championship bracket come to a halt with a 45-33 loss Friday to No. 5 Laurel Highlands. Senior Bielak led the Golden Rams with 10 points. The loss snapped a five-game win streak. …. Greensburg Salem fell to No. 1 Blackhawk, 49-25, on Friday at North Allegheny. Senior forward Mankins led the Golden Lions with 11 points.

Class 4A

Fifth-place consolation semifinals

7-Central Valley (12-11) at 6-Knoch (14-10)

7 p.m. Monday

Winner plays: Winner of 8-Greensburg Salem (16-8)/4-Highlands (16-7) in fifth-place consolation final on Thursday (site/time TBD)

Coaches: Chris Raso, Central Valley; Shane McGraw, Knoch

Players to Watch: Nyah Hayes, Central Valley; Naturelle Ewing, Knoch

Layup lines: Central Valley and Knoch meet for the first time this season. The winner clinches a spot in the PIAA playoffs, and the loser sees its season come to an end. … Central Valley suffered a 65-32 loss to No. 2 North Catholic in Friday’s quarterfinals. Hayes, a 5-foot-9 junior forward, led CV with 15 points. The loss snapped CV’s seven-game win streak. … Knoch is gunning for its third straight trip to states. The Knights were not able to keep pace with No. 3 Elizabeth Forward in a 43-31 quarterfinal loss Friday. Senior forward Adah Fuller led Knoch with 12 points.

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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