Breaking down the 2018 WPIAL girls basketball playoffs
By: Bill Hartlep
Tuesday, February 13, 2018 | 10:33 PM
Here's a breakdown of the 2018 WPIAL girls basketball playoffs:
Favorite: North Allegheny established itself as the team to beat from the start and built a 21-0 record and a resume of impressive nonsection victories. The Tigers knocked off state-ranked Altoona twice, in addition to recent wins over Spring-Ford and Bethel Park. Not to mention Thursday's 6754 triumph over No. 2-seeded Peters Township. The defending WPIAL champion Tigers are led by college-bound recruits Rachel Martindale (15.6 ppg.), Piper Morningstar (Radford) and Madelyn Fischer (Seton Hill).
Challengers: Peters Township won the Section 3 title and features one of the top players in the WPIAL in junior Makenna Marisa (23.1 ppg), a Division I recruit who surpassed 1,000 career points. Norwin outlasted Latrobe and Hempfield in a competitive race in Section 2. The Knights, who won WPIAL titles in 2015 and ‘16, started 1-5 but won five straight games late. They are led by Magen Polczynski (15.1 ppg) and Olivia Gribble (14.8). Hempfield is paced by Allison Podkul (18.0). Bethel Park, a WPIAL runner-up a year ago, finished second in Section 2. The Black Hawks are led by Olivia Westphal (15.7 ppg).
Don't overlook: Latrobe features one of the league's top scorers in Laura Graytok (23.6 ppg), though it lost its final three section games.
Prediction: North Allegheny over Peters Twp.
Favorite: Section 3 champion Trinity is one of the hottest teams in the WPIAL, winners of 12 straight games. The Hillers' only losses were to Class 6A Peters Township and Abington and Gilmour Academy. Trinity, which was the 2016 WPIAL runner-up and 2017 PIAA runner-up, averaged nearly 60 points. The Hillers are led by guards Alayna Cappelli (15.0) and Riley DeRubbo (17.0).
Challengers: Thomas Jefferson edged Gateway for the Section 2 title, though the Gators won their section meeting 48-47 on Jan. 23. Guards Jenna Clark (17.5 ppg) and Marina Petruzzi (15.5), a Wesleyan recruit, pace the Jaguars. Led by Niagara recruit Jordan Edwards, Gateway has won 11 straight games. West Allegheny returned all five starters, including Ashley Seamon and Melina Lynn, and won the first section title in program history in Section 1. Mars and Hampton shared the Section 4 title with 11-1 records. Mars features the tandem of Tai Johnson (Bucknell) and Lauren Wasylson (Xavier). Hampton, a WPIAL semifinalist the past two years, is led by Ali Collins (Seton Hill) and Laryn Edwards (Loyola).
Don't overlook: Chartiers Valley won a WPIAL title last season and returned a pair of elite scorers in Megan McConnell (19.7 ppg) and Mackenzie Wagner (18.2). The Colts finished with eight straight victories.
Prediction: Trinity over Gateway
Favorite: Defending WPIAL champion Cardinal Wuerl North Catholic claimed the Section 1 title with a 12-0 mark and outscored opponents by an average of 25.5 points. The Trojanettes won their first 15 games before dropping three of their final seven — nonsection losses to Bishop Canevin, Peters and Bethel Park. CWNC is led by Tess Myers (17.3 ppg) and Kylee Lewandowski (14.6), along with coach Molly Rottmann, who won her 400th career game.
Challengers: Blackhawk and Beaver shared the Section 2 title with 10-2 records, with Beaver winning 59-58 over the Cougars last week. Blackhawk, last year's WPIAL runner-up, is led by the backcourt tandem of Mackenzie Amalia (17.6 ppg) and Mady Aulbach (16.3). Third-place Central Valley finished 9-3, including wins over Beaver and Blackhawk in the season's first half. Led by 1,000-point scorer Gillian Piccolino (17.9 ppg), Keystone Oaks edged Belle Vernon for the Section 3 title, but the Golden Eagles fell to South Park in the section finale last week to snap a nine-game winning streak. South Park is paced by Maura Huwalt (15.7 ppg) and Kasey Kastroll (15.4).
Don't overlook: Freeport was the Section 1 runner-up, with two losses to North Catholic. The Yellowjackets reached the WPIAL quarterfinals and PIAA playoffs a year ago.
Prediction: CWNC over Blackhawk
Favorites: East Allegheny and Bishop Canevin established themselves as the cream of the Class 3A crop this season and appear to be headed for a finals showdown. East Allegheny, led by Kennesaw State-bound guard Amani Johnson (26.4 ppg), cruised to a 22-0 record and outscored opponents by an average of 64.9-29.7. Bishop Canevin, the two-time defending WPIAL champion and 2017 PIAA runner-up, is led by a balanced scoring unit spearheaded by Bri Allen (15.6 ppg).
Challengers: Neshannock, fresh off a WPIAL runner-up finish last season, won Section 1 but not without a challenege from runner-up Mohawk, which defeated the Lancers, 50-41, on Jan. 22. Bella Burrelli (17.9 ppg) leads the Lancers. Mohawk is riding an 11-game winning streak. Section 2 runner-up Charleroi rolled to a 19-3 record, with two losses to East Allegheny. Led by Kaitlyn Riley (16.3 ppg.), the Cougars won 10 of their past 11 games. Megan Ost, a 1,000-point scorer, leads Apollo-Ridge, which finished third in Section 3.
Don't overlook: Avonworth's sister act has high expectations for the playoffs. The Robinsons, senior Hunter, junior Hayden and freshman Harris are all key contributors for the Lopes, who went 8-4 in Section 3. Hayden averaged 17.4 points.
Prediction: East Allegheny over Bishop Canevin
Favorite: Vincentian Academy was the WPIAL Class 2A runner-up a year ago and appears on track to return to the Petersen Events Center. The Royals, who won WPIAL titles from 2012-17, are 20-1 and cruised the Section 2 title at 14-0, outscoring opponents 59.2-33.4. Caroline Elliott, a Duquesne recruit, leads the way for Vincentian (16.9 ppg).
Challengers: Defending WPIAL champion Chartiers-Houston and OLSH shared the Section 2 title with 13-1 records. The Bucs feature the WPIAL's leading scorer, senior forward Alexa Williamson (31.8 ppg), a Temple recruit. They outscored opponents 53.5-33.0. OLSH, which averaged nearly 60 ppg, has won 14 straight games, including a 41-34 win over Chartiers-Houston on Jan. 18. Leechburg, led by IUP recruit Mikayla Lovelace (24.0 ppg), reached the PIAA playoffs last season. The Blue Devils took second in Section 2. Serra Catholic and Greensburg Central Catholic tied for the top spot in Section 3. Led by Anna Eisaman (15.9 ppg), GCC rallied from a 1-5 start and won its final four section games. Serra averaged 55.8 points with a balanced offensive attack.
Don't overlook: Frazier finished fourth in Section 3, but features a dynamic scorer in Brooke Poling, who averaged 24.6 points and surpassed 1,000 for her career.
Prediction: Chartiers-Houston over Vincentian
Favorite: Winchester Thurston claimed the program's first WPIAL title last year and has a team capable of repeating. The group is again led by a pair of Division I recruits, in Xavier commit Ayanna Townsend (14.8) and Gia Thorpe (21.7), who is receiving Ivy League interest. Both have surpassed 1,000 career points. The Bears won the Section 3 title with a 10-0 record.
Challengers: West Greene went 10-0 to win the Section 2 title and again hopes to challenge Winchester Thurston. The Pioneers lost to WT in the semifinals last season. They are led by the Lampe sisters, McKenna (15.7 ppg) and Madison (14.9), who helped lead the softball team to two straight WPIAL titles. Quigley Catholic captured the Section 1 title with a 10-0 mark, averaging 56.0 points in the process. Led by Taylor Kirschner (19.1) and Hailey Drutarosky (16.5), Quigley also won seven of its final eight games. Sewickley Academy started 9-1 and finished second in Section 1. Aquinas Academy finished 7-3 in Section 3 behind Mary Casamassa (17.9 ppg).
Don't overlook: Guided by one of the WPIAL's top scorers, Chloe Kurpakus (20.5 ppg), and Alex Jones (17.2), St. Joseph finished tied for second at 7-3 in Section 3.
Prediction: Winchester Thurston over West Greene
Butler (13-9) vs. Upper St. Clair (12-9) at North Hills, 7 p.m.; Norwin (11-9) vs. Pine-Richland (7-13) at Plum, 8 p.m.; Mt. Lebanon (11-11) vs. Penn Hills (13-8) at Baldwin, 6:30 p.m.; Hempfield (11-11) vs. Seneca Valley (11-10) at Fox Chapel, 6:30 p.m.; Latrobe (16-6) vs. Shaler (10-12) at Plum, 6:30 p.m.
Byes: North Allegheny (22-0), Peters Township (19-3), Bethel Park (16-5)
Trinity (19-3) vs. Plum (6-16) at West Allegheny, 8 p.m.; Oakland Catholic (14-8) vs. South Fayette (12-8) at Upper St. Clair, 6:30 p.m.; Mars (17-5) vs. Uniontown (7-12) at Gateway, 6:30 p.m.; Hampton (18-4) vs. Connellsville (11-11) at Gateway, 8 p.m.; Thomas Jefferson (19-3) vs. Montour (9-13) at Upper St. Clair, 8 p.m.; Gateway (19-3) vs. Ringgold (16-6) at Baldwin, 6:30 p.m.; West Allegheny (16-6) vs. Woodland Hills (10-12) at Fox Chapel, 6:30 p.m.; Chartiers Valley (16-6) vs. Armstrong (15-7) at Fox Chapel, 8 p.m.
South Park (13-9) vs. Ambridge (12-10) at West Allegheny, 3 p.m.; Central Valley (15-5) vs. Deer Lakes (9-13) at North Hills, 3 p.m.; Freeport (13-8) vs. Elizabeth Forward (14-7) at Fox Chapel, 3 p.m.; Belle Vernon (17-5) vs. Knoch (11-11) at Baldwin, 3 p.m.
Byes: Cardinal Wuerl North Catholic (19-3), Blackhawk (18-2), Beaver (16-5), Keystone Oaks (17-4)
South Side Beaver (15-7) vs. Laurel (12-10) at Cardinal Wuerl North Catholic, 6:30 p.m.; Avonworth (15-7) vs. South Allegheny (12-8) at Fox Chapel, 6:30 p.m.; Riverside (14-8) vs. Seton LaSalle (9-13) at North Hills, 6:30 p.m.; Charleroi (19-3) vs. Apollo-Ridge (10-12) at Peters Township, 6:30 p.m.
Byes: Bishop Canevin (17-4), East Allegheny (22-0), Neshannock (19-3), Mohawk (18-4)
Washington (15-6) vs. California (14-7) at Peters Township, 8:30 p.m.; Serra Catholic (14-7) vs. Riverview (11-10) at Northgate, 6:30 p.m.; Brentwood (15-6) vs. Fort Cherry (12-10) at Peters Township, 5:30 p.m.; Leechburg (18-4) vs. Frazier (13-9) at West Allegheny, 6:30 p.m.
Byes: Vincentian Academy (20-1), Our Lady of the Sacred Heart (19-2), Chartiers-Houston (17-5), Greensburg Central Catholic (12-10)
Avella (13-8) vs. Cornell (7-15) at West Allegheny, noon; Aquinas Academy (14-5) vs. Mapletown (9-13) at Baldwin, noon; Rochester (12-7) vs. Eden Christian Academy (8-13) at North Hills, noon; St. Joseph (13-9) vs. Geibel (9-11) at Fox Chapel, noon
Byes: Winchester Thurston (16-5), West Greene (20-2), Quigley Catholic (14-8), Sewickley Academy (13-5)