Breaking down the 2022 WPIAL boys basketball playoff brackets

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Monday, February 14, 2022 | 7:02 PM


Class 6A

Favorite: North Hills went undefeated and ran away with the Section 1 title, putting the Indians in position to maybe win their first WPIAL title. They’re led by a trio of double-digit scorers, including 6-foot-7 sophomore Royce Parham (20.9 ppg) and 6-3 senior guards Alex Smith (18.6) and Matt Seidl (14). Their nonsection scheduled included wins over Fox Chapel (87-57) and Upper St. Clair (75-47). Coach Buzz Gabos’ Indians have the highest-scoring offense in WPIAL Class 6A at 75.5 points per game.

Challengers: Fox Chapel has one of the WPIAL’s top players in 6-3 senior Eli Yofan, who averages 20 points and six rebounds. The Foxes own a 19-game winning streak since losing Dec. 11 at North Hills in the second game of the season. Central Catholic finished second to Fox Chapel in Section 3, but the Vikings and 20-point scorer Dante DePante own nonsection wins over New Castle, Bishop Canevin and North Catholic. Upper St. Clair and Mt. Lebanon are co-champs in Section 2. USC’s top scorer is senior Tanner O’Grady (16.9), while Lebo has three scorers averaging around 10.

Don’t overlook: Butler has the second-highest scoring offense in WPIAL 6A behind senior guard Devin Carney, an Elon commit. The Golden Tornado averages 69 ppg.

Prediction: North Hills over Fox Chapel

Class 5A

Favorite: Rodney Gallagher is the star for an undefeated Laurel Highlands team, but the junior isn’t a one-man offense. The Mustangs have three players averaging better than 18 points: Keondre Deshields (21.1), Gallagher (18.9) and Brandon Davis (18.4). Gallagher, a D1 recruit in both football and basketball, is looking for his second WPIAL title in three years, having won as a freshman.

Challengers: Defending champion New Castle has won seven WPIAL titles in the past 10 seasons. The team’s only loss this season was to Central Catholic, 46-40, in December. Senior Mike Wells, a Youngstown State football recruit, averages 21 points and six rebounds per game, and junior Isaiah Boyce is a 14-point scorer. Mars won Section 2 behind guards Zach Schlegel (18.2 ppg) and Tasso Sfanos (17 ppg) and 6-6 forward Chris Dvorak, who averages 10 points and 13 rebounds. Mars (47), Laurel Highlands (47.4) and New Castle (47.5) had the stingiest defense in 4A. Penn Hills won Section 3 behind junior Daemar Kelly.

Don’t overlook: Highlands had single-digit losses this season to Mars, Quaker Valley, Allderdice and Montour, showing the 2020 WPIAL champions can still compete.

Prediction: Mars over Laurel Highlands

Class 4A

Favorite: Might this be the year Quaker Valley celebrates a WPIAL title? The Quakers have come close at times in the past decade. A talented pair of 6-5 seniors leads this year’s title hopes: Markus Frank (27.2 points, 9.3 rebounds) and Adou Thiero (24.7 ppg, 9.3 rpg). Coach Mike Mastroianni’s team averages 74 points but also has the best defense in 4A, holding opponents to 47.7.

Challengers: Two of QV’s section foes, Montour and Lincoln Park, also have title hopes. Montour’s stock rose quickly with late-season wins over Lincoln Park and Belle Vernon. Lincoln Park was the 2020 runner-up and has two Division I recruits in guards Brandin Cummings (21 ppg) and LA Pratt (17), a Duquesne commit. Belle Vernon was a semifinalist a year ago, and brought back top scorers Quinton Martin (19.1 ppg) and Devin Whitlock (15.2). North Catholic will try to return to the finals under new coach Jim Rocco.

Don’t overlook: Deer Lakes enters the playoffs with a little momentum after upsetting North Catholic, 74-72, on Friday.

Prediction: Quaker Valley over Montour

Class 3A

Favorite: Ellwood City was a surprising champion a year ago, winning the program’s first WPIAL title, as a No. 11 seed. This year, the Wolverines won’t sneak up on anybody, yet they have the talent to repeat. They’re led by Roth brothers Alexander (18.1 ppg) and Joseph (17.6), and senior Steve Antuono Jr. (14.9). Joseph Roth, the younger brother, is a 6-5 sophomore. They’ve won 17 games in a row.

Challengers: Class 3A is deep this season with co-champions finishing atop the standings in Section 2 (Aliquippa and Seton LaSalle) and Section 3 (Shady Side Academy and South Allegheny). And don’t count out Washington, which won Section 4 outright. South Allegheny, last year’s WPIAL runner-up, has a top junior in Bryce Epps (24.5 ppg). Four of Aliquippa’s starters also started for the school’s state-championship football team. The Quips started slowly but had late wins over Seton LaSalle and Lincoln Park. Junior Connor Spratt gives Seton a steady scorer.

Don’t overlook: Neshannock finished behind Ellwood City in Section 1, but the Lancers reached the WPIAL semifinals a year ago.

Prediction: Ellwood City over Aliquippa

Class 2A

Favorite: There may be no bigger favorite this winter than Our Lady of the Sacred Heart, the reigning WPIAL and PIAA champion. The Chargers own a winning streak that’s nearing 60 games and stands as the longest in WPIAL history. Senior Jake DiMichele is one of the league’s top scorers, but coach Mike Rodriguez’s team also has size with 6-5 senior Dawson Summers in the paint. OLSH on average has outscored opponents by 33 points per game.

Challengers: Section 2 co-champion Fort Cherry and Carlynton are trying to make history. Neither team has won a WPIAL title in decades. Carlynton won its only WPIAL boys championship in 1988, while Fort Cherry has waited since 1961 to win another boys title. Carlynton has held opponents to a WPIAL-low 39.4 ppg. Brevan Williams leads a tall Greensburg Central Catholic lineup that has three starters 6-4 or taller. Monessen ran through Section 4 undefeated behind Lorenzo Gardner (19 ppg) and Kody Kuhns (12).

Don’t overlook: Serra Catholic finished behind GCC in Section 3 but celebrated a win over the Centurions on Friday.

Prediction: OLSH over Carlynton

Class A

Favorite: Defending champion Bishop Canevin should be battle-tested for the playoffs after a nonsection schedule filled with big-school contenders. The Crusaders had competitive losses to Penn Hills, Central Catholic, Butler and Fox Chapel. They defeated Belle Vernon and Greensburg Central Catholic. Canevin is led by 16-point scorer Jaden Gales and Kevaughn Price, who averages 14.

Challengers: Imani Christian could be the tallest team in the WPIAL regardless of classification. The Saints won Section 3 behind 6-11 freshman Alier Maluk, a Division I recruit who averages 14.2 points, eight rebounds and four blocks. He’s joined by 6-8 sophomore Virgil Hall (11 ppg, 8 rpg), and sophomore guard Wesley Avery, a 10-point scorer. Union won Section 1 with brothers Matt Stanley (18.8 ppg) and Mark Stanley (11.5 ppg, 8.7 rpg), who are the sons of the coach. A third player, Peyton Lombardo, is also an 11-point scorer. The Scotties are holding opponents to 40.4 ppg, which is second-best in the WPIAL.

Don’t overlook: Geibel Catholic won 15 of its last 17 games with the exception of two section losses to Bishop Canevin.

Chris Harlan is a Tribune-Review Staff Writer. You can contact Chris by email at charlan@triblive.com or via Twitter .

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