Breaking down the 2023 WPIAL girls basketball playoff brackets

Monday, February 13, 2023 | 5:11 PM

A closer look at the WPIAL girls basketball playoffs, which begin with preliminary round games Thursday night:

Class 6A

Favorite: Upper St. Clair (19-2) has not lost in 2023 and takes a 13-game winning streak into the postseason. The Panthers reached the finals last year and lost to Mt. Lebanon (16-6). The highest-scoring team in 6A with a 60.4-point average, they only give up 40.6 points a game. Sophomore guard Rylee Kalocay is the second-leading scorer in the classification at 19.6 points per game. Senior 6-foot-1 center Kate Robbins is a 1,000-point scorer and a Marist commit.

Challengers: This is only a nine-team bracket, so anything can happen. Norwin (19-3) was ranked No. 1 for a sizable portion of the season. Sound team defense has the Knights allowing just 34 ppg. They have multiple offensive options and often rely on balanced scoring. … North Allegheny (17-5), the Section 1 co-champion with Norwin, reached the semifinals last year before falling to Upper St. Clair. Senior guard Jasmine Timmerson is a Pitt commit. The Tigers had not lost to a WPIAL team at home since 2017 before Saturday’s loss to South Fayette. … While it averages less than 50 ppg, Mt. Lebanon always is a postseason threat. The Blue Devils are the defending champions and the PIAA runners-up.

Don’t overlook: Chartiers Valley (12-9), led by 6-foot sophomore Emma Reynolds (15 ppg), finished third in Section 2 behind Upper St. Clair and Mt. Lebanon.

Prediction: Upper St. Clair over North Allegheny

Class 5A

Favorite: South Fayette (20-2) is the defending champion and a strong favorite to repeat at The Pete. The Lions feature standout guard Maddie Webber, a nominee for the McDonald’s All-American Game and a Villanova commit who averages 17 points. Senior 6-3 forward Ava Leroux is another talented scorer and a tough matchup. The Lions allow just 38 ppg. They won at North Allegheny over the weekend.

Challengers: Section 3 champion Oakland Catholic (19-3) is skilled in the backcourt behind senior guards Alexa Washington (16 ppg), Rachel Haver and Helena Hill. The Eagles beat Mt. Lebanon by 29. They swept McKeesport. They did, however, lose to 3A North Catholic. … McKeesport (18-4), a semifinalist last year, might be the most physical team in the bracket. The Tigers allow only 38 ppg with their constant pressure. Senior Rachael Manfredo makes the offense go, but watch junior Maddie Hertzler and senior 3-point threat Malina Boord. … Trinity (15-6) finished second in Section 4 behind South Fayette. The Hillers were a No. 3 seed last year and lost to McKeesport in the quarterfinals. … Indiana (15-7), the Section 1 champion, is dangerous, led by the frontcourt tandem of seniors Eve Fiala (6-5) and Katie Kovalchick (6-4). Fiala, a McDonald’s All-America nominee, is a Dayton commit. A late-season loss to Plum could have hurt the Indians’ seeding.

Don’t overlook: Armstrong (18-3), the Section 2 co-champion with Mars, allows just 37.6 ppg. Emma Paul is a 1,000-point scorer who averages 18 ppg.

Prediction: South Fayette over Oakland Catholic

Class 4A

Favorite: Returning WPIAL champion and state runner-up Blackhawk (19-3). A fast-paced offense puts up 57.9 ppg, while an aggressive defense that forces run-outs limits teams to 32 ppg. Alena Fusetti (18 ppg), a 5-9 guard, is the backcourt leader, while 5-10 senior Quinn Boroni, a Mercyhurst commit, is tough around the basket, and senior guard Kassie Potts also scores and facilitates. The Cougars’ only WPIAL loss is to 6A Norwin (59-49).

Challengers: North Catholic (19-3), the 3A champion last year, poses a strong threat to Blackhawk because the Trojanettes are getting healthy. Senior guard Dacia Lewandoski, an Akron commit, has returned from an injury. She rejoins forces with junior Alayna Rocco, a Harvard commit who averages 16 ppg, senior Anna Waskiewicz, senior Tori Drevna and others. North Catholic won four straight WPIAL titles in 4A from 2017-20. A win Saturday over Oakland Catholic stands out. … Keep an eye on Elizabeth Forward (17-4), which quietly put up 61 ppg and played a tough nonsection schedule that included Chartiers Valley, Trinity, Greensburg Central Catholic, River Valley and Baldwin. The Warriors made the semifinals last year. … Belle Vernon (14-8) has won seven of its last nine and allows less than 40 ppg. … Quaker Valley (15-7) took second in Section 2 behind Blackhawk.

Don’t overlook: Knoch (14-8) made it all the way to the WPIAL finals last year and lost to Blackhawk.

Prediction: North Catholic over Blackhawk

Class 3A

Favorite: Maybe the toughest classification from which to pick a winner since North Catholic moved to 4A. Shady Side Academy (20-2) has shared the top Trib HSSN ranking with Laurel in recent weeks. But are the Bulldogs experienced enough to win it all? They have won 16 of 17 games, led by the freshmen scoring tandem of Maggie Spell (20 ppg) and Karis Thomas (17 ppg).

Challengers: Laurel (20-2), a previous No. 1 in the Trib HSSN rankings, split the Section 1 title with Neshannock. The Spartans have won 17 of 18. Their losses are to Mars (48-44) and Neshannock (72-55). Senior forward Regan Atkins is a 1,000-point scorer. … Neshannock (16-6) won 29 games last season, collecting WPIAL and PIAA championships in Class 2A. Only two seniors graduated from that team, so the Lancers have playoff experience. Senior 6-1 guard Mairan Haggerty, a Seton Hill commit, averages 22 ppg. … Avonworth (15-5) won Section 2, giving up just 33.2 ppg. The Antelopes have won eight straight and 11 of 12. Sophomore Greta O’Brien leads the team in scoring with a 15-point average. … Waynesburg (18-3) is led by junior guard Kaley Rohanna, who has over 1,000 career points. … OLSH finished second in Section 2 behind Avonworth and played a strong nonsection schedule.

Don’t overlook: Apollo-Ridge (19-3) was runner-up to Shady Side Academy in Section 3. Two of its losses are to the Bulldogs. The Vikings allow 32.5 ppg.

Prediction: Laurel over Avonworth

Class 2A

Favorite: Shenango (18-4) and Freedom (16-4) were Section 1 co-champs and split head-to-head. Shenango is on a nine-game winning streak. Its last loss was to 3A Laurel. Senior forward Kylee Rubin is the go-to scorer for the Wildcats. She is a 1,000-point scorer who has committed to play volleyball at IUP.

Challengers: Freedom features a formidable scoring tandem in junior guard Shaye Bailey (21 ppg) and 5-10 senior Julz Mohrbacher (18 ppg), who also pair up to make Freedom a power in soccer. The Bulldogs lost in the WPIAL and PIAA finals a year ago. Bailey had a 51-point game and has over 1,000 career points. … Serra Catholic (16-2) has won eight in a row and only allows a miniscule 27.9 ppg. The Eagles made the semifinals last year. Junior Cate Clarke is a key backcourt presence, but also watch freshman Abby Genes, an important scorer on a team with a short bench. The Eagles have only eight players. Sophomore Kendalyn Niedermeyer had made some noise off that short bench of late. … Greensburg Central Catholic (18-4) shared the Section 3 title with Serra Catholic, and the teams split. GCC’s nonsection schedule includes wins over Neshannock and Greensburg Salem. Juniors Mya Morgan and Avery Davis and freshman Erica Gribble lead a talented backcourt. GCC, which also has a small roster, (11 girls) is the highest scoring team in 2A (58.6 ppg). … Burgettstown (16-5) won Section 2 with a 10-0 record. Junior 5-11 forward Kaitlyn Nease averages 17 PPG.

Don’t overlook: Washington (18-4), another section plaque winner, features Olivia Woods (16 ppg).

Prediction: Freedom over Greensburg Central Catholic

Class A

Favorite: Union (15-6) is one of the hottest teams in the postseason, winning nine in a row and 10 of 11. Junior 6-foot guard Kelly Cleaver leads the Scotties in scoring at 16 PPG. The Scotties were semifinalists a year ago.

Challengers: Defending champion Bishop Canevin (10-7), which split the Section 1 title with Union, has a deceiving record. … Aquinas Academy (14-8), the runner-up last year, finished third in a strong and heavily regarded Section 1. … St. Joseph (18-4), which has the most wins in the tournament and played in the semis last year, allows only 30 ppg. Its only loss in Class A was to Aquinas Academy. Junior 5-11 swing-forward Julie Spinelli averages 18 ppg. … Monessen (15-5) has won 13 of 14 and could make a push behind a balanced attack. The Greyhounds won their first section title since 2012.

Don’t overlook: Katie Dryer (16 ppg) leads Avella, which won five of its final six regular-season games. It lost by 30 to Monessen.

Prediction: Bishop Canevin over Union

Bill Beckner Jr. is a Tribune-Review Staff Writer. You can contact Bill by email at or via Twitter .

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