Counting down the top stories in WPIAL sports in 2023: One of district’s most prestigious records falls after 30 years

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Saturday, December 30, 2023 | 11:01 AM


The 2023 year in WPIAL sports saw a lot of excitement across three seasons.

There was domination on the hardwood and in the pool during the winter sports season and sensational action on the diamonds, hardcourts and tracks in the spring, concluding with greatness on the gridiron, the pitch and around the district hills and valleys.

Some records were broken while others were established. We honored some of the best coaches and said goodbye to some legends.

Join us all week as we look back at the moments that stood out in a thrilling high school sports ride in 2023.

In our year-end tradition, Trib HSSN winds down the year with a daily countdown and a look back at the top 23 WPIAL stories from 2023.

Today, we conclude with a look at No. 4 through No. 1.

No. 4 – A debate with no boundaries

It flares up every year or two and when it does, the passion flies on both sides.

It’s the great debate of public vs. private in scholastic sports, or if you prefer, boundary vs. no boundaries.

This year, it was comments made by Union coach Mark Stanley after his Scotties lost to Imani Christian in the WPIAL boys basketball Class A title game that lit the fire.

Stanley said he didn’t think it was fair that his team had to play a private school that had added a number of transfers.

The Saints captured their first WPIAL title with a 23-point win over the Scotties.

No. 3 – The pied Pfeifer

Just two weeks into 2023, a district girls soccer coach won a national honor.

Moon’s Bill Pfeifer was named the National Federation of State High School Associations Girls Soccer Coach of the Year.

This came on the heels of leading the Tigers to a WPIAL and PIAA championship with a perfect 24-0 record in 2022.

His outstanding year was just getting started.

In October, Pfeifer became the first coach in WPIAL girls soccer history to win 500 games after Moon defeated Blackhawk, 3-0.

Moon saw its hopes of winning a third straight WPIAL championship end when it lost to South Fayette in the finals, 1-0 in double overtime.

However, the Tigers bounced back with four wins in the PIAA playoffs, capped off by a 3-1 victory over Abington Heights in the title match.

It was the third straight state championship for Moon and the fifth PIAA title in eight years.

No. 2 – No-No NA

There have been three no-hitters thrown in WPIAL championship games this century and two of them were accomplished by pitchers in Mt. Lebanon uniforms.

Chris Koutsavlis threw the first no-hitter at PNC Park when he shut down Blackhawk in the 2002 3A title game.

Just over two decades later, David Shields made history when he no-hit top-seed North Allegheny as Lebo repeated as district champions, 4-0.

The closest the Tigers came to a hit off the junior lefthander was when a sixth-inning pop-up dropped behind second base and was ruled an error.

The Miami (Fla.) recruit struck out nine, walked one and hit two batters.

No. 1 – King Cugini

In early January, it was announced that the WPIAL boys basketball all-time scoring leader, Tom Pipkins of Valley, would headline a new class of WPIAL Hall of Famers that would be officially inducted in June.

By the end of January, Pipkens lost his crown.

Vinnie Cugini made a splash as a freshman at tiny Aquinas Academy when he led the WPIAL in scoring.

Cugini led the district in points in all four of his scholastic seasons and capped it off by breaking Pipkins’ 30-year old record of 2,838 points in a Jan. 30 game at Neighborhood Academy.

The Pitt-Johnstown recruit ended up scoring 43.7 points per game in his senior season, the highest average in the nation and the most in WPIAL history.

Cugini finished with 3,189 points scored, the fourth most in Pennsylvania high school history.

The rest of the countdown:

Nos. 5-9

No. 5 – Quips are perfect

No. 6 – Leaping Leopards

No. 7 – Perfect Panthers

No. 8 – Happy at Happy Valley

No. 9 – Legends exit quietly

Nos. 10-14

No. 10 – OLSH title run ends

No. 11 – A cross-country sweep

No. 12 – Diving dominance

No. 13 – Lancers finally lose

No. 14 – The queen of the court

Nos. 15-19

No. 15 – Black and gold streaks

No. 16 – Washington County proud

No. 17 – Union girls, solidarity

No. 18 – A titanic spring

No. 19 – Flying Falcon

Nos. 20-23

No. 20 – Losing Win

No. 21 – Grappling girls

No. 22 – Pay for playoffs

No. 23 – Another perfect 10

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