Five things to watch in the WPIAL boys basketball semifinals
By: Chris Harlan
Monday, February 25, 2019 | 6:41 PM
As the old saying goes, it’s hard to beat a team three times in one season.
But is that true in WPIAL boys basketball?
Ambridge, Pine-Richland, Mt. Lebanon and Our Lady of the Sacred Heart certainly hope not. Those four boys basketball teams have WPIAL semifinal matchups against section rivals that they swept in the regular season.
Ambridge plays Quaker Valley in a WPIAL Class 4A semifinal at 8 p.m. Wednesday at North Hills. The Bridgers won 72-67 and 75-65 in the regular season. Their first game needed two overtimes.
In Class 2A, OLSH faces South Side Beaver at 8 p.m. Tuesday at Canon-McMillan. OLSH won the first two games 72-48 and 78-65.
Pine-Richland faces Butler in a WPIAL Class 6A semifinal at 8 p.m. Wednesday at Fox Chapel. The Rams won 79-74 and 95-76 during section play.
In the other Class 6A semifinal, Mt. Lebanon plays Canon-McMillan at 8 p.m. Wednesday at Moon. The Blue Devils swept the regular-season matchups 78-46 and 70-50.
2. Semifinal success
Canon-McMillan and South Side Beaver have entered uncharted territory. The two boys basketball teams are in the WPIAL semifinals for the first time in school history.
Seventh-seeded Canon-McMillan advanced with a 83-62 quarterfinal victory over No. 2 Latrobe. Fifth-seeded South Side Beaver defeated No. 4 Winchester Thurston, 52-46, in the quarterfinals.
Now, the next step would be clinching their first finals appearance.
3. Them again … and again?
The WPIAL has witnessed a number of WPIAL championship rematches over the years, where the same two teams return to the finals in consecutive seasons.
But New Castle vs. Quaker Valley and OLSH vs. Sewickley Academy could take that rematch a step farther. Those teams could square off in the WPIAL finals for the third time in three years. The last time that happened was in 2012-14 when Hampton and New Castle met in three consecutive championships.
New Castle defeated Quaker Valley each of the past two seasons in the Class 4A final.
Sewickley Academy defeated OLSH the past two in 2A.
4. Searching for Cinderella stories
So far, the WPIAL boys basketball tournament is almost all “chalk.”
There’s only one seed lower than a five in the semifinals (No. 7 Canon-McMillan), and favorites went 44-10 overall through the first two rounds.
But that’s not too surprising under six classifications.
Since the sport expanded two seasons ago, only three teams seeded higher than sixth have reached the WPIAL semifinals: No. 11 Woodland Hills and No. 7 Butler in 2017 in Class 6A and No. 7 Imani Christian in 2018 Class A.
Among those three, only Butler reached the WPIAL finals.
5. Section pride in Class 3A
Which was the best section in WPIAL Class 3A?
We’ll know soon enough.
Section 1 champion Lincoln Park (20-4) faces Section 2 co-champion Seton LaSalle (19-4) Monday in one semifinal. While in the other, Section 2 co-champion North Catholic (20-4) faces Section 1 runner-up Aliquippa (16-7).
The WPIAL committee gave Lincoln Park and Aliquippa the top two seeds, with North Catholic third and Seton LaSalle fourth.
Chris Harlan is a Tribune-Review Staff Writer. You can contact Chris by email at [email protected] or via Twitter .