Fox Chapel boys basketball drops to Class 5A in PIAA realignment

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Saturday, June 18, 2022 | 8:46 PM


The biennial WPIAL basketball realignment can bring about odd situations.

Take the one issued by the WPIAL Board of Directors to cover the 2022-23 and 2023-24 seasons.

Both finalists for the 2021 Class 6A boys title — Fox Chapel and North Hills — are now part of Class 5A.

Fox Chapel will be playing in Section 2 for the next two seasons against Armstrong, Penn Hills, Plum, Shaler and Woodland Hills.

“I was saying to someone to have the 6A defending champion and or the runner-up both gone is kind of interesting,” said Fox Chapel boys coach Zach Skrinjar. “I think the WPIAL did a good job in going with competitive balance, separating teams from different areas. The quality of play of the 24 teams in Class 5A should provide for some great playoff games.”

Fox Chapel will lose its biggest basketball rival — Central Catholic — under the new alignment.

Central will stay in Class 6A, the division for the largest schools. The Foxes and the Vikings played in three classic encounters this past season, including a WPIAL semifinal at Peters Township’s AHN Arena where Fox Chapel’s late surge produced a berth in the WPIAL title game against North Hills.

To summarize the process, the PIAA realigns classifications by enrollment every two years. The statewide body takes the number of schools around the Keystone State that sponsor a sport and divides that sum by the number of classes.

For instance, there are 702 basketball schools, meaning there are about 117 schools in each classification. The 117 largest schools play in Class 6A, the next 117 play in Class 5A and so on.

A school can choose to “play up” in a larger classification if it wishes. For example, Shady Side Academy could play boys and girls lacrosse in Class 2A by virtue of its enrollment but plays Class 3A to compete against the largest schools.

That strategy paid off as the Bulldogs recently won WPIAL titles in both boys and girls playoff tournaments.

But back to basketball, the Foxes won’t exactly be playing against strangers in their new section.

“We have had exhibition games against those schools over the last couple years,” Skrinjar said. “Some of them were in 6A when the class began.”

Fox Chapel defeated North Hills, 43-36, at Petersen Events Center on March 5 to win the Class 6A title.

Defending Class 3A champion Shady Side Academy will remain in that classification and play in Section 3 with Apollo-Ridge, Burrell, Deer Lakes, Derry, Ligonier Valley and Valley. Steel Valley and South Allegheny have moved out of the section.

In girls basketball, Fox Chapel has also dropped to Class 5A and will play in Section 2 against Armstrong, Hampton, Mars, New Castle, North Hills and Shaler.

Shady Side Academy’s girls will play in Section 3 in Class 3A against Apollo-Ridge, Burrell, Deer Lakes, Ligonier Valley and Mt. Pleasant.

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