Imani Christian basketball moving to 6A in 2024, football also playing up

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Monday, December 4, 2023 | 5:20 PM


Imani Christian is one of the smallest schools in WPIAL basketball, but the Saints want to compete with the big boys.

After winning WPIAL and PIAA Class A titles last winter, Imani Christian has decided to voluntarily move up to 6A for the 2024-25 and 2025-26 seasons. The PIAA on Wednesday will release the full list of schools that chose to “play up.”

The Saints remain in Class A basketball this winter.

“It helps shine a light on our school,” basketball coach Khayree Wilson said of moving up. “It tells people we’re here and we’re here to stay. More importantly, it gives our kids more opportunity. We want to compete at the highest level because we want our kids to get high-level scholarships to high-level schools.”

Imani’s football team also is voluntarily moving up. The Saints will play in Class 3A in 2024 and ‘25. They played 2A football this season and reached the WPIAL quarterfinals. They could’ve dropped to Class A under the latest PIAA enrollment numbers.

“We want to give our students the best opportunities to compete at the highest levels that we can,” Imani football coach LaRoi Johnson said. “We want the best for our kids.”

All teams had until last Friday to decide whether to play up in class for the next two-year cycle. The voluntary upgrades will be finalized Wednesday when the PIAA board meets.

The Imani basketball team faced some criticism from its championship opponents a year ago after succeeding in the smallest classification. The team could’ve been moved to Class 2A next winter under the PIAA competitive-balance rule, but the school’s coaches and administration made the decision to go even higher.

“We’re going to quiet all of that chatter and we’re going to compete with the best,” said Wilson, who was promoted to head coach after last season.

The WPIAL could have 16 or more teams in Class 6A boys basketball next winter. The PIAA enrollment figures released last week included North Allegheny, Seneca Valley, Butler, Norwin, Canon-McMillan, Hempfield, Mt. Lebanon, Woodland Hills, North Hills, Fox Chapel, Connellsville, Central Catholic and Pine-Richland. Upper St. Clair will once again voluntarily play up to Class 6A, while New Castle could remain in 6A under the PIAA competitive-balance rule.

Imani isn’t the first basketball team to win a state championship and then voluntarily move to the biggest classification. Kennedy Catholic in Mercer County won a state title in Class A in 2018, voluntarily moved up and won the 6A title in 2019.

“The difference between them and us is we’re going to stay 6A,” Wilson said. “They dropped back down. We’re a program that’s going to stay 6A for the duration.”

Imani Christian has 33 boys in grades 9-11. The PIAA uses those three grades to determine a school’s enrollment. The only schools smaller in WPIAL boys basketball are Geibel Catholic (31 boys) and Hillel Academy (30).

Chris Harlan is a TribLive reporter covering sports. He joined the Trib in 2009 after seven years as a reporter at the Beaver County Times. He can be reached at charlan@triblive.com.

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