Trib HSSN 2020-21 WPIAL Class 4A girls basketball preseason breakdown

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Monday, December 7, 2020 | 9:24 PM


Getting to the WPIAL girls basketball finals will take even more dedication and focus than ever this season.

Teams will have to navigate an invisible opponent in covid-19 that could test them more than a section rival.

But a reward of a WPIAL championship will drive girls basketball teams across Western Pennsylvania, much like it did for last year’s victors — North Allegheny (Class 6A), Chartiers Valley (5A), North Catholic (4A), Mohawk (3A), Bishop Canevin (2A) and Rochester (A).

Here is a rundown of players to watch, team rankings and other notable facts for Class 4A girls basketball. Check out a breakdown of each class this week on the TribLive High School Sports Network. Click here to see Class 6A and 5A.

WPIAL Class 4A

Preseason Player of the Year

Emma Pavelek

Beaver

5-8, senior, point guard

17.3 ppg

Players to watch

Madilyn Boyer

Knoch

5-7, Jr, G, 13.8 ppg

Olivia Cernuto

Southmoreland

5-7, So., G, 11.1 ppg

Aayanni Hudson

New Castle

5-7, Jr., G, 17.5 ppg

Gracie Spadaro

Southmoreland

5-11, Jr., F, 15.2 ppg

Corinne Washington

Quaker Valley

5-11, Sr., G/F, 18.0 ppg

Preseason Top 5

1. Southmoreland (25-2 last season)

WPIAL runners-up a year ago, the Scotties hope to improve on the best season in program history. Junior forward Graci Spadaro (15.2 ppg, 6.2 rpg), the Trib Westmoreland Player of the Year last season, returns, along with all-section point guard Olivia Cernuto (11.5 ppg, 4.6 rpg, 3.5 apg). Amber Cernuto takes over as head coach for Brian Pritts, who resigned after 19 seasons. Junior Delaynie Morvosh (7.1 ppg) also returns, along with sophomore forward Maddie Moore.

2. Beaver (23-4)

The Bobcats, fresh off reaching the WPIAL Class 3A final a year ago, will make the jump into 4A and should be among the top contenders. Senior point guard Emma Pavelek (17.3 ppg), a Navy recruit, and junior guard/forward Payton List (11.1 ppg) earned all-section honors last season. Pavelek is a 1,000-career point scorer Also back are guards Maddi Weiland (8.0 ppg) and Anna Blum and forward Kenzie Weiland. Coach Greg Huston has a record of 184-82 in 11 years at Beaver.

3. Quaker Valley (17-7)

Three starters return for the Quakers, who reached the WPIAL quarterfinals and PIAA tournament last season as the district’s fifth seed. Seniors Corinne Washington, Bailey Garbee and Claire Kuzma have played key roles since their freshman seasons. Washington (18.0 ppg, 10 rpg), an all-section guard/forward, is a Boston University commit. Garbee (15.0 ppg, 6.0 apg) is committed to American. Kuzma (10 ppg, 8 rpg) is a Northeastern track commit.

4. Blackhawk (20-5)

Star guard Mackenzie Amalia (21.9 ppg) is now at Robert Morris, but the cupboard isn’t bare for the Cougars, who are coming off a trip to the WPIAL semifinals and PIAA playoffs. Senior forwards Jolie Strati (11 ppg) and Alivia Thompson return. Sophomore Quinn Borroni also was a starter last season for the Cougars, who averaged nearly 70 points and shared the Section 2 title with Central Valley.

5. Knoch (17-7)

Four starters return for the Knights, who made a trip to the WPIAL quarterfinals behind junior all-section guard Madilyn Boyer (13.8 ppg, 6.0 rpg) and senior forward Neveah Ewing (13.6 ppg, 4.8 rpg). Sophomore guards Nina Shaw and Megan Vasas also return for Knoch, which allowed just 43.6 ppg last season in finishing as the Section 1 runner-up behind North Catholic.

Notable

• North Catholic, which has won the past four WPIAL Class 4A championships, has dropped down to Class 3A this season, opening the door for new contenders. In addition, Apollo-Ridge dropped down to 2A. Keystone Oaks moved to 3A. Greensburg Salem, McKeesport, Ringgold and Indiana all moved up to 5A.

• Class 4A will include 22 teams in three sections this season. Beaver, Deer Lakes, Derry, Montour and Valley joined the classification, as well as Ligonier Valley, which came over from District 6.

• Former Belle Vernon standout Kaitlyn Slagus has taken over as head coach at her alma mater. She returns two starters in point guard Taylor Rodriguez and guard Tara Callaway, who helped the team finish 16-7 last year.

• Freeport finished 17-8 and reached the WPIAL quarterfinals a year ago but has to replace five graduates. The Yellowjackets do welcome 10 freshmen.

• Burrell returns five starters and hopes to compete for a playoff berth in Section 1. Junior guard Allison Fisher averaged 13.8 points last season.

• Highlands isn’t planning to begin winter sports until Jan. 15 while the school operates in remote learning.

• Ligonier Valley enters the WPIAL under the guidance of first-year coach and LV alum Emily Daugherty, who was hired Dec. 2. She replaces Tim Gustin, who is now the Rams boys coach.

2020-21 Alignment

Section 1: Burrell, Deer Lakes, Derry, Freeport, Highlands, Knoch, Valley

Section 2: Ambridge, Beaver, Blackhawk, Central Valley, Hopewell, Montour, New Castle, Quaker Valley

Section 3: Belle Vernon, Elizabeth Forward, Ligonier Valley, Mt. Pleasant, Southmoreland, West Mifflin, Yough

Bill Hartlep is the sports editor of the Tribune-Review. You can contact Bill at bhartlep@triblive.com or via Twitter @BHartlep_Trib.

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