Trib HSSN 2020-21 WPIAL Class 6A boys basketball preseason breakdown
Saturday, December 5, 2020 | 10:01 PM
This will surely be a boys basketball season like no other.
WPIAL teams are set to tip off Friday and embark on a masked journey through a schedule likely to change many times as the year progresses.
Teams all have hopes of hoisting a WPIAL championship trophy in March, much like last year’s boys basketball champions — Butler (Class 6A), Laurel Highlands (5A), Highlands (4A), North Catholic (3A), OLSH (2A) and Vincentian Academy (A).
Here is a rundown of players to watch, team rankings and other notable facts for Class 6A boys basketball. Check out a breakdown of each class this week on the TribLive High School Sports Network.
Preseason Player of the Year
5-11, junior, guard
21.1 ppg last season
Players to watch
5-9, Sr., G, 16.8 ppg
6-4, Sr., F, 10.6 ppg
6-1, Sr., G, 15.5 ppg
6-1, Jr., G, 14.1 ppg
6-0, Jr., G, 15.7 ppg
Preseason Top 5
1. Upper St. Clair (21-5 last season)
A few breaks here and there and Upper St. Clair could have been hoisting gold last season. As it was, the Panthers finished second in Section 2 and lost playoff heartbreakers to Butler in the WPIAL semifinals and PIAA second round. USC returns senior Luke Gensler, along with a pair of football stars in junior Ethan Dahlem and senior David Pantelis.
2. Butler (22-4)
Gone to Purdue is Ethan Morton and his nearly 23 points per game, however the defending WPIAL champions have plenty of talent back to defend their crown. Leading the way is junior guard Devin Carney, who took over at times in the 2020 postseason for the Golden Tornado. Also back is senior guard Mattix Clement and junior forward Charlie Kreinbucher.
3. North Allegheny (11-12)
Change was definitely in the air at North Allegheny after a disappointing 2019-20 season that saw the Tigers finish under .500 after a first-round loss to Bethel Park. Dan DeRose moves over from Penn Hills to coach a talented core led by senior forward Khalil Dinkins, along with transfers Matt McDonough from Vincentian Academy and Kyrell Hutcherson from Kiski Area.
4. Central Catholic (14-12)
Last season, Central Catholic adjusted to life without legendary coach Chuck Crummie. Now bench boss Brian Urso and his team adjusts to life away from the northern lights of Section 1 as they head east to Section 3. Helping to lead the way for the Vikings is senior forward Anderson Cynkar, along with two junior forwards who transferred in — Matt Aulicino from Freeport and Langston Moses from Winchester Thurston.
5. Mt. Lebanon (19-7)
While they were not able to repeat as WPIAL champions, it was another successful season at Mt. Lebanon. The Blue Devils won the Section 2 title, beat Bethel Park and Central Catholic to reach the final before falling to Butler, a team they beat to win it all in 2019. Lebo loses one of the WPIAL’s top scorers in Jake Hoffman, but back are senior guards Jake Reinke and Evan Sentner.
• WPIAL finalists Butler and Mt. Lebanon were still alive in the PIAA boys basketball playoffs when the season was stopped for by the pandemic in mid-March. Butler had ousted Upper St. Clair in a second round match to advance to the state quarterfinals where they were slated to face District 10 champ McDowell. Mt. Lebanon never did play its scheduled second round game against Cheltenham.
• Since Penn Hills won the Class 6A title in 2018, Section 3 has struggled mightily in the WPIAL playoffs. The four teams that qualified in the 2019 and 2020 district postseasons were a combined 1-8, including 0-4 a year ago. The Section 3 champs the last two years have been seeded No. 2, and both Latrobe in 2019 and Fox Chapel in 2020 were upset in their first game by a combined score of 125-96.
• Butler has the talent to repeat as WPIAL champion, but history is not on its side. In the last 40 years, only three schools have repeated as boys basketball district champs in the highest classification. New Castle won consecutive Class AAAA crowns twice, first in 1997, 1998 and 1999 and again in 2013 and 2014. Gateway won consecutive Class AAAA titles in 2011 and 2012, and Pine-Richland won the 2016 Class AAAA championship and followed up by winning gold in the first Class 6A tournament in 2017.
• There were five coaching changes in the offseason in Class 6A. The highest profile coach to move was five-time champion Jeff Ackermann, who left Pine-Richland to take the job at Baldwin. He replaced Eugene Wilson. Taking over at Pine-Richland is Rams assistant coach Bob Petcash. DeRose left Penn Hills to take the job at North Allegheny, replacing Kevin Noftz. Both PT’s have new coaches as well, as former Baldwin coach Joe Urmann takes over for Gary Goga at Peters Township, and former Franklin Regional coach Doug Kelly is the new coach at Penn-Trafford, replacing Jim Rocco.
• There were some changes in alignment this offseason in Class 6A boys basketball. Section 3 was affected the most as it gained two teams and lost two teams. Moving down in class to 5A were Connellsville and Latrobe while Greensburg Salem moved up from 5A and into Section 3. Central Catholic moved from Section 1 to 3 to conclude the Section 3 six-team facelift. Section 2 stayed exactly the same with six teams, and the only change in Section 1 was losing Central Catholic to become a small five-team section.
More Basketball• Slippery Rock commitment ‘felt right’ to Penn Hills basketball standout Hannah Pugliese
• Strong AAU summer lifts Hampton’s Meghan Murray to Division I level
• Suspended Shady Side Academy coach Jonna Burke files lawsuit against PIAA
• Westmoreland County Senior Spotlight: Greensburg Salem’s Ashlan Price
• Hampton point guard Meghan Murray commits to Kent State