Trib HSSN 2021-22 WPIAL Class 4A boys basketball preseason breakdown

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Monday, December 6, 2021 | 3:50 PM


Class 4A is where the stars play in WPIAL boys basketball.

Starting with defending champion Lincoln Park, most of the top teams in the class have at least one Division I prospect on the roster.

By March, it might come down to which collection of talent comes together best as a team.

If history is any guide, predicting a finals matchup between Lincoln Park and North Catholic wouldn’t be the worst idea. Those teams have met in the WPIAL championship game four out of the last five years, including the last three in a row.

Here is a look at the players and teams to watch in Class 4A.

Preseason Player of the Year

Adou Thiero, Quaker Valley

6-4, senior, guard

21.8 ppg last season

Players to watch

Brandon Cummings, Lincoln Park

6-2, So, G, 11.5 ppg

Markus Frank, Quaker Valley

6-6, Sr., F, 17.8 ppg

LA Pratt, Lincoln Park

6-5, G, Sr., 13.9 ppg

Meleek Thomas, Lincoln Park

6-3, G, Fr.

Devin Whitlock, Belle Vernon

5-9, Sr., G, 21.9 ppg

Preseason Top 5

1. Lincoln Park (19-6 last season)

Lincoln Park has won five WPIAL championships since 2012, including last year’s, and with a backcourt loaded with Division I prospects, there’s no reason to think the Leopards won’t add a sixth in the spring. Senior LA Pratt has grown a few inches to 6-5 and committed to Duquesne. Brandin Cummings emerged as a star in the postseason as a freshman last year and has an offer from South Carolina, among others. The most exciting talent could be 6-3 freshman Meleek Thomas, a North Hills transfer who has offers from Pitt and St. John’s before stepping on a high school court.

2. Quaker Valley (13-5)

If there’s a Class 4A team with the star power to hang with Lincoln Park, it’s Quaker Valley. The Quakers have a formidable one-two punch in Adou Theiro and Markus Frank, both of whom averaged more than 17 points per game last year. Quaker Valley bowed out of the playoffs in the quarterfinals last year with Theiro watching from the sidelines with a knee injury. He’s back and undoubtedly will be motivated to right that wrong.

3. Belle Vernon (13-2)

He might not be as touted in recruiting circles as some of Lincoln Park’s stars, for instance, but Belle Vernon senior Devin Whitlock, the reigning Trib HSSN Class 4A player of the year, is probably the most electrifying player in the class. Add in Daniel Gordon, who joined Whitlock in the 20-ppg club last season, and the Leopards look dangerous. Include super sophomore Quinton Martin, a Division I recruit in football, and returning starters Tyler Kovatch and Joe Klanchar, and Belle Vernon is as legit a WPIAL title contender as anyone in the class.

4. Montour (14-8)

Section 2-4A might be the toughest in the entire WPIAL, nevermind Class 4A, and Montour has the misfortune of playing Lincoln Park and Quaker Valley twice apiece. But here’s the thing. While the Spartans did run into the Lincoln Park brick wall three times last season, they also swept Quaker Valley. It was very much a three-horse race, four if you count Central Valley (and you should). With game-breaking 6-3 guard Vason Stevenson complemented by the length of 6-5 forward Isayah Mosley, among other returning contributors, Montour can beat anyone on a given night.

5. North Catholic (18-5)

The WPIAL runner-up Trojans went through significant upheaval in the offseason, headed by coach Dave DeGregorio returning to North Allegheny. On top of that, a veritable all-section team — post presence Andrew Ammerman and guards Owen DeGregorio, Isaiah Jackson and Connor Maddalon — was lost to graduation. But new coach Jim Rocco was a two-time WPIAL champ at Penn Hills, Matt Gregor is a returning starter, and the backcourt of Max Rottman and Andrew Maddalon is promising, so count out the Trojans at your own peril.

Notable

• Central Valley has the weapons to hang with the big boys in Section 2, but first, the Warriors will need to get some key performers back from a long football playoff run. Take Jayvin Thompson for example. A top returning performer for Central Valley after averaging 12.0 points and 5.5 rebounds per game, he’s coming off a two-touchdown, four-interception performance in a WPIAL championship game victory. Fellow starters Andre Vacich and Matt Merritt also return.

• The best bet to give Belle Vernon a run for its money in Section 3 is Elizabeth Forward. The Warriors lost Vernon Settles, who led them in scoring as a freshman last season, when he transferred to Central Catholic, but Zach Boyd, who averaged nearly 16 points per game last year, returns to carry the scoring load. Three other starters — Ethan Bowser, Mekhi Daniels and Charlie Meehleib — also return.

• Another team that suffered a key transfer loss was Ambridge when junior guard Damon Astorino enrolled at Eden Christian. Still, the Bridgers have a solid core led by seniors D’Shon Harmon and Benny Cokrlic, sophomore Gio Cassarring and a freshman to watch in Adam Fernandez.

• Trivia question: The leading scorer in WPIAL 4A last season is back this year. Can you name him? It’s Knoch’s Ryan Lang, a 6-1 guard who averaged 24.9 points per game. Did you get it wrong? If so, it might prove Knoch coach’s Alan Bauman’s point that Lang is the WPIAL’s best-kept secret. With fellow senior guard Keagan Fraser also returning, the Knights could contend in Section 1.

• Two other teams that could make noise in Section 1: Deer Lakes and Burrell. Deer Lakes welcomes back four starters, including 6-2 senior Armend Karpuzi, who averaged 15 points per game last season. Burrell brings back 6-1 guard Brandon Coury, who averaged 22 points per game last year.

Alignment

Section 1: Burrell, Deer Lakes, Derry, Freeport, Keystone Oaks, Knoch, North Catholic

Section 2: Ambridge, Beaver, Blackhawk, Central Valley, Hopewell, Lincoln Park, Montour, Quaker Valley

Section 3: Belle Vernon, Elizabeth Forward, Mt. Pleasant, Southmoreland, South Park, Uniontown, Yough

Jonathan Bombulie is a Tribune-Review Assistant Sports Editor. You can contact Jonathan by email at jbombulie@triblive.com or via Twitter .

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