Trib HSSN 2021-22 WPIAL Class 6A boys basketball preseason breakdown

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Saturday, December 4, 2021 | 8:17 PM


When it comes to 6A boys basketball this season, bigger might be better. A year after Upper St. Clair won the WPIAL 6A boys basketball championship with one starter over 6-0, most of the top players in the classification check in at 6-1 and taller.

Here is a rundown of players to watch, top five teams and other notables in WPIAL 6A boys basketball this season.

Preseason Player of the Year

Devin Carney, Butler

6-1, Sr., guard

29.6 ppg last season

Players to watch

Eli Yofan, Fox Chapel

6-2, Sr., G, 22.4 ppg

Royce Parham, North Hills

6-7, Soph., F, 17.0 ppg

Adam Bilinsky, Norwin

6-3, Jr., G, 11.0 ppg

Dolan Waldo, Bethel Park

6-6, Sr., F, 17.0 ppg

Dante DePante, Central Catholic

6-2, Jr., G, 16.0 ppg

Preseason Top 5

1. Pine-Richland (14-6 last season)

In his first year as head coach at Pine-Richland, Bob Petcash made quite a splash, guiding his young Rams to the WPIAL 6A championship game. Now, Pine-Richland has five of its top seven players back, led by its two leading scorers from last year, seniors Joey Dudkowski (16.7 points per game) and Luke Shanahan (15.5 ppg). Also returning are seniors Andrew Alexander, Andy Swartout and Jameson O’Toole.

2. Fox Chapel (20-3)

Fox Chapel has been a contender in the district’s highest classification over the last half-dozen years, and this season should be no different. Class 6A’s third-leading scorer from last season, senior guard Eli Yofan, returns. He averaged 22.4 points per game in leading the Foxes to another Section 3 title. Senior guard J.P. Dockey and senior forward Russ Fenton are also back for a Foxes team that lost to Pine-Richland in the semifinals.

3. North Hills (4-10)

There is a lot of “buzz” around the North Hills program thanks in part to 6-7 sophomore Royce Parham. As a freshman, the forward averaged 17 points per game. Parham is already receiving Division I offers. Indians coach Buzz Gabos has other weapons as well with a pair of senior guards in Alex Smith and Matt Seidl as the program tries to go from worst to first this season in Section 1.

4. Central Catholic (12-10)

Central Catholic struggled to gain footing last season. Its best stretch was a four-game winning streak in early February, but that was followed by three losses in four games. One bright spot for the Vikings was the play of guard Dante DePante. The junior averaged 16 points per game. Several newcomers are expected to contribute including a former Winchester Thurston standout, senior Langston Moses, 6-6 junior forward Debaba Tshiebwe and sophomore guard Payton Wehner.

5. Butler (12-9)

In his freshman and sophomore season, Devin Carney was the Robin to Ethan Morton’s Batman at Butler. The two helped the Golden Tornado win the 2020 WPIAL Class 6A title. Now clearly a superhero as a senior, Carney hopes to end his scholastic career with more gold. With older brother Mattix gone, junior Madden Clement will try to help with Butler’s secondary scoring.

Notable

• Upper St. Clair won its third WPIAL boys basketball championship and first in 16 years by beating Pine-Richland in the finals, 56-53. However, the highlights of their season came eight days later when playing with only six players and with head coach Danny Holzer and several assistants missing because of covid protocol, the Panthers stunned District 10 champion Erie, 62-57, in the PIAA quarterfinals.

• USC is a long shot to repeat as Class 6A WPIAL champions and to boot, history is not on the Panthers side. In the last 41 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 then 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 very first Class 6A tournament in 2017.

• The WPIAL decided to hold an open tournament for the postseason last year, allowing all of the teams to participate. Boys 6A was the only tournament in which every team took part. Section 3’s playoff struggles continued as the six teams were a combined 4-6 with two of the wins registered by Fox Chapel. The section was a combined 1-8 in the 2019 and 2020 postseasons. Section 1 teams last year were 7-5 while Section 2 teams, led by champion Upper St. Clair, were a combined 5-5.

• There weren’t a lot of coaching changes in the offseason in Class 6A compared to the previous season; however, the moves carried a big punch. Prior to last year, there were five coaching changes among the 17 Class 6A teams. This year, there were only two new coaches, but both bring impressive resumes. Its back to the future for North Allegheny as former coach Dave DeGregorio left North Catholic to take over the Tigers for a second stint. At Norwin, former West Mifflin coach Lance Maha takes over a Knights team that finished 7-14 a year ago.

• Seneca Valley finished 11-11 last season. While some would feel that was a mediocre season, the 11 wins represented the biggest positive turnaround for any of the 6A boys basketball programs from the 2019-2020 season. Two years ago, the Raiders finished in last place in Section 1 with a 4-17 record. Rival North Allegheny also enjoyed improvement under now former coach Dan DeRose, winning 16 games after finishing 11-12 the year before.

Alignment

Section 1: Butler, North Allegheny, North Hills, Pine-Richland, Seneca Valley

Section 2: Baldwin, Bethel Park, Canon-McMillan, Mt. Lebanon, Peters Township, Upper St. Clair

Section 3: Central Catholic, Fox Chapel, Greensburg Salem, Hempfield, Norwin, Penn-Trafford

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