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

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Saturday, December 4, 2021 | 8:17 PM


Thirty years ago, Penn Hills was winding down one of the most dominant stretches in district girls basketball history, winning a seventh straight WPIAL Class AAAA title. This year, North Allegheny is trying to three-peat and capture a fifth WPIAL Class 6A girls basketball championship in the last six years.

Here is a rundown of players to watch, top 5 teams and other notables in WPIAL 6A girls basketball this season.

Preseason Player of the Year

Ashleigh Connor, Mt. Lebanon

5-10, Sr., guard

21.4 ppg last season

Players to watch

Jasmine Timmerson, North Allegheny

5-8, Jr., G, 10.2 ppg

Brianna Zajicek, Norwin

5-10, Sr., G-F, 11.7 ppg

Journey Thompson, Peters Township

6-1, Sr., G-F, 17.6 ppg

Kate Robbins, Upper St. Clair

6-1, Jr., F-C, 15.0 ppg

Olivia West, Seneca Valley

6-0, Sr., F, 15.3 ppg

Preseason Top 5

1. North Allegheny (27-1 last season)

North Allegheny is the two-time defending Class 6A champions and has won four of the last five district crowns. The Tigers lost a pair of stars on the hardwood in Lizzy Groetsch and Paige Morningstar but return plenty of talent led by junior guard Jasmine Timmerson. Others expected to have bigger roles this winter include senior Emma Fischer, junior Cam Phillips and sophomore Kellie McConnell.

2. Upper St. Clair (15-3)

Upper St. Clair was young, but entered last season with great expectations after a deep run in the 2019-2020 postseason. However, overcoming key injuries was the theme for the Panthers after they lost sophomores Mia Brown and Ava Keating. Fellow sophomores Kate Robbins, Sam Prunzik and Paige Dellicarri stepped up their games and USC reached the WPIAL 6A title game.

3. Mt. Lebanon (17-4)

Perennial power Mt. Lebanon is one of the teams to beat in Section 2 after finishing tied for first place with Upper St. Clair a year ago. Senior Ashleigh Connor finished second in 6A scoring as a junior after leading the classification as a sophomore. The St. Louis recruit leads a trio of Blue Devils seniors hoping to build on strong junior seasons including Reagan Murdoch and Brooke Collins.

4. Norwin (13-5)

Once the rulers of the highest classification in 2015 and 2016, Norwin reached the 6A semifinals for the second time in three years last season, losing by two points to Upper St. Clair. Senior Brianna Zajicek leads the Knights after averaging nearly 12 points per game last year. Junior guard Savannah Schneck also returns for Norwin.

5. Peters Township (6-9)

Two years removed from a perfect season with a WPIAL and PIAA championship, Peters Township is a team to watch in Section 2. Senior Journey Thompson was a starter on that title team as a freshman. She averaged 17.6 points per game last year. She is joined in the front court by senior Avana Sayles. Bob Miles begins his second year as head coach of the Indians.

Notable

• After having the PIAA playoffs end in the quarterfinals round due to the covid-19 outbreak in March of 2020, North Allegheny finally captured the elusive state championship a year later with PIAA postseason wins over McDowell and Cumberland Valley before the Tigers beat Spring-Ford, 55-40, in the girls 6A title game in Hershey.

• One of the top district coaches will be missing from the sidelines of a perennial power in 6A. Jonna Burke resigned as head coach at her alma mater, Bethel Park, to take the head coaching job at Shady Side Academy, where she will also teach. In 14 years at Bethel Park and eight at Butler, Burke has a record of 483-196 with a WPIAL championship in 2013. Samantha Loadman is the new Black Hawks coach.

• Underclassmen to watch around Class 6A this season include North Allegheny juniors Jasmine Timmerson, Cam Phillips and sophomore Kellie McConnell, Shaler juniors Haley Kostorick and Mackenzie Barr, Norwin junior Savannah Schneck, Penn-Trafford sophomore Olivia Pepple, Upper St. Clair juniors Kate Robbins, Paige Delliacarri, Sam Prunzik and Mia Brown, Hempfield junior Brooke McCoy.

• Playing the season during a global pandemic, the WPIAL had its first open tournament since the mid 1980s. This format allowed all 15 Class 6A teams to participate in the district playoffs. Only Canon-McMillan chose to not participate, leaving a 14-team playoff field. The only two lower seeds to win in the entire four-round tournament were No. 9 Baldwin beating No. 8 Penn-Trafford and No. 10 Pine-Richland knocking off No. 7 Peters Township in first-round contests.

• While most of Section 1 was able to finish its full section schedule, Section 2 in 6A was a different story. The section was nearly split down the middle between schools that mandated opponents to wear mask and those that didn’t. While Canon-McMillan showed versatility and played all of its section opponents, Mt. Lebanon, Peters Township and Baldwin had mask-only rules and only played each other while Bethel Park, Upper St. Clair and Hempfield did not have a mask mandate and they just played each other.

Alignment

Section 1: Butler, North Allegheny, North Hills, Norwin, Penn-Trafford, Pine-Richland, Seneca Valley, Shaler

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

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