Trib HSSN 2022-23 WPIAL Class 3A boys basketball preseason breakdown

By:
Wednesday, November 30, 2022 | 6:01 AM


There’s plenty of championship pedigree in WPIAL Class 3A basketball this season.

Shady Side Academy brings back a good portion of the roster than won the 3A title at Petersen Events Center last year, and Ellwood City also returns key players from its surprise championship run in 2021.

Then there’s OLSH, the four-time defending Class 2A champs making the move to 3A.

Will one of those teams add to its trophy case or will a newcomer break into the championship rotation? That question will begin being answered when the season opens Friday.

Preseason Player of the Year

Makhai Valentine, Steel Valley

6-2, sr., guard/forward

29.4 points per game

Players to watch

Joseph Roth, Ellwood City

6-5, jr., forward

Eli Teslovich, Shady Side Academy

6-2, jr., guard

Connor Spratt, Seton LaSalle

6-3, sr. guard

Rocco Spadafora, OLSH

6-0, sr., guard

Davoun Fuse, Washington

6-4, sr., forward

Preseason Top 5

1. Shady Side Academy (20-7)

It’s easy to tout the defending WPIAL champ as the team to beat going into the season, but it’s far from cut and dried in this case. There were massive offseason changes in Class 3A, including the arrival of defending Class 2A champ OLSH in PIAA realignment. On top of that, SSA ace Peter Kramer transferred back to Hampton. Still, high-end starters Eli Teslovich and Ethan Salvia return, and they’re surrounded by a deep, talented roster. These Bulldogs have earned the preseason favorite label.

2. OLSH (28-0)

The Chargers must deal with the single biggest graduation loss in the WPIAL, now that 30-point scorer Jake DiMichele is at First Love Christian Academy, and they also must navigate a bump up to Class 3A. DiMichele’s supporting cast, however, was probably underrated last season, and now’s their chance to show it. Seniors Rocco Spadafora, Bryson Kirschner and BJ Vaughn lead the way.

3. Steel Valley (11-12)

When Cruce Brookins and Makhai Valentine combined to score 53 points in a first-round upset of Seton LaSalle in the WPIAL playoffs last season, the Iromen served notice that they would be a team to reckon with this year. Valentine averaged 29 points per game last season and Brookins just quarterbacked the Steel Valley football team to a WPIAL title.

4. Seton LaSalle (17-4)

The Rebels ran into Steel Valley in the first round of the WPIAL playoffs last year, and now, thanks to realignment, they’ll share a section. Seton LaSalle can handle the challenge, especially with 21-point scorer Connor Spratt back for his senior year.

5. Ellwood City (22-4)

The Wolverines have been the WPIAL’s greatest thrill ride the last two seasons, making a Cinderella run to the 2021 championship then falling as a No. 1 seed to No. 8 Avonworth in last year’s WPIAL quarterfinals. With the graduation of Alexander Roth, among others, only one Splash Brother will be in the lineup this season, but Joseph Roth, who averaged 17 points per game last season, can score.

Notable

• Class 3A got a massive overhaul in PIAA realignment. New to the class are OLSH and Sto-Rox up from Class 2A and Keystone Oaks, South Park, Burrell, Deer Lakes, Derry, Mt. Pleasant and Yough down from Class 4A.

• Moving out of Class 3A were Avonworth, South Allegheny and East Allegheny up to Class 4A and Laurel, Aliquippa and Beth-Center down to Class 2A.

• The biggest coaching news in Class 3A in the offseason was the retirement of Washington’s Ron Faust, the ninth-winningest coach in WPIAL history with 653 victories. With 6-4 Davoun Fuse and 6-5 Brayce Patterson in the paint, Faust left the cupboard stocked. The Little Prexies look like the favorites in Section 4.

Sto-Rox is a wild card. The Vikings, who went 12-9 a year ago, have high-end athletes all over the lineup (Josh Jenkins, Jamont Green-Miller, Dre Miller-Ross, Marcus Thomas, et al). If they put it all together, look out.

• The Section 2 race should be wild. Seton LaSalle is the king of the mountain, but OLSH and Sto-Rox are moving in from below and Keystone Oaks and South Park are dropping in from above. The other two holdovers from last season, Steel Valley and Brentwood, are no pushovers.

• Looking for some sleepers in Class 3A? How about the Lancers? Both of them. Deer Lakes went 16-7 in Class 4A last season and has shooter Bryce Robson back. Neshannock went 19-6 last season and has a crop of freshmen and sophomores who are making names for themselves. Another sleeper? Yough. The Cougars went 13-10 in Class 4A last year and have sensational junior scorer Terek Crosby in the lineup.

Alignment

Section 1: Beaver Falls, Ellwood City, Freedom, Mohawk, Neshannock, New Brighton, Riverside

Section 2: Brentwood, Keystone Oaks, Seton LaSalle, South Park, Steel Valley, Sto-Rox, OLSH

Section 3: Apollo-Ridge, Burrell, Deer Lakes, Derry, Ligonier Valley, Shady Side Academy, Valley

Section 4: Brownsville, Charleroi, McGuffey, Mt. Pleasant, Washington, Waynesburg, Yough

Jonathan Bombulie is the TribLive assistant sports editor. A Greensburg native, he was a hockey reporter for two decades, covering the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins for 17 seasons before joining the Trib in 2015 and covering the Penguins for four seasons, including Stanley Cup championships in 2016-17. He can be reached at jbombulie@triblive.com.

More High School Basketball

Passion for WPIAL basketball leads North Allegheny grad Hailey Zeise to Pine-Richland job
4th Tre Cunningham Memorial Basketball Tournament is biggest yet
7-time WPIAL champion coach Spencer Stefko steps down at North Allegheny
Longtime assistant promoted to 1st head coaching job with Yough boys
WPIAL basketball standout Meleek Thomas leaving Lincoln Park for Overtime Elite pro league