Trib HSSN 2022-23 WPIAL Class 4A girls basketball preseason breakdown

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Tuesday, November 29, 2022 | 6:01 AM


The Trojanettes are back.

North Catholic’s girls basketball team won the WPIAL Class 4A title four straight years (2017-20) before dropping down to 3A for the past two seasons and hoisting the Class 3A trophy last winter.

PIAA realignment has sent the Trojanettes back to Class 4A, where they should again contend for the district championship.

Here is a rundown of players to watch, top 5 teams and other notables in WPIAL 4A girls basketball this season.

Preseason Player of the Year

Dacia Lewandowski, North Catholic

5-11., senior, guard

15.8 ppg last season

Players to watch

Quinn Borroni, Blackhawk

5-10, sr., G/F, 10.4 ppg

Alena Fusetti, Blackhawk

5-9, so., G., 13.1 ppg

Kalleigh Nerone, Highlands

5-10, jr., G., 9.4 ppg

Alayna Rocco, North Catholic

5-11, jr., PG, 17.9 ppg

Nina Shaw, Knoch

5-3, sr., G., 13.0 ppg

Preseason Top 5

1. Blackhawk (26-1 last season)

Reigning WPIAL Class 4A champion Blackhawk went undefeated before falling to Villa Maria Academy in the PIAA quarterfinals last season. The Cougars return a pair of all-section players in senior guard Quinn Borroni (10.4 ppg, 8 rpg) and junior guard Alena Fusetti (13.1 ppg, 4 apg), as well as point guard Kassie Potts (10 ppg).

2. North Catholic (22-6)

North Catholic will try to add to its WPIAL-leading 21 championships this season. Leading the way will be junior point guard Alayna Rocco, a Harvard commit who averaged nearly 18 points and 6.2 rebounds per game last season en route to earning second-team all-state honors, as well as senior guard Dacia Lewandowski, an Akron recruit who averaged 15.8 ppg.

3. Knoch (22-4)

The Knights reached the WPIAL finals and won a PIAA playoff game for the first time last season. Seniors Nina Shaw (13.0 ppg) and Hattie McGraw and junior Naturelle Ewing return to the backcourt. Knoch will miss Valley News Dispatch Player of the Year Maddie Boyer, a 1,000-point scorer who graduated.

4. Highlands (19-5)

Shawn Bennis takes over on the bench for Highlands, which finished second in Section 1 and advanced to the WPIAL quarterfinals. Back are four junior starters — all-section guard Kalleigh Nerone (9.4 ppg), Jocelyn Bielek, Kate Myers and Shelby Wojcik.

5. Belle Vernon (15-8)

The Leopards were third in Section 3 last season but return five experienced seniors determined to move up the standings. Senior guard Jenna Dawson, Farrah Reader, all-section guard Viva Kreis, Presleigh Colditz and Lilly Kerns will lead the way.

Notable

• In addition to North Catholic moving up, Class 4A gained four teams that dropped down a class — Greensburg Salem, Laurel Highlands, Uniontown and Ringgold.

Southmoreland (19-5) was a WPIAL semifinalist and PIAA qualifier a year ago but graduated all-section forward Gracie Spadaro and will miss senior all-section guard Olivia Cernuto (13.0 ppg), who is out for the season with a knee injury suffered during soccer season.

• Beaver (16-6) was the Section 2 runner-up last season and returns several key players, including junior Chloe List (10 ppg, 5 rpg) and sophomore shooter Zoe Ringer. The Bobcats will miss Trib Athlete of the Year Payton List, who graduated and is now playing softball at Virginia Tech.

• Guards Nora Johns and Maria Helkowski are among the returning players for Quaker Valley (12-12), which was the WPIAL runner-up in 2020-21 and reached the PIAA playoffs last season.

Elizabeth Forward (19-6) finished second in a strong Section 3 last season and reached the WPIAL semifinals and PIAA playoffs.

Alignment

Section 1: Derry, Freeport, Greensburg Salem, Highlands, Knoch, North Catholic, Valley

Section 2: Ambridge, Beaver, Blackhawk, Central Valley, Hopewell, Quaker Valley

Section 3: Belle Vernon, Elizabeth Forward, Laurel Highlands, Southmoreland, Uniontown, Ringgold, West Mifflin

Bill Hartlep is the sports editor of the Tribune-Review. You can contact Bill at bhartlep@triblive.com or via Twitter @BHartlep_Trib.

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