Trib HSSN 2022-23 WPIAL Class 5A boys basketball preseason breakdown
Sunday, November 27, 2022 | 9:14 PM
Fox Chapel and North Hills, last year’s WPIAL finalists in Class 6A, moved into Class 5A in PIAA realignment in the offseason. But they’re not big-school bullies swooping in to steal the lunch money of smaller schools. Far from it.
With one notable exception (see: Preseason Player of the Year), the Foxes and Indians suffered significant graduation losses, and it’ll take their best efforts to hang with a solid crop of Class 5A holdovers led by defending section champs Penn Hills and Mars.
Preseason Player of the Year
Royce Parham, North Hills
6-7, jr, forward
20.8 ppg last season
Players to watch
Daemar Kelly, Penn Hills
6-3, sr., guard
Scoop Smith, Woodland Hills
5-6, fr., guard
Jayden Davis, Chartiers Valley
5-10, so., guard
6-2, sr., guard
Tasso Sfanos, Mars
6-1, sr., guard
Preseason Top 5
1. Penn Hills (20-6 last season)
Penn Hills earned its spot atop the preseason rankings in the first round of last season’s PIAA playoffs. That’s when the Indians crushed previously undefeated District 3 champion Lampeter-Strasburg, 62-39. They return most of that roster, including Quinnipiac recruit Daemar Kelly, Julian Dugger and Noah Barren.
2. North Hills (26-2)
North Hills returns perhaps the WPIAL’s most unstoppable force in junior forward Royce Parham and is dropping in class from 6A to 5A. So why aren’t the Indians the odds-on favorites to reign at the Petersen Events Center in March? Because the other 80% of their starting five from last season graduated. Plenty of talent returns, but there could be an adjustment period.
3. Gateway (18-7)
The Gators knocked off Mars in the WPIAL quarterfinals and Laurel Highlands in the PIAA quarterfinals last season, and a good portion of that roster returns. They lost Ryan Greggerson and Will Kromka to graduation, but the returning senior trio of Kaleb Pryor, MJ Stevenson and Jaydon Carr is talented and experienced.
4. Mars (21-3)
It won’t be easy for the Fightin’ Planets to replace top scorer Zach Schlegel, but this is a team that went 21-3 to win Section 4 last season, and backcourt catalyst Tasso Sfanos returns for his senior year.
5. Woodland Hills (8-15)
Freshman guard Scoop Smith might be the most buzzworthy player in the WPIAL, a lightning-quick human highlight reel who was receiving college scholarship offers before he played his first high school game. He’s surrounded by a deep senior class.
• Class 5A underwent a pretty significant overhaul in realignment with Bethel Park, Peters Township, Fox Chapel, Penn-Trafford and North Hills coming in from Class 6A; Laurel Highlands, Albert Gallatin, Hampton, Highlands, Indiana and West Mifflin dropping to Class 4A; and New Castle bumping up to 6A.
• Bethel Park made the offseason’s biggest splash with the hiring of Dante Calabria as head coach. Calabria, the 1992 Blackhawk graduate who won a national championship at North Carolina, is a WPIAL hall of famer.
• Led by junior Evan Berger, who averaged 19.8 points per game last season, Thomas Jefferson could be the favorite in Section 1. Two teams that dropped in from Class 6A will have something to say about that, though — defensively sound Bethel Park, led by senior Ben Guffey, and Peters Township, led by senior Brendan McCullough.
• Defending WPIAL Class 6A champ Fox Chapel drops down into Section 2, but the Foxes graduated the vast majority of that roster. Top quarterback Cadin Olsen makes Armstrong a team to watch in Section 2 as well.
• Section 3 looks like a star-studded group with 20-point scorer Landon Butler of Latrobe, 6-6 forward Travarese Rowe of McKeesport and top juniors Isaiah Gonzalez of Kiski Area and Cam Rowell of Franklin Regional competing for playoff spots.
• If Scoop Smith is the freshman to watch in the WPIAL this season, that role was played by Jayden Davis of Chartiers Valley last year. He scored 27 points per game and makes the Colts a team to watch in Section 4.
Jonathan Bombulie is a Tribune-Review Assistant Sports Editor. You can contact Jonathan by email at email@example.com or via Twitter .
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