Trib HSSN 2022-23 WPIAL Class 6A boys basketball preseason breakdown

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Sunday, November 27, 2022 | 6:01 AM


It’s more than a safe bet to predict that there will be a new WPIAL champion in Class 6A boys basketball this season. It’s a sure thing.

Last year’s finalists, Fox Chapel and North Hills, both dropped down to Class 5A in PIAA realignment. A lean, mean crop of 12 teams remains in Class 6A to try to fill the Foxes’ throne.

Preseason Player of the Year

Dante DePante, Central Catholic

6-3, sr., guard

20.1 points per game last season

Players to watch

Adam Bilinsky, Norwin

6-3, sr., forward

Isiah Boice, New Castle

6-0, sr., guard

Luke Lawson, Seneca Valley

6-3, sr., forward

Joey Dopirak, North Allegheny

6-5, jr., forward

James Wesling, Baldwin

6-0, sr., guard

Preseason Top 5

1. Central Catholic (18-7 last year)

The Vikings had a successful season a year ago, finishing second in their section and reaching the WPIAL semifinals, and the vast majority of that roster returns. In fact, they bring back a starting five that could fill an all-section team by itself. Dante DePante runs the show, getting to the rim or pulling up with equal aplomb. Debaba Tshiebwe is a 6-7 force on the low blocks.

2. New Castle (27-3)

On the surface, the Red Hurricanes face significant challenges this season. After a WPIAL runner-up season, they lost heart-and-soul Mike Wells to graduation and got bumped up to Class 6A. But this is New Castle. It’s nothing the program can’t handle, not with the deep senior class coming back. Most notably, Isaiah Boice is a high-energy player who can shoot the lights out.

3. Upper St. Clair (16-8)

Only two years removed from a memorable playoff run, the Panthers will have to replace a talented senior class, but they have the horses to contend again. They play excellent defense and have a handful of talented scorers, starting with senior Aidan Besselman, junior Devin Hall and sophomore Julian Dahlem.

4. Mt. Lebanon (16-10)

Speaking of defense, nobody did it better last season than the Blue Devils, who tied Upper St. Clair for the Section 2 title. Senior Michael Pfeuffer should step up into a lead scoring role and guards Joey Hetz and Brent Hamel are sophomores to watch.

5. Butler (13-10)

The cornerstone of the Butler offense for the last couple of seasons, Devin Carney, has taken his talents to Duquesne, but the Golden Tornado still have an athletic backcourt made up of two-sport stars that will give most opponents fits. Madden Clement, a baseball commit to Virginia Tech, is a dangerous shooter. Braylon Littlejohn, a top wide receiver, can slash and score.

Notable

North Hills and Fox Chapel were two of the class’ section champs last season as well. Upper St. Clair and Mt. Lebanon split the other section title.

• Four other teams – Bethel Park, Peters Township, Penn-Trafford and Greensburg Salem – also dropped down out of Class 6A. Only Class 5A finalist New Castle moved up into the class. That means instead of 17 teams in three sections, there are 12 teams in two sections this season.

Baldwin is a team to watch in Section 2. The Highlanders were a nine seed in the WPIAL playoffs last year and bring back scorer James Wesling, who set a school record with 48 points in a game against Bethel Park.

North Allegheny is a team to watch in Section 1. Top scorer Matt McDonough graduated, but 6-5 swingman Joey Dopirak is a constant double-double threat and 6-10 Ty Iwanonkow can cause defensive havok from the paint out to the 3-point line.

Alignment

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

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

Jonathan Bombulie is a Tribune-Review Assistant Sports Editor. You can contact Jonathan by email at jbombulie@triblive.com or via Twitter .

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