Trib HSSN 2023-24 WPIAL Class 2A girls basketball preseason breakdown

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Wednesday, November 29, 2023 | 9:31 PM


They were celebrating in Shenango when the Wildcats won the school’s first WPIAL girls basketball championship last March.

Could another first-time champ be crowned in Class 2A at the Petersen Events Center this spring?

There’s certainly a good chance of that.

Four-sport Freedom star Shaye Bailey was sidelined for the playoffs last year after suffering a collarbone injury at the end of the regular season. With Bailey and a whole slew of starters returning, the Bulldogs look like the team to beat in Class 2A.

Freedom has finished as WPIAL runner-up in each of the last two seasons, falling to North Catholic in Class 3A in 2022 and in 2A to Shenango last year.

Here is a rundown of players to watch, top 5 teams and other notables in WPIAL 2A girls basketball this season.

Preseason player of the year

Iyanna Wade, Clairton

5-4, Jr. guard

33.3 ppg last season

Players to watch

Shaye Bailey, Freedom

5-8, Sr. guard, 21.7

Erica Gribble, Greensburg Central Catholic

5-10, So., guard, 16.9

Mya Morgan, Greensburg Central Catholic

5-8, Sr., guard, 16.8

Kaitlyn Nease, Burgettstown

6-0, Sr., center, 17.5

Skylar Still, Winchester Thurston

5-4, Jr., guard, 18.9

Preseason Top 5

1. Freedom (20-6 last season)

Even with Bailey out with an injury, the Bulldogs still started four underclassmen in the WPIAL finals last season. Guard Olivia Henderson was one of those starters, and she hit four 3-pointers in the title game. Dynamic scorer Julz Mohracher graduated, so it’s not like the Bulldogs won’t have their challenges, but with Bailey back in the mix, Freedom should be tough to stop.

2. Greensburg Central Catholic (24-6)

The Centurions are in position to challenge for their first WPIAL championship since 2007. Guard Erica Gribble is a Division I prospect who made all-state as a freshman. Mya Morgan is a big-game player headed to Cal (Pa.). Two other returning starters, Avery Davis (Wheeling) and Cara Dupila (Saint Vincent), will also play college ball.

3. Serra Catholic (18-5)

The Eagles finished second in their section last year with a small roster and no seniors, so it’s reasonable to expect even greater heights this season. Top scorer Cate Clark and all-section selection Bri Battles return, as does Abby Genes, who is coming off a strong freshman campaign. Nobody in Class 2A plays better defense.

4. Washington (18-5)

The Little Prexies were the class of Section 4 last season, going undefeated in section play, and they bring back one of Class 2A’s top backcourts. Sophomore Olivia Woods averaged 15 ppg last season and senior guard Kaprice Johnson scored 12 ppg. Forward Taraysia Finley is another returning starter.

5. Burgettstown (21-7)

The Blue Devils rolled through Section 2 with a 10-0 record last season, and despite losing top players Jill Frazier and Addison Carnes to graduation, 6-foot post presence Kaitlyn Nease returns to serve as the focal point of the offense. A win over Greensburg Central Catholic in last year’s WPIAL quarterfinals is a feather in the cap of the Blue Devils.

Notable

Clairton junior scoring sensation Iyanna Wade averaged over 30 points per game last season, has already reached the 1,000-point plateau and should be making a furious climb up the WPIAL’s all-time scoring list over the next two seasons. Her presence gives the Bears a chance to make some noise in Section 3.

Winchester Thurston also has the talent to challenge in Section 3 and join the elite tier in Class 2A. Skylar Still is an amazing ballhandler and dynamic scorer, and DeShae Cochran had a big freshman season a year ago.

Ellis School brings back leading scorer Taelor Spencer and point guard Kallie Krisitian, as well as forward Paige Krimmel, in a bid to earn a playoff berth from Section 3.

• Defending champion Shenango brings back only one starter from last season, forward Amara DeFrank, after losing all-section players Emilee Fedrizzi and Janie Natale, as well as Kyle Rubin, to graduation.

Aliquippa made a surprise run to the WPIAL semifinals as a No. 11 seed last season. Top scorer Angel Henry has graduated and is playing her college ball at Cal (Pa.).

• After winning three straight WPIAL titles in Class A from 2019-2021, Rochester could be in position to contend again, led by senior point guard Aleaya Mercier and sophomore Tia Yellock in Section 1.

• Senior Libby Eannarino is one of the top returning scorers in Class 2A with a 17.5 ppg average and must be accounted for by any of Sewickley Academy’s opponents in Section 1.

Brentwood, with returning standouts Paige Boehm and Mia March, is capable of claiming the Section 2 title.

Fort Cherry is also a legit threat to win Section 2. The Rangers bring back all five starters, including one of the WPIAL’s top point guards in senior Raney Staub, and junior Olivia Kemp, who also averaged in double figures last season.

Carlynton earned a playoff spot out of Section 2 last season behind top scorer Naima Turner, who has graduated. Starters Carlee Hughes and Jocelyn Griffin return for a young team.

• Look out for Chartiers-Houston in Section 4. The Bucs brings back top guards Anna Thomas and Ava Capozzoli.

• Senior Rakiyah Porter is an accomplished scorer who will make California a tough out for any opponent in Section 4.

Bentworth’s Amber Sallee is one of Section 4’s top points guards who averaged 12.6 points per game last season. Guard Ava Massucci and Aubrie Logan are also returning starters for the Bearcats.

Frazier will have to replace prolific scorer and rebounder Delaney Warnick while vying for a Section 4 playoff berth, but with three returning starters in point guard Allie Yauch, shooting guard Chloe Harger and guard/forward Taryn Bateman leading a young roster, the Commodores plan to press the pace.

Alignment

Section 1: Aliquippa, Freedom, New Brighton, Rochester, Sewickley Academy, Shenango, South Side

Section 2: Brentwood, Burgettstown, Carlynton, Fort Cherry, Northgate, Sto-Rox

Section 3: Clairton, Ellis School, Greensburg C.C., Serra Catholic, Springdale, Steel Valley, Winchester Thurston

Section 4: Bentworth, Beth-Center, California, Carmichaels, Chartiers-Houston, Frazier, Washington

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.

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