Trib HSSN 2023-24 WPIAL Class 3A girls basketball preseason breakdown

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Tuesday, November 28, 2023 | 8:27 PM


Avonworth won its seventh WPIAL girls basketball championship last winter and first since 2005.

Coach Nick Dizon and the Lopes return three starters in their quest for a repeat, but will face plenty of competition.

Neshannock has won three WPIAL titles across two classifications in the past five years, and Mohawk won back-to-back crowns in 2020 and ‘21. Many others made deep playoff runs last season and expect to contend in 2023-24.

Here is a rundown of players to watch, top 5 teams and other notables in WPIAL 3A girls basketball this season.

Preseason Player of the Year

Mallory Daly, Seton LaSalle

5-8, senior, G

21.3 ppg last season

Players to watch

Rebecca Goetz, Avonworth

6-0, senior, F, 13.9 ppg

Greta O’Brien, Avonworth

5-8, junior, G, 15.6 ppg

Kaley Rohanna, Waynesburg

5-7, senior, G, 16.7 ppg

Maggie Spell, Shady Side Academy

5-11, sophomore, G, 20.6 ppg

Karis Thomas, Shady Side Academy

5-6, sophomore, G, 16.7 ppg

Preseason Top 5

1. Avonworth (20-6 last season)

Balanced scoring and a stifling defense that allowed just 35.0 ppg led Avonworth to a WPIAL Class 3A title and the PIAA second round last season. Seniors Eden Schleis and Rebecca Goetz and junior Greta O’Brien return to lead the way for the Lopes. Goetz (13.9 ppg) and O’Brien (15.6 ppg) were all-section honorees.

2. Shady Side Academy (25-4)

The Section 3 champion Bulldogs earned the No. 1 seed in the playoffs last year and reached the WPIAL semifinals and PIAA quarterfinals. They are led by a pair of sophomore guards who earned all-section honors last year — Karis Thomas (16.7 ppg) and Maggie Spell (20.6 ppg). Coach Jonna Burke was granted a preliminary injunction by a federal judge to avoid a one-year PIAA suspension for an alleged recruiting violation.

3. Neshannock (18-9)

The Lancers are 66-14 over the past three seasons under longtime coach Luann Grybowski. Neshannock shared the Section 1 title and reached the WPIAL semifinals last season after winning WPIAL titles in 2021 and ‘22 and the 2022 PIAA championship. All-state forward Mairan Haggerty (22.5 ppg) graduated and is now at Seton Hill, but senior Kaitlyn Fries, junior Gabby Quinn and sophomores Payton Newman and Jaidon Nogay all gained valuable experience last season.

4. Waynesburg (21-6)

Senior guard Kaley Rohanna (17.6 ppg) leads the defending Section 4 champion Raiders and is chasing the school’s all-time scoring record. Guard Addison Blair, forward Josie Horne and center Peyton Cowell also return to the starting lineup, and guards Emma Kindervater and Avery Davis also saw significant minutes.

5. Our Lady of the Sacred Heart (22-8)

Coach Don Eckerle, who enters his 21st season and has accumulated more than 300 career wins, led OLSH to a runner-up finish in Section 2 and trips to the WPIAL quarterfinals and PIAA semifinals last season. Back are senior captain Presley Holmes and seven other letterwinners. The Chargers will miss all-section guard Kyleigh Nagy (11.0 ppg), who graduated.

Notable

• Laurel (24-4) was a WPIAL finalist and co-Section 1 champion last season but graduated four starters, including all-section guards Regan Atkins (16.7 ppg) and Danielle Pontius (10.6 ppg). Junior forward Tori Atkins returns.

Apollo-Ridge (19-4) will miss graduated all-section players Brinley Toland (14.0 ppg) and Sydney McCray (13.9 ppg) and will try to maintain momentum after taking second in Section 3. Jeff Zelonka takes over for coach Ray Bartha, who stepped down after 37 years and 579 career wins. Senior Sophie Yard averaged 13.4 ppg.

Mt. Pleasant (14-9) graduated standout forward Tiffany Zelmore, who averaged 28.8 ppg and scored 1,629 career points before heading to Seton Hill. Four players with starting experience return, including senior Riley Gesinski and sophomore Morgan Gesinski, a pair of soccer standouts in the backcourt. Sophomore forward Grace Arrigo is a player to watch.

Mohawk (15-11), which reached the WPIAL seventh-place game last season, will lean on senior all-section forward Erynne Capalbo (15.5 ppg).

South Park (11-12) returns four starters — Brooke Paylo, Hayley Bennett, Addison Kerr and Ella Clifford — after finishing second in Section 4 last season.

• Five starters return for McGuffey (15-8), which had its best season since 2014 and finished third in Section 4. Back are forward Taylor Schumacher (15.1 ppg, 8.5 rpg), guard Lexi Ewig (9.7 ppg, 6.3 rpg, 4.3 apg) and forward Madison Gaso (7.8 ppg, 4.0 rpg), who were all named to the all-section team.

Charleroi (11-10) returns a pair of high-scoring all-section guards in seniors McKenna DeUnger (18.4 ppg) and Bella Carroto (15.2 ppg).

• Mallory Daly, a senior guard for Seton LaSalle (13-10), was one of the WPIAL’s most dynamic players last season. The Buffalo recruit is a three-time all-section selection who averaged 21.3 points, 10.3 rebounds, 5.3 steals and 3.3 assists last season and surpassed 1,000 career points. Guards Lexi Calabria, Tiara Curry (10.4 ppg) and Addie Lonergan (10.1 ppg) also return.

Ellwood City (8-14) is looking for its first playoff win since 1995 when coach Dena Noble was a senior and helped the team reach the WPIAL finals. Seven letterwinners return, including fourth-year starter Claire Noble (12.0 ppg), a Clarion commit.

Alignment

Section 1: Beaver Falls, Ellwood City, Laurel, Mohawk, Neshannock, Riverside

Section 2: Avonworth, East Allegheny, Keystone Oaks, OLSH, Seton LaSalle, South Allegheny

Section 3: Apollo-Ridge, Burrell, Deer Lakes, Ligonier Valley, Mt. Pleasant, Shady Side Academy

Section 4: Brownsville, Charleroi, McGuffey, South Park, Waynesburg Central, Yough

Bill Hartlep is the TribLive sports editor. A Pittsburgh native and Point Park graduate, he joined the Trib in 2004, covering high school sports. He held various editing roles before assuming his current position in 2019. He can be reached at bhartlep@triblive.com.

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