Trib HSSN 2023-24 WPIAL Class 5A boys basketball preseason breakdown

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Sunday, November 26, 2023 | 8:48 PM


The 2022-23 season was the year of the Indians in WPIAL Class 5A boys basketball.

A pair of tribes met for gold in the district title game as Penn Hills edged Peters Township to capture the program’s sixth WPIAL crown and first since 2018.

The classification kept up its reputation for being one of the most competitive classes in the district as 14 of the 24 teams finished with overall records over .500, including five of the six teams in both Section 2 and Section 4.

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

Preseason Player of the Year

Jayden Davis, Chartiers Valley

5-10, Jr., guard

25.3 ppg last season

Players to watch

Elijah Guillory, Moon

6-5, Sr., F, 17.7 ppg

Jack Dunbar, Peters Township

6-3, Sr., G, 20.0 ppg

Evan Berger, Thomas Jefferson

6-4, Sr., G, 23.1 ppg

Cam Rowell, Franklin Regional

6-5, Sr., G-F, 16.0 ppg

Jefferson Moorefield-Brown, Fox Chapel

6-0, Sr., G, 10.0 ppg

Preseason Top 5

1. Moon (12-11 last season)

The Tigers finished tied for second place with Mars, two games behind North Hills in Section 4-5A a year ago, but they return two of the top players in the classification in 6-foot-5 senior forward Elijah Guillory and 6-5 junior guard-forward Michael Santicola. Coach Gino Palmosina begins his second year at Moon with high hopes but must first survive a strong Section 4.

2. Peters Township (24-5)

Coach Joe Urmann’s Indians were one victory away from winning their first WPIAL boys basketball title in 14 years, but Peters Township lost to Penn Hills in the 5A final, 70-65. Peters has Jack Dunbar returning after he led the Indians in scoring as a junior with 20 points per game. Seniors Nate Miller and Cam Mills return, as does Dylan Donovan looking to build on a success freshman season.

3. Chartiers Valley (15-7)

The Colts are trying to follow up on a heartbreaking finish to the 2023 season. Chartiers Valley won its first 12 games of the season, but then dropped seven of its final 10 and missed the playoffs by one game. Sixth-year coach Brandon Sensor welcomes back one the the top scorers in the district in junior Jayden Davis, who averaged more than 25 points per game last winter.

4. Fox Chapel (15-12)

Two years removed from winning WPIAL Class 6A gold, Zach Skrinjar begins his 15th season as coach of the Foxes with high expectations again. Last year’s sixth man — senior guard Jefferson Moorefield-Brown — becomes the guy this season. Senior forward Will Seigel and junior forward Asher White will help the Foxes in a strong Section 2.

5. Penn Hills (23-4)

The defending district champions will have plenty of big shoes to fill with the graduation of first-team all-section guards Daemar Kelly and Noah Barren. Plus, Pitt football recruit Julian Dugger decided not to play basketball this season. The Indians will now be led by senior guard/forward Robert Thomas and senior guard Lamire Redman. Chris Giles’ team lost to Cathedral Prep in the PIAA 5A quarterfinals.

Notable

• One of the big offseason stories in Class 5A boys basketball was the Royce Parham’s early departure from North Hills. Following two dominant seasons in an Indians uniform, the junior transferred to Western Reserve Academy, a prep school in Northeast Ohio after averaging nearly 30 points per game last season. North Hills will still contend though after the emergence of sophomore Eric James and the return of Zach and Jake Pollaro.

• In the seven-year history of the classification, Penn Hills will attempt to do something only one other team has done, repeat as Class 5A champion. Mars won back-to-back 5A crowns in 2018 and 2019. Two other past champions aren’t even in 5A anymore. In this current two-year cycle, 2020 and 2022 champion Laurel Highlands dropped to 4A while 2021 winner New Castle moved up to Class 6A before last season.

• District 12 power Imhotep Charter is the current two-time defending PIAA champion in Class 5A. In the six previous state 5A boys basketball playoffs (the 2020 PIAA postseason was not finished due to the covid-19 outbreak) only Moon in 2019 has won a Class 5A state championship from District 7.

• The race for a regular-season title in Section 4 should be fun. A Chartiers Valley team that finished five games over .500 overall finished in fifth place and missed the playoffs last season. This season, Moon is Trib HSSN’s preseason No. 1 team and Chartiers Valley is No. 4. North Hills was mentioned above and two other teams with high hopes include Mars, which returns plenty of size for championship-winning coach Rob Carmody with seniors Ryan Ceh (6-6) and Remi Black (6-7), and 2023 state qualifier South Fayette with seniors Michael Plasko, Nico Lamonde and junior Gavin Orosz returning.

• Some other teams and players to watch are Bethel Park with seniors Shawn Davis and Nick Brown; Thomas Jefferson with seniors Evan Berger, Sean Sullivan and Brody Evans; Trinity with seniors Dante DeRubbo and Tim Hodges and junior Jacob Dunkle; Shaler with seniors Brandon London, Keegan Smetanka and Kaden Orga; Latrobe with senior JaTawn Williams and juniors John Wetzel and Max Butler; Penn-Trafford with seniors Tyler Freas, Jason Sabol and Ian Temple; and Kiski Area with seniors Isaiah Gonzalez, Jason Flemm and Noah Thimons.

Alignment

Section 1: Bethel Park, Connellsville, Peters Township, Ringgold, Thomas Jefferson, Trinity

Section 2: Armstrong, Fox Chapel, Penn Hills, Plum, Shaler, Woodland Hills

Section 3: Franklin Regional, Gateway, Kiski Area, Latrobe, McKeesport, Penn-Trafford

Section 4: Chartiers Valley, Mars, Moon, North Hills, South Fayette, West Allegheny

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