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

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Sunday, November 26, 2023 | 9:03 PM


South Fayette claimed a second straight WPIAL Class 5A girls basketball title last winter behind Trib HSSN player of the year Maddie Webber and a relentless defense.

Webber, who averaged 17.3 points and was named the state’s Class 5A player of the year, is now at Villanova, but the cupboard isn’t bare for the Lions, who are 51-8 over the past two seasons.

South Fayette will have plenty of challengers, however, both in Section 4 and throughout the WPIAL.

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

Preseason Player of the Year

Meghan Murray, Hampton

5-7, senior, G

20.1 ppg last season

Players to watch

Hope Hawkins, Woodland Hills

6-1, senior, F, 15.0 ppg

Rachael Manfredo, McKeesport

5-11, senior, G/F, 16.0 ppg

Emma Paul, Armstrong

5-4, senior, G, 17.3 ppg

Olivia Pepple, Penn-Trafford

5-9, senior, G, 18.0 ppg

Hannah Pugliese, Penn Hills

5-8, senior, G, 16.0 ppg

Preseason Top 5

1. South Fayette (28-3 last season)

After winning back-to-back WPIAL titles and finishing as PIAA runners-up last season, the Lions again have high expectations but will look different. They will miss star guard Maddie Webber (Villanova) and 6-foot-4 center Ava Leroux (Elon), as well as G/F Rachel Black, who all graduated. Back are senior guard Lainey Yater and senior guard/forward Erica Hall, who both earned first-team all-section honors. The Lions will rely on a defense that allowed just 37 ppg last season.

2. McKeesport (23-6)

The Tigers advanced to the WPIAL semifinals and PIAA quarterfinals last season and return a talented lineup capable again of contending. The group is led by senior G/F Rachael Manfredo, a Trib HSSN all-star who averaged 16 points and 10 rebounds. Senior guard Brooke Evans, who was second-team all-section, also returns for the Tigers, who are 46-12 over the past two seasons.

3. Armstrong (19-4)

After sharing the Section 2 championship with Mars last season, Armstrong earned the No. 5 seed. The River Hawks return two of the top players in Section 2 in senior guard Emma Paul (17.3 ppg) and senior forward Kyla Fitzgerald (15.0 ppg). Both were all-section selections. Senior forward Sarai Weaver also earned honorable mention recognition.

4. Woodland Hills (13-14)

After reaching the WPIAL semifinals last year, Woodland Hills will look to contend for the Section 1 title behind senior all-section forward Hope Hawkins (15.0 ppg). Also back are senior guards Carmen Vasquez and Jhalynn Wilson, who were second-team and honorable mention picks, respectively.

5. Oakland Catholic (25-5)

A WPIAL finalist last year, Oakland Catholic graduated Trib HSSN all-star Alexa Washington, who is now at North Florida after averaging 16.0 ppg. The Eagles, who averaged 64.6 points, lost four starters to graduation, but return junior forward London Creach, an honorable mention all-section selection.

Notable

Lincoln Park (18-5) and Trinity (18-8) each return three players who earned all-section honors in Section 4, keeping both among top contenders in the section. Lincoln Park will be paced by seniors Maddie Syka, Sarah Scott and Sincere Conley. Trinity will lean on Macie Justice, Maddy Roberts and Ruby Morgan.

Penn-Trafford (18-10) returns four starters after reaching the PIAA quarterfinals last season. The Warriors are led by senior all-section guard and Gannon recruit Olivia Pepple (16.5 ppg), as well as juniors Kamryn Pieper and Lauren Marton (10 ppg) and sophomore Torrie DeStefano.

Hampton (15-11) senior guard Meghan Murray (20.1 ppg), a Kent State recruit, was a first-team all-section pick and helped the Talbots reach the WPIAL seventh-place game. Senior guard Kathleen Milon was an honorable mention and is among four returning starters.

Indiana (15-8), the Section 1 champion, will miss 6-foot-5 Eve Fiala, who headed to Dayton after averaging 14.4 points and earning third-team all-state honors. Senior guard Bella Antonacci was a second-team all-section pick last year.

Fox Chapel (13-9) was young but talented last season. Sophomore guard Lyla Jablon was a second-team all-section pick, while juniors Natalia Schaffer and Bella Urso and senior Sarah Slember picked up honorable mention honors.

Penn Hills (10-12) will be led by senior guard Hannah Pugliese (16.0 ppg), a Slippery Rock commit, and senior G/F Egypt Coleman. Both were first-team all-section selections, along with sophomore guard Milani Oliver, who picked up honorable mention recognition.

Latrobe (14-9) will look to returning starters Belle Blossey, Carley Berk and Elle Snyder to lead under first-year coach Mackenzie Livingston.

Alignment

Section 1: Franklin Regional, Gateway, Indiana, Kiski Area, Penn Hills, Plum, Woodland Hills

Section 2: Armstrong, Fox Chapel, Hampton, Mars, New Castle, North Hills, Shaler

Section 3: Albert Gallatin, Connellsville, Latrobe, McKeesport, Oakland Catholic, Penn-Trafford, Thomas Jefferson

Section 4: Lincoln Park, Montour, Moon, South Fayette, Trinity, West Allegheny

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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