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

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Thursday, November 30, 2023 | 8:33 PM


Union enjoyed the best girls basketball season in program history a year ago, winning WPIAL and PIAA Class A championships and building a record of 23-6.

Pennsylvania’s Class A coach of the year, Rob Nogay, returns a pair of all-state players as the Scotties will try to defend their titles.

It won’t come easy, as several contenders have emerged, including WPIAL runner-up Aquinas Academy and semifinalists Bishop Canevin and St. Joseph, among others.

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

Preseason Player of the Year

Kelly Cleaver, Union

6-0, Sr., forward

15.4 ppg last season

Players to watch

Kylie Fruestorfer, Union

5-5, Jr., guard, 12.5 ppg

Haley Johnson, Monessen

5-9, Sr., guard/forward, 9.2 ppg

Emma Larkin, Geibel

5-4, So., guard, 23.1 ppg

Kasie Meek, West Greene

5-8, Sr., forward, 14.3 ppg

Julie Spinelli, St. Joseph

5-11, Jr., guard/forward, 19.2 ppg

Preseason Top 5

1. Union (23-6 last season)

Senior forward Kelly Cleaver (15.4 ppg, 9.0 rpg) and junior guard Kylie Fruestorfer (12.5 ppg) helped Union win WPIAL and PIAA titles and earned first-team and second-team all-state honors, respectively. The Scotties, who held teams to 29.5 ppg in eight postseason wins, carry a 17-game winning streak into this season. The group will miss graduated starters Kayla Fruehstorfer, Zoe Lepri and Kendall Preuhs.

2. St. Joseph (20-7)

The Spartans were Section 3 champions a year ago and reached the WPIAL semifinals and PIAA playoffs. They return third-team all-state guard/forward Julie Spinelli, who averaged 19.2 ppg, 9.2 rpg, 3.8 spg and is one of seven seniors for new coach Geoff Dutelle. Spinelli, a Frostburg State commit who surpassed 1,000 career points last season, was joined on the all-section team by senior center Anna Kreinbrook (9.0 ppg, 8.5 rpg) and junior guard Gia Richter (10.8 ppg).

3. Monessen (17-7)

Fresh off winning the Section 2 championship and reaching the PIAA playoffs, Monessen will be led by five returning starters, including sisters in senior guard/forward Haley Johnson (9.2 ppg) and sophomore guard Madison Johnson (8.8 ppg), who each earned all-section recognition. Hailey Johnson (10.1) and senior forward MyAsia Majors (11.6) also averaged double-digit rebounds in 2022-23.

4. Aquinas Academy (17-10)

Aquinas Academy went just 2-4 and finished third in Section 1 but got hot in the playoffs to reach the WPIAL finals for the second straight season. Junior forward Violet Johnson was a key scorer in the postseason, and sophomore guard Ellie Junker (9.0 ppg) was an all-section selection. Senior guard Emily Fisher and sophomore guard Tess Duer also are returning starters.

5. Bishop Canevin (12-9)

The co-Section 1 champion Crusaders advanced to the WPIAL semifinals and PIAA playoffs last season. Bishop Canevin has won six WPIAL titles, including the 2022 championship in Class A.

Notable

Riverview (11-11) was shorthanded in preseason workouts while eight players took part in the girls soccer team’s run to the PIAA finals. Trib HSSN girls soccer player of the year Lola Abraham, a Pitt soccer commit, returns after averaging 8.2 points and earning all-section honors for the Section 3 runner-up Raiders.

West Greene (13-11), which finished second in Section 2 and reached the WPIAL quarterfinals, will lean on senior forward Kasie Meek, who was an all-section honoree after averaging 14.3 points.

Geibel (11-12) reached the playoffs last season behind sophomore guard Emma Larkin, who earned all-section honors after averaging 23.1 ppg.

Leechburg (7-12) returns four starters — guards Adalyn Zanotto and Grace Richards and forwards Olivia Vigna and Ava Richards — after taking third in Section 3.

• Ella D’Ippolito was an all-section forward for Eden Christian (8-16) last season after averaging 11.5 ppg, 7.3 rpg and 1.2 bpg as a sophomore. Junior guard Hope Haring (10.5 ppg) also returns.

Jeannette (2-20) has just six players on its roster, but senior 6-0 guard/forward Venicia Vignoli averaged 10.0 ppg and earned all-section recognition last season.

• Of the 16 teams in Class A, 12 will qualify for the WPIAL playoffs, including four of the five teams in Section 1 and 3.

Alignment

Section 1: Aquinas Academy, Bishop Canevin, Cornell, Eden Christian, Union

Section 2: Avella, Geibel, Jefferson-Morgan, Mapletown, Monessen, West Greene

Section 3: Hillel Academy, Jeannette, Leechburg, Riverview, St. Joseph

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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