Trib HSSN Top 20 Stories of 2020: WPIAL freshmen make sudden impact

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Tuesday, December 15, 2020 | 5:48 PM


The most unique year in our lifetime is coming to an end. With so many mass starts and stops, highs and lows, just about all walks of life were affected by the coronavirus in 2020.

High school sports were no different. The first two and a half months of the year were carefree and business as usual. Then the final nine and a half months were greatly affected by the pandemic, whether scholastic contests were played or not.

Trib HSSN will close out the year with a daily countdown and a look back at the top 20 WPIAL stories from the year 2020.

No. 19 – Fabulous Freshmen

In every high school sports year, there are outstanding ninth graders who shine in their “rookie” seasons.

However, 2020 seemed to produce a bigger, stronger crop of freshmen who shined in either their individual sport or in helping their team excel.

Here are some examples of fabulous freshman and what they accomplished this year:

Vinnie Cugini, Aquinas Academy – Led the WPIAL in scoring with 734 points while averaging 35 points per game.

Rodney Gallagher, Laurel Highlands – Averaged 23 points per game in leading the No.8-seeded Mustangs to the WPIAL Class 5A basketball championship, the Mustangs’ first in 52 years.

Vinny Kilkeary, Latrobe – The WPIAL AAA runner-up at 106 pounds rebounded to win PIAA state gold.

Mac Church, Waynesburg Central – Defeated Vinny Kilkeary to win the WPIAL AAA championship at 106, finished third in the PIAA tournament.

Chase Brandebura, Carlynton – Won a 7-3 decision over Colin Barley of Laurel to capture WPIAL Class AA gold at 106 pounds.

Christina Shi, North Allegheny – Won the WPIAL Class AAA diving championship with a score of 531.30, 58 points higher than Tigers teammate and runner-up Maya Ennis. Fellow NA freshman Zoe Ky was third.

Maggie Foley, North Catholic – Won the WPIAL Class AA diving title with a score of 440.45, finishing 41 points higher than Taylor Weyrich of Seton LaSalle.

Lakyn Schaltenbrand, Montour – Finished in second place in the WPIAL Class AA cross country championships behind a fabulous freshman from last year, Jolena Quarzo of Brownsville. Schaltenbrand finished seventh in the PIAA championships.

Jenna Lang, Bethel Park – Finished in second place in the WPIAL Class AAA cross country championships behind Mia Cochran of Moon. Lang finished tied for third place in the PIAA championships.

Brad Birch, Jeannette – Was the top Class A quarterback and finished fifth in passing in the entire WPIAL by completing 108 of 184 passes for 1,676 yards with 28 touchdowns and only five interceptions. His efforts helped the Jayhawks win the WPIAL Class A championship. Birch was injured in the title game upset of Clairton and was not available in the PIAA playoffs.

No. 20 – Golden Knights of the Tennis Courts

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