Westmoreland high school basketball playoff preview capsules for Feb. 19, 2024

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Sunday, February 18, 2024 | 4:37 PM


WPIAL basketball playoffs

Boys

Class 5A

First round

15-Mars (10-12) at 2-Franklin Regional (20-2)

7 p.m. Monday

Winner plays: Winner of 10-Penn Hills (14-7)/7-Gateway (16-6) on Thursday in quarterfinals (time, site TBD)

Section finish: Mars T-4th, Section 4; Franklin Regional 1st Section 3

Players to watch: Cam Rowell, Franklin Regional; Ryan Ceh, Mars

Layup lines: Franklin Regional returned to the playoffs after two years away, winning its first section title since 2017-18. The athletic Rowell (18 ppg) leads a fast-paced group that also includes Cooper Rankin, Connor Crossey, Colin Masten and others in a steady rotation. The Panthers average 63.2 points. … Mars has been leaking oil, losing 7 of its last 8, but the Fightin Planets average 60 points. Ceh leads the team in scoring (22 ppg) and can hit from the perimeter.

13-Penn-Trafford (11-11) at 4-Thomas Jefferson (19-3)

8 p.m. Monday

Winner plays: Winner of 12-Kiski Area (14-7)/5-Peters Township (17-5) on Thursday in quarterfinals (time, site TBD)

Section finish: Penn-Trafford T-3rd, Section 3; Thomas Jefferson 1st, Section 1

Players to watch: Tyler Freas, Penn-Trafford; Evan Berger, Thomas Jefferson

Layup lines: Late-season wins over Gateway, McKeesport and Latrobe propelled Penn-Trafford into the postseason. That stretch followed a four-game slide. Freas averages 18 points and leads a guard-heavy lineup. … Thomas Jefferson has won 15 of its last 16 and has shown a propensity for big point totals. The Jaguars beat Ringgold, 95-69, and Belle Vernon, 99-90, both in regulation. They average 72.8. Berger is the top scorer with a 17-point average.

Class 3A

First round

10-South Park (13-8) at 7-Yough (18-4)

8 p.m. Monday

Winner plays: Winner of 15-McGuffey (14-8)/2-Mohawk (15-7) on Thursday in quarterfinals (site, time TBD)

Section finish: South Park 3rd, Section 2; Yough T-1st, Section 4

Players to watch: Luke Scarff, South Park; Terek Crosby, Yough

Layup lines: South Park has won 4 of its last 5 games. The Eagles come from a section that features No. 5 seed OLSH and No. 6 Seton LaSalle, teams they played close in four games. The Eagles have nonsection losses to Southmoreland and Belle Vernon. … Yough beat South Park early in the season 51-41. The Cougars are on a roll, having won 11 in a row while capturing back-to-back section titles. Crosby is the second-leading scorer in the WPIAL (26 ppg) and has 1,925 career points. Austin Matthews can be a difference maker on both ends of the court.

12-Derry (13-6) at 5-Our Lady of the Sacred Heart (18-4)

6 p.m. Monday (at Fox Chapel)

Winner plays: Winner of 13-Mt. Pleasant (8-11)/4-Neshannock (17-3) on Thursday in quarterfinals (time, site TBD)

Section finish: Derry 4th, Section 3; OLSH T-1st, Section 2

Players to watch: Nate Papuga, Derry; Van Kavals, OLSH

Layup lines: Derry was the second-highest scoring team in Section 3 (64.3 ppg), led by senior guards Papuga and Brady Angus and freshman Stanley Rajkovich. Papuga, who reached 1,000 career points this season, averages 23.9. … OLSH, a perennial power, has won nine in a row, scoring 70 or more three times in that time. The Chargers won four straight WPIAL 2A championships from 2019-22. Kavals is a 6-5 junior forward who can be a tough matchup.

13-Mt. Pleasant (8-12) vs. 4-Neshannock (18-3)

7 p.m. Monday

Winner plays: Winner of 12-Derry (13-6)/5-OLSH (18-4) on Thursday in quarterfinals (time, site TBD)

Section finish: Mt. Pleasant 3rd, Section 4; Neshannock 2nd, Section 1

Players to watch: Dante Giallonardo, Mt. Pleasant; David Kwiat, Neshannock

Layup lines: Mt. Pleasant returns to the playoffs after two years away. Coach Annie Malkowiak took over the Vikings this season, becoming the first woman to coach a varsity boys basketball team in WPIAL history. Giallonardo is physical around the rim, and Connor Pavlocak is a streaky shooter. … Neshannock started the season 12-1 and finished just behind Mohawk in section. The Lancers are the highest-scoring team in the 3A playoffs, at 65.8 ppg. Kwiat averages 15.8 points.

Girls

Class A

First round

12-Leechburg (8-10) at 5-Monessen (17-5)

7 p.m. Monday

Winner plays: 4-Riverview (15-6) on Thursday in quarterfinals at Fox Chapel (time TBD)

Section finish: Leechburg T-3rd, Section 3; Monessen 1st, Section 2

Players to watch: Grace Richards, Leechburg; Hailey Johnson, Monessen

Layup lines: Leechburg has dropped three in a row entering the postseason. The Blue Devils are the lowest-scoring Class A playoff team at 29.6 points per game. … Monessen, which didn’t lose a section game, allows only 32.2 points. The Greyhounds won eight in a row before a 25-point loss to Riverview. Johnson had multiple double-doubles. She pulled down 26 rebounds against Avella. MyAsia Majors, Sidney Campbell and Madison Johnson are other key players in an experienced lineup.

9-Jeannette (8-9) at 8-West Greene (9-13)

7 p.m. Monday

Winner plays: At 1-Union (16-5) on Thursday in quarterfinals (time TBD)

Section finish: Jeannette 3rd, Section 3; West Greene 3rd, Section 2

Players to watch: Venicia Vignoli, Jeannette; Kendra Tharp, West Greene

Layup lines: Jeannette made the playoffs despite playing much of the season with six girls. The Lady Jayhawks finished one game with three players and another with four. Injuries forced them to play four section games in five days to finish the regular season. … West Greene won its final two games to break a four-game losing streak. Neither team scores, nor gives up, more than 39 points a game.

Bill Beckner Jr. is a TribLive reporter covering local sports in Westmoreland County. He can be reached at bbeckner@triblive.com.

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