What to watch for in WPIAL sports for March 18, 2024: Basketball teams to play for PIAA finals berth

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Sunday, March 17, 2024 | 8:20 PM


Welcome to Semifinals Monday on the Road to Hershey with PIAA basketball final four games in boys 5A, 4A and A, along with girls 6A, 3A and 2A.

We are winding back the clock a few weeks to a couple of WPIAL boys basketball championship rematches.

In Class 5A, district champion Moon (26-3) will battle runner-up Franklin Regional (26-3) at Peters Township HS at 7 p.m.

In their meeting at Petersen Events Center, Franklin Regional jumped out on top and led by three points after the first quarter, by six points at the half and by five points heading into the fourth quarter.

There, Moon responded by outscoring Franklin Regional, 16-6,to win 53-48.

Junior Michael Santicola led the Tigers with 14 points and 10 rebounds, followed by 13 points from senior Aiden Reesman and 11 for senior Elijah Guillory.

Reesman scored 26 points in the state quarterfinals as Moon knocked off Bethel Park, 67-51.

Cooper Rankin led the Panthers with 16 points and Cameron Rowell scored 15 points.

Those two combined for 39 points in the quarterfinals win for Franklin Regional over Shaler, 63-57.

This is the fourth trip to the PIAA semifinals for Moon.

The Tigers defeated Bradford in the 2004 3A semifinals 54-36. They lost to Norristown in the 2008 4A final four and they defeated Mars in the 2019 5a semis, 73-55.

This is only the second trip to the state semifinals for Franklin Regional.

The Panthers defeated Butler in a 1997 Class 4A double-overtime thriller, 66-64.

The other 5A semifinals game is also a rematch of a district championship game when District 12 champion Imhotep Charter (27-3) takes on Archbishop Ryan (20-9) at Bensalem High School at 7 p.m.

The defending PIAA champion Panthers defeated the Raiders in the D-12 finals, 62-47

Another D-7 title game playback

The two teams that played for the WPIAL Class 4A boys basketball championship now will collide with a berth in the PIAA championship game at stake.

Two-time district champion and defending PIAA 4A champ Lincoln Park (26-3) will take on Hampton (25-4) at North Allegheny at 7:30 p.m.

In the finals at the Petersen Events Center, Lincoln Park did most of its damage in the second quarter.

Leading by only two points, Lincoln Park outscored Hampton, 19-11, in the second quarter and kept a double-digit lead the rest of the way in route to a 66-51 victory.

The dynamic duo of senior Brandin Cummings (17) and junior Meleek Thomas (21) did what they do in combining for 38 points to lead the Leopards. Thomas also had 10 rebounds.

However they weren’t alone as senior Mikey Crawford and junior Rhaki Lum chipped in 12 points each for Lincoln Park.

Senior Peter Kramer was held to only six points, but Liam Mignogna led the Talbots with 20 points and nine rebounds and Alex Nyilas added 16 points.

In the PIAA quarterfinals, Cummings and Crawford scored 23 points each, and Thomas tallied 22 points in the Lincoln Park win over North Catholic, 89-74.

Also in the state third round, Kramer scored 32 points, Nyilas added 17 and Mignogna scored 15 points as Hampton edged Eastern York, 60-54.

Despite being around for only a decade and a half, Lincoln Park has a rich tradition in the PIAA playoffs.

The Leopards already have played in 10 PIAA semifinals and have a record of 6-4.

The Talbots are playing in their fifth PIAA semifinals game.

Hampton won its first state semis contest 40 years ago, beating Sto-Rox in the 1984 3A semifinals, but lost final four contests in 2009, 2010 and 2012.

In the other 4A semifinals game, District 2 champion Scranton Prep (19-9), fresh off its upset over District 12 champion Neumann-Goretti, will battle another team from District 12, Archbishop Carroll (20-8), at Bethlehem Liberty High School at 7 p.m.

Class A champs still alive

Two-time WPIAL and defending boys Class A champion Imani Christian is still waiting for a serious challenge on the Road to Hershey.

Imani Christian (17-10) will take on District 6 champion Bishop Carroll (18-10) at Hempfield High School at 7 p.m.

The Saints have racked up three double-digit wins in the PIAA playoffs, beating Union-Rimersburg by 23 points, rolling past Clarion by 34 points and defeating District 10 champion Farrell by 10 points.

Senior Nate Brazil Scored 27 points, and Avery Wesley added 18 points in the third-round win over Farrell.

The Huskies outslugged Union on Friday in the quarterfinals 80-73. Jace Casses and Luke Rebco each had 22 points for BC.

In the other Class A semifinals, District 3 champion Linville Hill (23-1) will take on District 5 winner Berlin-Brothersvalley (27-2) at Shippensburg at 7 p.m.

GCC takes aim at the champs

A year ago, Kennedy Catholic defeated Homer-Center in the PIAA Class 2A girls basketball championship game, 65-45, earning its first state crown in 22 years.

The Golden Eagles are one win away from defending their title in Hershey, but first they must get by the WPIAL champs.

Kennedy Catholic (23-4) will face Greensburg Central Catholic (23-6) at North Allegheny High School at 6 p.m.

The District 10 champs rolled past Fort Cherry in the opening round, defeated Portage in the second round and Bishop McCort in the quarterfinals.

GCC has knocked off Bellwood-Antis, West Middlesex and Everett to reach the final four.

In the quarterfinals, Erica Gribble scored 20 points, Mya Morgan 15 and Avery Davis 13 points as the Centurions crushed the District 5 champion Warriors, 56-26.

In the other Class 2A semifinals, Marion Center (23-5) will take on Minersville (25-4) at Bald Eagle Area High School at 6 p.m.

Two with 7

WPIAL girls basketball teams have been eliminated in Class 6A and 3A after Friday loses by Norwin, Shady Side Academy and Avonworth.

However, those playoffs roll on without any District 7 teams.

In the Class 6A semifinals, Spring-Ford (24-5), which knocked out Norwin, battles Garnet Valley (24-5) at Norristown High School at 7:30 p.m.

In the first game at Norristown, Cardinal O’Hara (24-4) takes on District 11 champion Parkland (29-2) at 6 p.m.

In the Class 3A final four games, Westmont-Hilltop (22-4), which beat Shady Side Academy in the quarterfinals, faces District 10 champion Mercyhurst Prep (24-3), which knocked out Avonworth in third third round. That game is slated for Clarion University at 7 p.m.

In the other semis, Loyalsock Township (27-3) goes up against District 3 champion Lancaster Catholic (24-2) at Shamokin High School at 7 p.m.

David vs. Goliath on the ice

One program is trying to win its fifth PIHL Penguins Cup championship and its second in three years.

The other is hoping to raise the cup for the first time.

The puck drops on the PIHL Class 2A Penguins Cup championship Monday when Thomas Jefferson (20-2) faces Penn-Trafford at UPMC Lemieux Sports Complex in Cranberry.

The game can be seen on Trib HSSN starting at 6:15 p.m.

The Jaguars knocked off Franklin Regional, 6-5, to win the 2022 Penguins Cup 2A title.

Now TJ is on the hunt for more PIHL gold.

The Jaguars tied South Fayette for the regular-season title and knocked off Hempfield and Franklin Regional to reach the title game.

In the 9-3 win over the Panthers in the semifinals, Jake Stock and Scott Allen registered hat tricks for the Jags.

Penn-Trafford has been the surprise of the PIHL postseason as the No. 8 and final seed in the bracket.

The Warriors stunned top-seed South Fayette in the quarterfinals, then upset No. 4 Norwin in the semis 6-3.

Drew Hall had two goals and an assist in a five-goal second period explosion for P-T.

The two teams split their regular season meetings.

Penn-Trafford won in December, 3-2, and Thomas Jefferson prevailed in January, 5-1

D-2 finals

While it is not a Penguins Cup event, the PIHL will have its annual Division 2 hockey championship Monday at UPMC Lemieux Sports Center in Cranberry as Neshannock (17-3-1) takes on Burrell (18-3) at 8:45 p.m. on Trib HSSN.

Division 2 is made up of schools that co-op with players from different high schools that don’t have a hockey team.

Neshannock is trying to win its third Division 2 title in the last four years after winning in 2021 and 2022.

Burrell has never won a high school hockey crown.

The two teams split their regular-season meetings.

The Lancers won in October, 6-5, and the Buccaneers prevailed in December, 7-3.

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