What to watch for in high school sports for March 18, 2022: Basketball semifinals tip off

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Thursday, March 17, 2022 | 9:51 PM


Welcome to Semifinals Friday in the PIAA basketball playoffs.

With Blackhawk losing in the quarterfinals, there are no undefeated girls teams from the WPIAL left here in 2022.

One team still alive for state gold lived the perfect season dream 13 years ago.

Mt. Lebanon finished 31-0, defeating Fox Chapel in the WPIAL finals and Cardinal O’Hara in the PIAA championship to finish one of the greatest girls basketball seasons in district history.

It was the start of the three-year run of state championships for Dori Oldaker’s Blue Devils.

In Mt. Lebanon’s 2010 run in the PIAA postseason, the team they beat in the semifinals to reach the finals at Penn State was Central Dauphin, 58-40.

The Blue Devils and Rams will battle again 12 years later for a spot in the 6A championship game Friday at Altoona.

The winner will face the Plymouth-Whitemarsh vs. Cedar Cliff winner in the title game on March 26.

WPIAL rematch

Coming into this week, there was a realistic chance we could see four WPIAL championship game rematches in the PIAA final four.

However, only the girls Class 3A title game rematch played out as North Catholic and Freedom will square off again in the state semifinals on Friday at North Hills.

Don’t be fooled by the Trojans’ 3-0 advantage in head-to-head meetings with the Bulldogs though.

After North Catholic won at home in December by 15 points, the last two meetings have been tight with the Trojans winning by five points each time, including a 48-43 win in the district title game.

North Catholic sophomore Alayna Rocco has been the leading scorer in all three state playoff wins. She scored 26 points in the quarterfinals victory over Forest Hills, 60-52.

The duo of senior Renae Mohrbacher and sophomore Shaye Bailey has led the Bulldogs in the PIAA postseason. On Tuesday, Mohrbacher scored 20 and Bailey 19 points in a 56-50 win over River Valley.

The other semifinals game is a district finals rematch as well as Neumann-Goretti faced District 12 foe Imhotep Charter.

The PIAA girls 3A finals on March 26th in Hershey.

Taking out the champs

Bellwood-Antis was the No. 3 team out of District 6 this season after losing to Bishop McCort in the semifinals.

However, the Blue Devils have been taking down top teams since the state playoffs began.

Bellwood-Antis opened by eliminating WPIAL runner-up Our Lady of the Sacred Heart in the first round.

The Devils then knocked out District 10 champion West Middlesex in the second round and District 6 champion Homer-Center in the quarterfinals.

Could WPIAL champion Neshannock be next?

The Lancers have cruised to the semifinals with wins over Penns Manor, Cambridge Springs and Shenango by a combined 76 points.

Neshannock tips off against Bellwood-Antis at 7 p.m. Friday at Armstrong with the winner facing the District 4 title game rematch between Southern Columbia and Mount Carmel.

The finals are on March 25.

No rematch

Many district basketball fans were looking forward to a possible rematch of a game of the year candidate.

Laurel Highlands edged New Castle in double overtime in a game that was close throughout in the WPIAL final. Rodney Gallagher hit two free throws to break a tie and give the Mustangs their second WPIAL title in three years.

However, the foul call that led to the free throws sparked great controversy, fueling the fire for a rematch.

Gateway was more than happy to avoid a second Mustangs-Red Hurricanes contest.

The Gators stunned Laurel Highlands in the quarterfinals, 55-52. Ryan Greggerson and Jayden Carr had 12 points each for Gateway, which will participate in its first ever PIAA Class 5A semifinals game Friday.

Senior Mike Wells had 17 points to lead New Castle past Penn Hills in the quarterfinals. Wells has scored 91 points in the ‘Canes three PIAA playoff wins.

The other semifinals game in boys 5A pits Imhotep Charter against Chester. The 5A state title game is set for March 25.

Lone Quakers

After Archbishop Carroll defeated Montour in the PIAA boys 4A quarterfinals, WPIAL champion Quaker Valley became the lone District 7 team still standing.

Now, the Quakers get a shot at AB Carroll in the semifinals at Bald Eagle.

The Patriots finished as the No. 5 team out of District 12, meaning they did not even reach the district semifinals. Now that they have defeated Berks Catholic, Athens and Montour, they have reached the state final four.

Quaker Valley improved to 26-0 with a six-point win over District 10 champion Fairview in the quarterfinals. For the second time in the state playoffs, Markus Frank nearly hit the 30-point mark, scoring 29 points for QV.

District 2 champion Dallas faces District 12 champion Neumann-Goretti in the other semifinals game Friday with the title game set for March 24.

Champions final four

All four remaining teams in the boys Class A playoffs are district champions.

WPIAL champion Bishop Canevin will slug it out against District 9 winner, Elk County Catholic on Friday at Clarion University.

This will be the Crusaders’ second state semifinals game. BC lost to Sewickley Academy in the 2017 final four, 50-48.

ECC is 1-3 in PIAA semifinals games. The Crusaders won state gold in 2006. Two of their three losses came against WPIAL teams. Elk County lost to Monessen in 1988 and to Duquesne in 1992.

In the east, District 11 champion Nativity BVM will face District 4 champion St. John Neumann on Friday with the state championship game slated for March 24.

State swimming continues

The third day of swimming events in the PIAA championships is scheduled for Friday at Bucknell.

The Friday boys and girls Class 2A events include boys diving, 200-yard medley relay, 200-yard freestyle, 200-yard individual medley, 50-yard freestyle, 100-yard butterfly and the 200-yard freestyle relay.

The PIAA swimming championships conclude Saturday.

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