What to watch for in WPIAL sports for Dec. 18, 2023: Class 2A girls basketball finalists square off

Sunday, December 17, 2023 | 8:27 PM

For all you last minute shoppers, the WPIAL has a great stocking stuffer for district girls basketball fans with a Monday rematch of this past season’s Class 2A district championship game.

WPIAL defending champion Shenango hosts Freedom in a rematch of the title game from earlier in 2023.

In the finals, the Wildcats beat the Bulldogs, 44-34.

Kylee Rubin led Shenango with 17 points while teammates Janie Natale and Emilee Fedrizzi each added 13 points. Julia Mohrbacher led Freedom with 15 points, and Olivia Henderson scored 12 points.

It was the third meeting between the Section 1-2A rivals, who split their two regular season games with the Bulldogs winning by eight points at home in December while the Wildcats won at home in January by five points.

Thus far this season, Freedom is 2-3 but has won its last two games, including the section opener last week over South Side.

This is the section opener for Shenango, which enters the game with a record of 1-3, having lost two straight games.

New look rivals

A decade ago, there was no better rivalry in district girls basketball than Bethel Park against Mt. Lebanon.

As South Hills neighbors, the two are rivals no matter what the sport, but many times when the Black Hawks and Blue Devils collided in girls hoops, there was gold at stake.

In 2012, Mt. Lebanon won its third WPIAL championship in four years. The following year in 2013, Bethel Park captured the district crown.

Nearly every year, the two teams battled in the regular season for section supremacy behind two of the best all-time coaches. The Hawks were led by Jonna Burke while the Devils were guided by Dori Oldaker through the old Quad-A days and into the early seasons of 6A.

Three years ago, Burke left her alma-mater to take over at Shady Side Academy while Oldaker exited a year later after leading Mt. Lebanon to another championship to become a basketball mom at South Fayette.

The coaches have changed with Steve Norman now at Bethel Park and Jackie DelSardo at Mt. Lebanon, but the rivalry is renewed Monday when Lebo hosts Bethel with both teams struggling a bit.

The Black Hawks dropped their section opener to Peters Township last week and are 2-4 overall, while the Blue Devils also lost their opener, falling to Canon-McMillan last week, leaving them with an overall record of 2-3.

Pre-holiday fight for first

Some district girls basketball teams opened section play last week, but is it ever too early to get excited for a battle for first place?

We say no, thus there are three games Monday pitting two teams looking to improve to 2-0 in section play.

• In Section 1-5A, Franklin Regional visits Plum.

The Panthers were 0-4 in nonsection play before winning their section opener in their most recent outing by 31 points over Woodland Hills

The Mustangs are a perfect 5-0 overall after winning their section opener over Gateway by 33 points.

• In Section 1-4A, defending champion North Catholic hosts Freeport.

The Trojans are 2-1 and beat Highlands in their section opener last week by 20 points.

The visiting Yellowjackets are 2-4 but rolled over Valley in their section debut by 42 points.

• In Section 4-2A, Beth-Center travels to Chartiers-Houston.

The Bulldogs are at .500 with a 3-3 record but they are 1-0 in the section following a 30-point win over Frazier.

The Buccaneers are 3-2 and have won two straight, including a section triumph over California by nine points.

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