What to watch for in WPIAL sports for Feb. 19, 2024: Opening round of basketball playoffs continues

Sunday, February 18, 2024 | 9:53 PM

It’s Day 3 of the opening round of the WPIAL basketball playoffs with boys Class 5A and 3A, along with girls Class A first-round contests taking center stage.

When brackets are released, many eyes gravitate to the No. 8 against No. 9 matchup in a 16-team tournament, which often is the most competitive of the first-round clashes.

In the boys Class 5A playoffs, the 8-9 game is a battle between 12-win teams with historic significance.

No. 8 Fox Chapel (12-10) will host No. 9 North Hills (12-9) at 8 p.m. as the Foxes and Indians meet for a third straight year in the district boys basketball playoffs.

Two years ago, North Hills was the top seed and favored to win in Class 6A when it met No. 2 Fox Chapel in the WPIAL championship game.

The Foxes’ defense got the job done, limiting Indians star sophomore Royce Parham to eight points in winning their first district crown in 45 years, 43-36.

North Hills responded last year when the two met again, this time in the Class 5A quarterfinals.

Then-freshman Eric James scored 20 of his 30 points in the fourth quarter as the Indians got sweet revenge and defeated the Foxes, 67-62.

Now the rubber game is set with the winner advancing to Thursday’s quarterfinals.

Watch the game at 8 p.m. on Trib HSSN.

The other seven boys first round games in 5A Monday include:

• No. 16 Woodland Hills (9-13), fresh off a preliminary round victory at Trinity on Friday, visiting top seed Moon (19-3).

• Section 1 champion Thomas Jefferson (19-3), winner of seven straight games, welcomes No. 13 Penn-Trafford (11-11).

• No. 12 Kiski Area (14-7) will visit the runner-up in the district a year ago, No. 5 Peters Township (17-5). The Indians have won five in a row.

• Five years after winning a second straight WPIAL 5A title, No. 15 Mars (10-12) travels to No. 2 Franklin Regional (19-2). The Section 3 winning Panthers have won nine straight.

• A much anticipated matchup takes place in Monroeville as defending champion and No. 10 Penn Hills (14-7) makes the short trip next door to battle No. 7 Gateway (16-6) with audio on Trib HSSN.

• One team has had a bumpy road to travel this year while the other has been smooth sailing this season. The two meet when No. 14 Chartiers Valley (11-11) visits Section 2 champion Shaler (20-2) at 8 p.m. with audio on Trib HSSN.

• Two teams entering the playoffs in opposite direction face off when No. 11 Bethel Park (11-11), which has lost three straight games, visits No. 6 South Fayette (14-8), winner of four in a row. Listen to the game on Trib HSSN.

Happy anniversary

Two Class 3A boys basketball programs celebrating milestone victories in 2024 will collide on the court in a first round contest Monday when No. 3 Shady Side Academy takes on No. 14 Beaver Falls at Shaler at 6 p.m. with audio on Trib HSSN.

It was 25 years ago when Shady Side Academy won its first district boys basketball crown, defeating Farrell to win the 1999 2A title, 49-46.

Twenty years earlier, Beaver Falls captured its second WPIAL championship when it edged Burrell, 55-54, to capture gold in 1979.

Fast forward to this season, where the Bulldogs are 15-7 and have won nine of their last 10 games, including a victory over top seed and defending champion Deer Lakes.

It has been a struggle of sorts for the Tigers, who are 7-15 and finished in fourth place in Section 1. They have lost three straight and six of their last eight.

Here is a look at the other seven boys 3A first round matchups:

• Last year, they won it all as the No. 4 seed. Now the defending champs have the target on their chest as the No. 1 seed. Deer Lakes’ (17-4) first postseason test is a home game against No. 16 Sto-Rox (10-12) with video coverage on Trib HSSN.

• Three years since it shocked the district as an 11 seed to win 3A gold, Ellwood City (15-7) is a No. 9 seed as it heads south to visit No. 8 and Section 4 co-champion Washington (15-7).

• No. 4 Neshannock (18-3) has won five straight games, including an overtime victory over No. 2 Mohawk. The Lancers will host No. 13 Mt. Pleasant (8-12) on Trib HSSN.

• No. 5 Our Lady of the Sacred Heart (18-4), co-champion in Section 2, has reached the WPIAL finals seven straight years, winning it all from 2019-22. The Chargers open up the 2024 postseason against senior Nate Papuga (24.9 ppg) and No. 12 Derry (13-6) at Fox Chapel on Trib HSSN.

• It is south visiting north as No. 15 McGuffey (14-8) visits No. 2 and Section 1 champion Mohawk (15-7) on Trib HSSN. The Warriors are led by sophomore Bobby Fadden, who averages 22.1 points per game.

• No. 7 and Section 4 co-champ Yough (18-4), led by Terek Crosby, a senior who finished second in the district in scoring with 25.8 points per game, will host No. 10 South Park (13-8) and sophomore Luke Scarff, who averaged 19.7 points per game.

• Ten years ago, No. 6 Seton LaSalle (16-6) won WPIAL gold by squeaking by Greensburg Central Catholic in the 2014 2A title game, 52-51. The Rebels open this postseason against No. 11 Burrell (13-5) at Thomas Jefferson HS.

Only four in Class A

Defending champion Union, 2023 runner-up Aquinas Academy and Section 3 co-champions St. Joseph and Riverview can do some scouting Monday as they enjoy the fruits of their labor and a first-round bye.

There are four Class A girls basketball first round games slated for Monday:

• No. 9 Jeannette has overcome very low roster numbers all season to finish 8-9 and qualify for the playoffs. The Jayhawks visit No. 8 West Greene (9-13) with the winner advancing to play at Union.

• No. 12 Leechburg (8-10) heads to the Mon Valley to visit No. 5 and Section 2 champion Monessen (17-5), which has won 11 of its last 13 games. The winner advances to face Riverview.

• No. 10 Eden Christian Academy (8-13) has the tough task of slowing down Emma Larkin, who finished second in the district with an average of 29.8 points per game in leading No. 7 Geibel Catholic (16-6). The Warriors and Gators game is at Yough with the winner moving on to play Aquinas Academy.

• No. 11 Mapletown (6-14) visits No. 6 Bishop Canevin (6-13). The Crusaders have been hot, winning three of their last four games, including a victory over No. 2 Aquinas Academy.

Feels like fall

The WPIAL will officially announce all of the fall sports alignments for the 2024 and 2025 school years Monday afternoon.

The district will announce the alignments as well as the schedules for football, soccer, girls volleyball, cross country, field hockey, golf and girls tennis.

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