What to watch for in WPIAL sports for Feb. 20, 2023: Big night for 1st-round matchups

Sunday, February 19, 2023 | 8:27 PM

There are five days making up the first round of the 2023 WPIAL basketball playoffs, and Monday is the busiest.

There are 21 boys and girls opening-round contests with the spotlights shinning on boys 4A, boys 3A, girls 6A and girls A.

The lone 6A first-round girls basketball game has Butler (11-11) visiting Peters Township (12-10).

Four years ago, the Indians were perfect in winning WPIAL and PIAA gold in 2019.

The program did not win any postseason games in 2020 and 2021.

However, Peters Township picked up a year ago in the first round of the 6A playoffs with a win over Butler, 57-42.

Then-senior Journey Thompson led the Indians with 16 points while junior Gemma Walker had 13 points and sophomore Natalie Wetzel added 10 points.

Current senior Justin Forbes and then-senior Makenna Maier scored 17 points to lead Butler. The Golden Tornado hit seven 3-pointers.

The winner of this year’s contest advances to the quarterfinals to play top-seeded Upper St. Clair on Thursday.

Boys 4A first-round frays

Two legendary coaches will clash in a WPIAL Class 4A boys basketball first-round playoff game as defending champion Quaker Valley (14-6) hosts Belle Vernon (10-11).

Quakers head coach Mike Mastroianni is 30 wins shy of 600 for his career. He has won three WPIAL basketball titles — two at QV and one at Bethel Park.

Quaker Valley tied South Allegheny for the Section 4 championship and won five of its last six games.

Leopards head coach Joe Salvino is in his fifth season at Belle Vernon after coaching at Monessen for 34 years. He has won 710 games, six WPIAL championships and two PIAA titles. All of the gold was won as head coach of the Greyhounds.

Belle Vernon finished in third place in Section 3, four games behind Uniontown and Laurel Highlands. BVA won only one of its final five games.

The two teams met in the 2022 postseason with Quaker Valley beating Belle Vernon in the second round of the PIAA playoffs, 86-75.

The other seven 4A openers include:

• Top seed and Section 2 champion Lincoln Park (21-1) hosts preliminary-round winner West Mifflin (10-12). The Titans beat host Knoch in the pigtail game, 46-35.

• Section 1 champion Hampton (20-2), playing without leading scorer Peter Kramer because of the transfer playoff eligibility rule, hosts Blackhawk (11-11).

• Two of the classification’s top scorers square of when sophomore Brady Mayo leads Beaver (17-4) against senior Bryce Epps and host South Allegheny (18-4).

• Section 3 co-champions Laurel Highlands (19-2) and Uniontown (18-3) are both home Monday. The Mustangs host Freeport (13-9) while the Red Raiders entertain Avonworth (8-13).

• Ten years ago, Montour won the WPIAL 3A championship. Five years ago, North Catholic took home 3A District 7 gold. The former recent champions collide as the Spartans (9-13) visit the Trojans (16-6).

• Highlands (19-3) had a great record, but it was only the fourth best in a deep Class 4A. The Rams host Elizabeth Forward (8-13) on Monday.

Boys 3A opening-round options

The last time Our Lady of the Sacred Heart boys basketball lost a WPIAL playoff game was March 2, 2018, when the Chargers fell to Sewickley Academy, 63-59, in the Class 2A finals.

Since then, OLSH has been unbeatable in the district playoffs in winning four straight WPIAL crowns.

This year, the Chargers are not the favorite as they were given the No. 6 seed after finishing second to top-seeded Steel Valley in Section 2-3A.

OLSH (16-5) opens up the 2023 postseason Monday by playing traditional power Beaver Falls (11-9) in the first game of a doubleheader at Fox Chapel at 6 p.m.

The 8 p.m. game is also a 3A opener as the No. 3 seed and defending champion Shady Side Academy (15-7) takes on Brownsville (12-8).

The other six 3A first-round games include:

• Top-seeded Steel Valley (12-9) will host McGuffey (12-10) in what may be the closest two records ever in a No. 1 vs. No. 16 contest.

• Surging Seton LaSalle (11-10), winner of seven of its last eight games, will visit Section 4 co-champion Washington (15-6).

• The other Section 4 co-champion, Yough (15-7), will host Burrell (13-9). The Cougars have won 10 straight games.

Deer Lakes (13-8) tied Shady Side Academy for the Section 3 crown and will host 2021 district champion Ellwood City (15-7).

Mohawk (19-3) and Neshannock (16-5) were the co-champions in Section 1. The Warriors will host Derry (11-9) on Monday while the Lancers are home to Keystone Oaks (9-13).

Girls ‘A’ game(s)

It is one of the most unique postseason matchups in WPIAL history.

On one side, you have a team that did not win a single section game, yet qualified for the playoffs after Cornell could not field a team, leaving Section 1-A with only four teams.

On the other side, you have a team that finished with only two wins all year, but those two victories allowed them to finish in fourth place in Section 3-A.

Eden Christian Academy (7-14) faces Jeannette (2-19) in a Class A girls basketball first-round matchup at Peters Township at 6 p.m.

The winner of the No. 6 Warriors vs. No. 11 Jayhawks will advance to the quarterfinal Thursday to play No. 3 Aquinas Academy.

Aquinas Academy (14-8), No. 1 Union (15-6), No. 2 Bishop Canevin (10-7) and No. 4 Monessen (15-5) all received first-round byes.

The other three opening-round games Monday are:

• Section 3 champion St. Joseph (18-4) welcomes Geibel Catholic (11-11) with the winner visiting Monessen in the quarterfinals.

• Section 2 runner-up West Greene (12-9) hosts Leechburg (7-11) with the winner moving on to play Union in round two.

• Section 4 runner-up Riverview (11-10) is home to Avella (12-10) with the winner facing Bishop Canevin in the quarters.

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