What to watch for in WPIAL sports for Feb. 26, 2024: Finals hopefuls meet in district semifinals

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Sunday, February 25, 2024 | 10:23 PM


Monday is Day 2 of Round 3 of the 2024 WPIAL basketball playoffs with semifinal games in boys 5A and 3A, along with girls 6A and A.

Something has to give in the boys 5A semifinals cat fight between No. 1 Moon and No. 4 Thomas Jefferson in a battle of 21-3 teams at Peters Township. The game can be heard on Trib HSSN.

The Tigers sport Class 5A’s second-best defense, allowing 49.8 points per game.

The Jaguars enter the final four with the classification’s top-scoring offense, averaging 72.7 points per game.

Eleven times this season Moon has held an opponent to 50 or less points.

Thomas Jefferson has scored 70 or more points in a game nine times.

The Tigers have won two playoff games by an average margin of 23.5 points while the Jaguars’ margin of postseason wins is 17.5.

Finally, Moon has won nine in a row and 20 of its last 21 games, while TJ has also won nine straight and 17 of its last 18 games.

In the other 5A semifinal, No. 2 Franklin Regional (22-2) will take on No. 3 Shaler (22-2) at Mt. Lebanon at 8 p.m. Listen on Trib HSSN.

These two met in mid-January in a nonsection contest as the host Panthers knocked off the Titans in overtime, 72-62.

Franklin Regional outscored Shaler, 17-7, in overtime.

Senior Cam Rowell led the Panthers with 28 points, while senior Brandon London scored 18 points to lead the Titans.

Buc-ing a trend

There were few surprises this season in the WPIAL boys basketball playoffs.

The top four seeds reached the semifinals in 6A, 5A and 2A and the final four were invaded by a No. 5 in A and No. 6 in 4A.

Class 3A has the only double-digit seed remaining as No. 11 Burrell (15-5) prepares to face No. 2 Mohawk (17-7) at North Allegheny at 8 p.m. with audio coverage on Trib HSSN.

The long shot Buccaneers first surprised No. 6 Seton LaSalle in the opening round, 55-50, with junior Tucker Bitar leading the way with 21 points.

In the quarterfinals, senior Macky Bennis scored 23 points as Burrell stunned No. 3 Shady Side Academy, 48-44.

Now they take aim at the Trib HSSN Player of the Week in Bobby Fadden.

The sophomore scored 25 and 28 points in postseason wins last week over McGuffey and Yough.

In the other final four 3A contest, top seed and defending champion Deer Lakes (19-4) faces No. 4 Neshannock (20-3) at Fox Chapel at 6 p.m. with audio only on Trib HSSN.

Lancers sophomore Collin Rodgers scored 16 points in the first round win over Sto-Rox, and while limited on the scoresheet in the quarterfinals due to foul troubles, he scored the game-winning layup with two seconds left to lift Deer Lakes over Ellwood City, 39-38, in overtime.

Neshannock, winner of seven straight, was led by sophomore David Kwiat’s 22 points against Mt. Pleasant and 21 points from junior Talan Anderton in a quarterfinal victory over Derry.

Champs vs. former champs

In the seven years of Class 6A girls basketball, North Allegheny has worn the crown five times.

The Tigers could have won five straight district titles from 2017-21 had it not been for them running into a perfect opponent in the finals five years ago.

The 2019 Class 6A championship featured two-time defending champion North Allegheny against undefeated Peters Township.

Makenna Marisa scored 17 points and Mackenzie Lehman scored on a layup at the end of regulation to force overtime as the Indians edged the Tigers, 43-40.

Peters Township went on to win a PIAA championship with a perfect 30-0 record.

The two teams meet again in a semifinal game at Mt. Lebanon at 6 p.m. Monday that can be heard on Trib HSSN.

Peters Township has the highest scoring offense in 6A with an average of 57 points per game while North Allegheny has the second stingiest defense in the classification, allowing 41.6 points per game.

Combined, the two have won 43 of their 46 games with the No. 2 Indians record at 22-1 and the No. 3 Tigers with a 21-2 overall mark.

In the other 6A girls final four matchup, top-seeded Norwin (19-3) battles No. 5 Chartiers Valley (16-6) at Peters Township at 6 p.m. with audio on Trib HSSN.

In a seven-year period between 2015-21, these two teams won gold every year except for 2018. The Knights won 4A titles in 2015 and 2016 while the Colts captured 5A gold in 2017, ‘19, ‘20 and ‘21.

Norwin has won 10 straight, including a 38-point win over Seneca Valley in the quarterfinals.

Chartiers Valley has a modest two-game winning streak, highlighted by an eight-point win over No. 4 Mt. Lebanon in the quarterfinals.

Spartans try to crack the code

Two years ago, the St. Joseph girls basketball team reached the WPIAL semifinals where it fell to Aquinas Academy, 42-29.

Last year, the Spartans again made it to the final four and again lost, this time to eventual champion Union, 55-40.

Will the third time be the charm?

Once again, St. Joe’s faces Aquinas Academy in a semifinal game at Fox Chapel at 8 p.m., a contest that can be heard on Trib HSSN.

The Spartans are trying to reach their first district title game while the Crusaders look to play in the finals for a third straight year.

The other semifinals game pits top seed and defending champion Union (17-5) against No. 4 Riverview (16-6) at North Allegheny at 6 p.m. with audio on Trib HSSN.

The Scotties have won 12 straight games and haven’t lost in calendar year.

The Raiders have won two in a row and five of their last six games as they try to reach their first WPIAL championship game.

Consolation round continues

It’s Day 3 of the consolation round to determine qualifiers and seeds for the upcoming PIAA basketball playoffs.

There are seven games Monday.

In boys 2A, Serra Catholic (16-8) visits Bishop Canevin (13-11) at 8 p.m. while Jeannette (15-8) is home to Eden Christian Academy (12-11) at 7 p.m.

In girls 5A, North Hills (14-9) visits Lincoln Park (21-3) at 7 p.m. while Trinity (18-6) is home to Indiana (18-6) at 7 p.m.

In girls 4A, Greensburg Salem (16-8) will travel to Highlands (16-7) for the second time this season at 6 p.m. while Knoch (14-10) welcomes Central Valley (12-11) at 7 p.m.

In girls A, Bishop Canevin (7-14) hosts Eden Christian Academy (9-14) for a third time this season.

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