What to watch for in WPIAL sports for Feb. 27, 2023: Section rematches on tap in semifinals

Sunday, February 26, 2023 | 10:14 PM

The two WPIAL Class 6A girls basketball Final Four games are between rivals who earlier battled for section supremacy. Now, they meet for a spot in the district championship game.

Top-seeded Upper St. Clair shoots for a third victory over defending champion Mt. Lebanon, while it will be the rubber game of the series between second-seeded North Allegheny and No. 3 Norwin in the 6A semifinals Monday.

The Section 2 champion USC Panthers swept the Blue Devils this season, winning by 18 points at home and eight points on the road.

Mt. Lebanon pulled off one of the greatest comebacks in WPIAL history when down by 16 with three minutes remaining, it rallied to stun Chartiers Valley, 47-46, in the district quarterfinals.

Upper St. Clair sophomore Rylee Kalocay scored 27 points as the Panthers defeated Peters Township, 60-43, in the top-seed’s playoff opener.

Upper St. Clair (20-2) will face Mt. Lebanon (17-6) at neighboring Bethel Park at 6 p.m.

Section 1 co-champions North Allegheny (18-5) and Norwin (20-3) square off at Fox Chapel at 6 p.m. after splitting their two regular-season games and sharing the section crown.

The Knights won at home by 21 points Jan. 3 while the Tigers captured the rematch by seven points Jan. 26.

These two programs have had the golden touch in the district’s highest classification. Norwin and NA have combined for six WPIAL crowns in the last eight years.

Almost a private party

Three of the final four remaining teams in the WPIAL Class A girls basketball playoffs are private schools.

There was a time when a private school won the district Class A championship 12 years in a row from 2007-18.

Then Rochester won gold in 2019, ’20 and ’21 before Bishop Canevin claimed the Class A title last year.

The lone boundary school remaining is top-seeded Union (16-6). The Scotties play Section 3 winner St. Joseph (20-4) at North Allegheny at 6 p.m.

The other semifinal has Bishop Canevin (11-7) taking on Section 1 foe Aquinas Academy (15-8) in their third meeting of the season. The battle of the Crusaders takes place at Norwin at 6 p.m.

Bishop Canevin beat Aquinas twice this year by 12 points and by 11 points.

Chase for gold

Highlands has the nickname the Golden Rams and won its most recent WPIAL title in 2020. Before that, the Rams hadn’t lifted a WPIAL trophy since beating Blackhawk by two points to win the 1995 Class 3A title.

Meanwhile, the team Highlands (21-3) faces in the 4A semifinals Monday at North Allegheny at 8 p.m. is top-seeded Lincoln Park (23-1).

Since expansion to six classifications six years ago, the Leopards have won three WPIAL championships.

The two teams that collide in the other semifinal at Norwin at 8 p.m. also have multiple gold trophies since 2017.

Laurel Highlands (21-2) won in 2020 and 2022 while North Catholic (18-6) claimed boys hoops titles in 2017 and 2020.

All charged up

It is possible to overlook a four-time defending champion?

Perhaps the WPIAL basketball steering committee did just that in seeding the Class 3A boys hoops postseason tournament when Our Lady of the Sacred Heart was seeded No. 6.

OLSH has won the last four 2A titles but moved up in class this season.

While the dominance hasn’t been there, the success for the Chargers has not faded away.

After beating Beaver Falls in the opening round, OLSH eliminated No. 3-seeded Shady Side Academy, 53-42.

Now, OLSH (18-5) takes on No. 2 Neshannock (18-5) at North Allegheny at 8 p.m.

The Lancers beat Keystone Oaks by 13 points and Yough by four points in the first two rounds.

In the other 3A boys semifinal, top-seeded Steel Valley (14-9) goes up against Deer Lakes (15-8) in a battle of section champions at Bethel Park at 8 p.m.

The Lancers have a pair of double-digit wins over Ellwood City and Mohawk in this postseason while after cruising past McGuffey, the Ironmen needed a buzzer-beating 3-pointer by senior Makhai Valentine to edge Seton LaSalle, 56-54.

Monday’s consolation games

The WPIAL has returned to play-back games, allowing teams to earn a spot and seed for the PIAA basketball playoffs.

The third batch of consolation games takes place Monday for quarterfinals losers in boys 2A, girls 5A and girls 4A.

Boys 2A

Shenango (15-9) vs. Eden Christian Academy (17-6) at Montour, 6 p.m.

Clairton (11-13) at Serra Catholic (14-10), 6 p.m.

Girls 5A

Penn-Trafford (16-8) at Trinity (16-7), 8 p.m.

Hampton (15-9) vs. Mars (16-7) at Knoch, 6 p.m.

Girls 4A

Belle Vernon (15-9) at Knoch (15-9), 8 p.m.

Beaver (14-9) vs. Elizabeth Forward (17-6) at Trinity, 6 p.m.

Penguins Cup playoffs openers

While a handful of teams will close of the regular season this week, some teams in Class A are dropping the puck on the postseason Monday.

The PIHL will begin the Penguins Cup Class A playoffs this week with two first-round games Monday and two more Tuesday.

On Monday, Indiana (12-7-1) will take on Quaker Valley (13-6-1) at the Baierl Ice Complex in Warrendale at 9 p.m.

The winner will face top-seeded Fox Chapel in the quarterfinals on March 9.

The other game Monday has West Allegheny (11-7-2) squaring off with Norwin (15-4-1) at the Palmer Imaging Arena in Delmont at 8 p.m.

The winner of the Indians vs. Knights game will take on McDowell in the quarterfinals on March 7.

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