What to watch for in WPIAL sports for Jan. 2, 2024: Section action heats up for boys basketball

Monday, January 1, 2024 | 10:11 PM

Happy New Year and welcome to the first day of high school sports in 2024.

Section play begins in WPIAL boys Class 6A with a clash of the titans in Section 2 as Baldwin hosts Mt. Lebanon.

The Blue Devils are ranked No. 1 in the latest HSSN rankings, having won their first eight games this season. Mt. Lebanon lost in its last outing of 2023 by two points to Royal Palm Beach in the Sunshine State Explosion tournament in Florida.

The Highlanders are 7-2 overall and have won three straight games. Their only losses this season were to Thomas Jefferson and Seneca Valley.

This is the start of a key two weeks for Baldwin in which they play their first four Section 2-6A games on their home court.

Last year, the Highlanders were 3-2 at home in section play, including a 50-49 loss to the Blue Devils in late January.

Other big section openers

There are 13 WPIAL boys basketball sections that will begin section play on this second day of the New Year.

Some of the standout matchups:

• The first 6A champion in 2017, Pine-Richland (4-4), visits the most recent 6A winner in 2023 champ Central Catholic (4-3) in Section 1-6A.

• 2023 5A champion Penn Hills (5-1) is on the road to face 2022 6A champion Fox Chapel (5-5) in Section 2-5A.

West Allegheny (8-1) visits 5A preseason No. 1 Chartiers Valley (5-5) in Section 4-5A.

• The top two teams in Section 1-4A last season collide when Hampton (7-2) hosts Highlands (5-3).

South Allegheny (8-1) travels to play Avonworth (6-3) in Section 4-4A.

Sewickley Academy (6-2), Shenango (6-2) and Northgate (5-2) are a combined 17-6. Two of them meet Tuesday when the Panthers visit the Flames in Section 1-2A.

Long-distance rivals

Tuesday is also a busy night for section play in WPIAL girls basketball with 43 section contests.

One of the top games pits big-school powers as Norwin visits North Allegheny in Section 1-6A.

The Knights captured the final two WPIAL 4A girls basketball championships before expansion in 2015 and 2016.

Since expansion, the Tigers have dominated, winning five Class 6A crowns in seven years, including the 2023 championship.

Last year, North Allegheny edged Norwin in the 6A semifinals, 38-36. NA then rolled in the title game, beating Upper St. Clair, 71-45.

This season, the Tigers are ranked No. 1 with a 6-0 record. They have outscored their opponents 327-251.

The Knights (7-2) are No. 2 in the latest Trib HSSN rankings.

Norwin is 5-0 against WPIAL opponents and 2-2 against teams outside the district. Their two losses were to Spring-Ford out of District 1 and Kennedy Catholic from District 10.

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