What to watch for in WPIAL sports for Jan. 3, 2024: Imani Christian begins title defense

Tuesday, January 2, 2024 | 5:06 PM

On the third day of 2024 and just over a month into the season, defending WPIAL Class A boys basketball champion Imani Christian will finally play another district team.

The Saints have been marching here, there and everywhere but in the WPIAL through the first month of the season.

Imani Christian is 1-4 and has dropped four straight games. Four of the Saints’ five opponents have been from out of state, and their lone Pennsylvania opposition was Philadelphia power Neumann-Goretti.

Despite changes in their roster and the slow start, the Saints are heavy favorites to win Class A in the WPIAL and are ranked No. 1 in the Trib HSSN Class A state rankings as they look to defend their PIAA title, as well.

Imani will host No. 3-ranked Neighborhood Academy in its Section 3-A opener Wednesday.

The Bulldogs are 6-3 this season and have lost two straight. All three of their losses were to 6A or 5A opponents in Central Catholic, Kiski Area and Fox Chapel.

Some of the top district talent is expected to be on display in this game Wednesday, including juniors R.J. Sledge, Nate Brazil and senior Avery Wesley of Imani Christian and junior Courtney Wallace and senior John Wilkins of Neighborhood Academy.

Wallace is one of the top scorers in the WPIAL, averaging over 22 points per game.

Two mid-week dandies

What a difference a year makes for this girls basketball Section 4-5A cat fight as South Fayette visits Moon.

Last season, South Fayette won the section and a second straight WPIAL championship and was the runner-up to Archbishop Wood in the PIAA playoffs.

Moon did not win a section game and finished 7-14 overall.

In the two head-to-head section clashes between the two teams a year ago, the Lions beat the Tigers by 43 and 42 points, respectively.

Heading into the section opener for both teams Wednesday, South Fayette is 6-3 and coming off a 2-1 trip to Charleston, S.C., over the holidays.

Meanwhile, Moon has already matched its win total from last year, jumping out to a 7-1 start and has won three straight since suffering a loss to Upper St. Clair.

• One of the best section races in girls basketball a year ago was in Section 2-3A, where the top four teams — Avonworth, Our Lady of the Sacred Heart, Keystone Oaks and Seton LaSalle — finished a combined 72-34.

This season, all four of those teams are off to a great start with a combined record of 28-6.

On Wednesday, OLSH opens up section play at Keystone Oaks.

The Chargers are 7-2 and have won three games in a row while the Golden Eagles are 8-1 and have won seven straight since losing to Elizabeth Forward on opening weekend.

Year opening duals

The WPIAL team wrestling section season continues with another busy night of mat action around the district.

Class 3A continues to be in the early days of section duals, however 2A teams are in the midst of section action.

Here are some of the top matches:

• In Section 1-3A, Fox Chapel hosts Plum in an early season battle for first place. The Foxes are 2-0 in section while the Mustangs are a half-game back at 1-0.

• In Section 3-3A, Franklin Regional is home to Ringgold. The Panthers are off to a 2-0 section start while the Rams are 1-0.

• In Section 4-3A, two teams that won their section openers square off for the top section spot when Hempfield travels to Latrobe.

• In Section 2-2A, Mt. Pleasant and Frazier are both 2-0 and tied for the section lead. The Vikings visit the Commodores Wednesday for first place.

• In Section 3-2A, South Allegheny already has three section wins and Keystone Oaks has two. However, only two teams have yet to lose a section match and they meet when Montour (1-0) is home to Quaker Valley (2-0).

• In Section 6-2A, Burrell and Derry are both unbeaten in the section. The host Buccaneers are 2-0 while the Trojans are off to a 3-0 section start.

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