What to watch for in WPIAL sports on Feb. 15, 2024: Boys basketball playoffs tip off a day early

Wednesday, February 14, 2024 | 8:23 PM

Special circumstances have forced the WPIAL to raise the curtain on the start of the 2024 district basketball playoffs a day earlier than expected.

Hillel Academy, an Orthodox Jewish Day School located in Pittsburgh’s Squirrel Hill neighborhood, is in its second year of playing basketball in the WPIAL.

The Heat were part of all six teams from Section 3-A qualifying for the WPIAL postseason when they defeated Summit Academy and St. Joseph’s this season to finish in a three-way tie for fourth place.

Since Hillel, Summit and St. Joe’s were 2-2 against each other, all three qualified along with first-place Imani Christian, runner-up Neighborhood Academy and third-place Aquinas Academy.

However, because of Shabbat, Hillel Academy’s first WPIAL playoff game at Union scheduled for 7 p.m. Friday had to be moved.

Shabbat is observed every week beginning at sunset on Friday evening and ending after dark on Saturday evening. Orthodox Jews do not work or travel on Shabbat.

There was talk about moving the game to Saturday night, but the district and school officials settled on 7 p.m. Thursday.

The 2-8 section record for the Heat marked the program’s first section victories after going winless a year ago. Hillel Academy finished 7-9 overall and has lost three straight games after winning three in a row.

After reaching and falling in the 2023 title game, Union finished 12-10 overall this season and 8-2 in Section 1-A, one game behind section winner Rochester. The Scotties had won five consecutive games before splitting their final two regular season contests.

You can watch Hillel Academy at Union in a Class A first-round matchup on Trib HSSN at 7 p.m.

Thursday pucks

The regular season is down to its final weeks in high school hockey as teams battle for playoff berths and postseason positioning for the upcoming PIHL playoffs.

Two teams looking to clinch a Class 3A Penguins Cup berth meet Thursday at the Alpha Ice Complex as Mt. Lebanon (9-7-1) takes on Central Catholic (9-8).

Both the Blue Devils and Vikings have three games remaining and currently sit in seventh and eighth place in the 3A standings.

The top eight teams qualify in the PIHL’s highest classification.

The two teams are being chased by Cathedral Prep, which has 15 points, four points behind Mt. Lebanon and three points in back of Central Catholic.

The winner of the game clinches a playoff spot.

Other key Thursday games in the PIHL include:

Bishop McCort (6-12-1) battles South Fayette (14-1-2) in Class 2A. The Crimson Crushers are two points out of a playoff spot and playing in their final game while the Lions are two points behind Thomas Jefferson for first place.

Meadville (10-5-2) takes on Indiana (14-2-2) in Class A. The Bulldogs are two points out a playoff spot while the Little Indians are three points out of first place.

Shaler (13-3-2) goes up against first-place Quaker Valley (16-1-1) in Class A. The Titans trail the Quakers for the top spot in the Gold Division by five points.

Blackhawk (15-2-1) squares off with undefeated Chartiers Valley (17-0) in a Class A battle between the top two teams in the Blue Division.

Connellsville (7-8-1) plays Carrick (10-4-2) in a Varsity D2 matchup. The Falcons are three points out of a playoff spot while the Cougars are in a three-way tie for first place in the Blue Division with Morgantown and Ringgold.

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