What to watch for in WPIAL sports on Feb. 22, 2024: 5A rematch headlines quarterfinals Thursday

Wednesday, February 21, 2024 | 11:55 PM

Welcome to Quarterfinals Thursday in the WPIAL basketball postseason with boys Class 5A and 3A along with girls Class 6A and A featured with Round 2 contests.

Neighbors and rivals east of Pittsburgh will settle the score in the rubber game of their battles this season when No. 2 Franklin Regional takes on No. 7 Gateway for a spot in the WPIAL boys basketball Class 5A final four.

Despite splitting their two head-to-head matchups, the Panthers won the Section 3-5A title by two games over the Gators.

In the first meeting in Murrysville, Gateway leaned on its defense to keep high-scoring Franklin Regional to 15 points below its season average to win 58-48.

Seniors Taili Thompson scored 14 points and Alec Dunsmore added 12 to lead the Gators to victory.

In the rematch three and a half weeks later in Monroeville, Franklin Regional avenged its only section loss with a 49-41 win.

The Panthers outscored the Gators in the second half 23-14 as senior Cam Rowell led the way with a game-high 14 points.

Franklin Regional is 20-2 and has won 10 straight, including a first-round win over Mars, 67-50. Senior Colin Masten led the Panthers with 20 points.

Gateway also enjoyed a 10-game winning streak earlier this season. Its current streak is at three in a row after knocking out defending champion Penn Hills in the opening round, 70-59. Sophomore Mykel Bruce-McCrommon scored 23 points in the win for the Gators.

The game at Norwin tips off at 8 p.m.

The other three boys 5A quarterfinals games Thursday are:

• Top-seed Moon (20-3) faces No. 8 Fox Chapel (13-10) at North Hills at 8 p.m. in a game you can watch on Trib HSSN. The Tigers crushed Woodland Hills in the first round, 73-39, as senior Elijah Guillory scored 19 points. The Foxes won the wildest first-round game in the district when they outlasted North Hills, 94-84 in double overtime, thanks to 27 points by senior Jefferson Moorefield-Brown.

• No. 4 Thomas Jefferson (20-3) will be challenged by one of two surprise teams remaining in the 5A bracket, No. 12 Kiski Area (15-7), at Gateway at 7 p.m. The Jaguars rolled past Penn-Trafford in the opening round, 72-53, with senior Evan Berger scoring 18 points. The Cavaliers stunned No. 5 Peters Township, 58-51, behind 15 points from senior Isaiah Gonzalez.

• No. 3 Shaler (21-2) will take on the other surprise team in 5A, No. 11 Bethel Park (12-11), at Mt. Lebanon with video on Trib HSSN. The Titans struggled but overcame an upset bid by Chartiers Valley in Round 1, 73-71, with senior Sam Himrod scoring 20 points. The Black Hawks used a stifling zone defense to upset No. 6 South Fayette, 34-32, when senior Shawn Davis drove the lane and beat the buzzer with a layup.

Top scorers square off

Two of the top scorers in WPIAL boys basketball will go head to head in a Class 3A quarterfinal when Yough takes on Mohawk.

The leading scorer in the district this season is Cougars senior Terek Crosby. He is 43 points shy of 500 for the season and is averaging 27 points per game.

Also high on the list of district scorers is Warriors sophomore Bobby Fadden. He has scored 358 points and is averaging 21 points per contest.

They each scored 25 points in first-round victories, a 23-point win for Yough over South Park and a 35-point triumph for Mohawk over McGuffey.

Both teams are white hot coming into this contest at Pine-Richland at 7 p.m. that can be seen here on Trib HSSN.

Section 1 champion Mohawk, the No. 2 seed, is 16-7 this season and has won 13 of its last 14 games.

Section 4 co-champion Yough is the No. 7 seed and has won 12 games in a row.

The other three boys 3A quarterfinals games Thursday are:

• Top seed and defending champion Deer Lakes (18-4) takes on No. 9 Ellwood City (16-7) in a battle of recent champions at North Allegheny at 8 p.m. on Trib HSSN. The 2023 champion Lancers crushed Sto-Rox in the first round, 63-32, with Collin Rodgers scoring 16 points. The 2021 champion Wolverines rolled over Washington in the opening round, 53-36, behind 18 points by senior Joseph Roth.

• No. 4 Neshannock (19-3) will be challenged by upset-minded No. 12 Derry (14-6) at North Hills at 6 p.m. on Trib HSSN. The Lancers crushed Mt. Pleasant in the postseason opener, 66-40, with sophomore David Kwiat leading the way with 44 points. The Trojans stunned No. 5 Our Lady of the Sacred Heart, 53-52, ending the Chargers’ run of seven straight WPIAL title game appearances. Senior Nate Papuga dropped 26 points for Derry.

• Two familiar foes meet when No. 3 Shady Side Academy (16-7) plays another team that pulled off a surprise in the first round in No. 11 Burrell (14-5) at Fox Chapel at 8 p.m. The Bulldogs defeated Beaver Falls in the opening round, 79-62, with junior Eli Teslovich scoring 40 points. The Bucs upset No. 6 Seton LaSalle in the first round, 55-50, behind 21 points from junior Tucker Bitar. The teams split their regular season meetings with the Bucs winning by five and the Bulldogs earning a 15-point victory.

Finally, let the games begin

It has been a while, but the eight teams that made the Class 6A girls basketball playoffs finally hit the court to begin the postseason Thursday.

One of the four games pits two teams that are very familiar with each other in the postseason spotlight.

No. 6 Upper St. Clair will visit No. 3 North Allegheny as the 6A powers collide in the playoffs for a seventh straight season.

The Tigers have had the better of the last six postseason fights, beating the Panthers in five of them.

2018 quarterfinals: North Allegheny 45, Upper St. Clair 26

2019 quarterfinals: North Allegheny 33, Upper St. Clair 26

2020 semifinals: North Allegheny 39, Upper St. Clair 27

2021 championship: North Allegheny 70, Upper St. Clair 36

2022 semifinals: Upper St. Clair 48, North Allegheny 44

2023 championship: North Allegheny 71, Upper St. Clair 45

This season, outside of two losses to top-seeded Norwin, North Allegheny has been perfect.

The Tigers are 20-2 and have won six straight games.

Upper St. Clair lost star junior Rylee Kalocay in early January to a torn ACL but scratched and clawed their way into the playoffs.

The Panthers are 12-10 and won five of their last seven games in the regular season.

You can watch the game on Trib HSSN at 6 p.m.

The other three 6A girls basketball second round games are:

• Top-seeded Norwin (18-3) will host a familiar face in Section 1 foe No. 8 Seneca Valley (12-10) at 6 p.m. The Knights have won nine games in a row and defeated the Raiders twice by scores of 46-35 and 46-39.

• No. 4 Mt. Lebanon (12-10) will welcome No. 5 Chartiers Valley (15-6) at 6 p.m. in a game you can see on Trib HSSN. It is also the third meeting of the year between these Section 2 rivals as the Colts won the first contest, 52-39, while the Blue Devils captured the rematch, 52-42. These teams met in the quarterfinals a year ago with Mt. Lebanon pulling off a big comeback win over Chartiers Valley, 47-46.

• No. 2 Peters Township (21-1) will be home to No. 7 Pine-Richland (8-13) at 7 p.m. The Indians won their first 20 games this season before being stunned by Canon-McMillan in their section finale. The Rams finished 3-3 in their last six regular season games. The two met way back on Dec. 2 with Peters Township edging Pine-Richland, 55-46.

Frequent flier miles

Got any good bus games?

For the second straight postseason, one of the southernmost schools in the district is trekking to one of the most northern schools for a Class A girls basketball quarterfinal.

The trip for No. 8 West Greene (10-13) to No. 1 Union (16-5) will take roughly 1 hour, 43 minutes for the 104-mile journey.

A year ago, jet lag may have cost the visiting Pioneers as the Scotties stormed out to a 27-11 advantage after one quarter on their way to a convincing quarterfinals win, 64-20.

Kelly Cleaver led Union with 15 points and 12 rebounds.

The defending champion Scotties are hot coming into this postseason, winning their final 11 games in a row, all of which were double-digit victories.

The Pioneers have won three straight, including a win over Jeannette in the opening round, 55-33. Kendra Tharp led West Greene with 13 points.

You can watch the game at 7 p.m. on Trib HSSN.

The other three girls basketball A quarterfinals games Thursday are:

• No. 4 Riverview (15-6) makes its postseason debut after a first-round bye, taking on No. 5 Monessen (18-5) at Fox Chapel at 6 p.m. The Greyhounds crushed Leechburg in the opening round, 63-15, with senior Hailey Johnson scoring 15 points. The Raiders beat the Greyhounds in a nonsection contest 19 days ago, 50-25.

• No. 2 Aquinas Academy (15-6) opens up the playoffs when it takes aim at No. 10 Eden Christian Academy (9-13) at St. Joseph at 6 p.m. here on Trib HSSN. The Warriors stunned No. 7 Geibel Catholic in the first round, 51-40, led by freshman Emmie Smith, who scored 15 points. These teams met in the quarterfinals a year ago with the Crusaders winning, 45-25.

• No. 3 St. Joseph (19-3) will host No. 6 Bishop Caneivn (7-13) at 8 p.m. in a game that can be viewed on Trib HSSN. The Crusaders crushed Mapletown in the opening round, 53-17, for the team’s fourth win in five games. Sophomore Amari Elliot led BC with 17 points. Both the Spartans and Crusaders won in the quarterfinals last postseason but lost in the district semifinals.

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