What to watch for in WPIAL sports on Feb. 23, 2024: Class 6A boys finally get postseason started

Thursday, February 22, 2024 | 11:47 PM

It’s the final night of the WPIAL basketball quarterfinals with boys Class 6A and 2A along with girls Class 5A and 4A second-round contests.

As the classic rock group Boston once sang, “It’s been such a long time. I really should be goin’.”

That is how the eight boys 6A teams feel as they finally rip open their postseason, 11 days after the regular season ended.

Fortunately, all eight playoff teams had the foresight to schedule a game Feb. 12, so the period between games is no longer than 11 days.

The odds are not in favor of No. 2 Central Catholic as the Vikings prepare to defend their crown.

Since the expansion to six classifications in basketball in the 2017 season, no team has repeated as Class 6A champions.

In fact, no team has won more than one WPIAL 6A crown, which is good news for North Allegheny, Baldwin and Canon-McMillan.

The last team to repeat as boys basketball champs in the highest classification was 10 years ago when New Castle beat Hampton for the second year in a row to capture 4A gold.

Here are the playoff openers in the 6A bracket:

• No. 1 Mt. Lebanon (18-4) hosts No. 8 Pine-Richland (7-15) in a battle between the 2019 and 2017 champs. The visiting Blue Devils defeated the Rams on Dec. 8, 54-39. You can watch the game on Trib HSSN at 8 p.m.

• No. 5 North Allegheny (11-11) visits No. 4 Baldwin (16-6) at 7 p.m. in a game you can listen to on Trib HSSN. The Tigers have won five of their last six games while the Highlanders, looking for their first playoff win since 2003, had won four straight before losing their final two games of the regular season.

• No. 2 and defending champion Central Catholic (14-8) will face No. 7 Canon-McMillan (10-12) at Gateway at 7 p.m. The Vikings won their last three games heading into the postseason while the Big Macs split their last four games.

• No. 3 Upper St. Clair (17-5) welcomes No. 6 Butler (16-6) at 7 p.m. on Trib HSSN. Since losing to Mt. Lebanon, the Panthers won their final four contests while the Golden Tornado dropped three of their final four games.

The rivalry continues

When it comes to budding rivalries, two Class 2A boys teams preparing to square off in the quarterfinals might be soon added to that list.

Fort Cherry and Bishop Canevin squared off twice this past fall on the football field, with the Rangers winning a wild regular season game, 48-41, before knocking out the Crusaders in the Class A semifinals, 33-21.

Now the section winners square off for a spot in the 2A basketball final four.

The Section 2-winning Crusaders are 13-10 and have won four of five despite all the distractions surrounding a midseason coaching change.

Bishop Canevin defeated Burgettstown in the first round, 62-41, behind 18 points from sophomore Drew Allen.

Section 4 champion Fort Cherry has won four straight and 12 of its last 13 games.

The Rangers rolled past Winchester Thurston in the opening round with three players — junior Shane Cornali, senior Derek Errett and sophomore Blake Sweder — scoring 20 points each.

Tipoff at Peters Township is set for 8 p.m.

The other three boys 2A quarterfinals games Friday are:

• Top seed and defending champion Aliquippa (18-5) takes on No. 8 Serra Catholic (16-7) at North Allegheny at 8 p.m. on Trib HSSN. The 2023 champion Quips knocked off Nazareth Prep in the first round, 70-57, with three players — senior Cameron Lindsey, junior Tikey Hayes and sophomore Josh Pratt — scoring 11 points each. The Eagles defeated Chartiers-Houston in the opening round, 58-47, behind 24 points by senior Isaiah Petty.

• No. 2 Greensburg Central Catholic (21-2) will take on No. 10 Eden Christian Academy (12-10) at Fox Chapel at 8 p.m. with video coverage on Trib HSSN. The Centurions crushed Frazier in the postseason opener, 57-22, with senior Tyree Turner scoring 18 points. The Warriors upended No. 7 Shenango in Round 1 by the score of 67-56. Senior Nathan Garrett had a big game with 31 points for Eden.

• No. 3 Northgate (17-5), the 2023 runner-up, will battle No. 6 Jeannette (15-7) at Mt. Lebanon at 6 p.m. in a game you can view on Trib HSSN. The Flames burned Clairton in the opening round, 65-52, with senior Josh Williams and junior Ty Daniels scoring 15 points each. The Jayhawks edged Sewickley Academy in the first round, 52-47, thanks to 17 points scored by sophomore Kymon’e Brown.

Let’s not wait another 45 years

One of the great stories of this district postseason is that of the North Hills girls basketball playoff drought finally coming to an end.

The Indians program had not won a WPIAL postseason game since the 1979 semifinals that sent the team to the title game at the old Civic Arena in Pittsburgh.

North Hills rolled past Plum, 69-40, to earn its historic win. Junior Gia Minton led the Indians with 17 points.

For them to build their playoff win streak, though, it will take a monumental upset as they prepare to face top-seeded Oakland Catholic.

The Eagles have been flying high over all others all season, winning each of their 23 games.

In the opening round, Oakland Catholic fought their way past a gutsy Penn Hills team, 55-48.

Junior sensation London Creach scored a game-high 17 points for the Eagles.

Tipoff is set for Fox Chapel HS at 6 p.m. and can be seen on Trib HSSN.

The other three 5A girls basketball second-round games are:

• No. 4 Lincoln Park (21-2), co-champ of Section 4, faces Section 2 winner and No. 5 Armstrong (19-4) at North Allegheny at 6 p.m. The Leopards got a scare and needed a Sarah Scott layup at the buzzer to edge Penn-Trafford, 43-42, in the opening round. The River Hawks knocked off Latrobe in the first round, 51-40, as senior Emma Paul led the way with 20 points.

• No. 2 McKeesport (19-3) will go up against No. 7 Indiana (18-5) at Highlands at 6 p.m. The Tigers also had a scare in their playoff opener but edged Hampton, 49-46. Senior Rachel Manfredo led the Tigers with 14 points. Senior Bella Antonacci had 18 points as the Little Indians ousted Moon, 43-34, in the opening round.

• No. 3 Trinity (18-5) gets a third crack at a familiar foe when it plays No. 6 South Fayette (15-8) at Peters Township at 6 p.m. It wasn’t easy, but the Hillers eliminated Woodland Hills in the opener, 59-54, as senior Maddy Roberts scored 17 points. The two-time defending champion Lions cruised past Mars in the first round, 55-36. Sophomore Haylie Lamonde scored 24 points to lead SF. Trinity won both regular season games between the Section 4 rivals, beating South Fayette in overtime in the first meeting, 64-57, before winning at home late in the season, 52-46.

Battle on High

When the brackets came out last week, one of the big questions was in Class 4A girls basketball.

Which runner-up team would receive a first-round bye?

The three section champs — Blackhawk, North Catholic and Elizabeth Forward — were no brainers, but who would get the fourth free pass to the quarterfinals?

Much to the chagrin of Laurel Highlands, it was Highlands seeded No. 4.

Now everything will be settled on the court when No. 5 Laurel Highlands (19-2) visits Highlands (16-6) at 8 p.m.

While the Golden Rams relaxed, the Mustangs took care of business in the opening round, routing Quaker Valley, 65-29.

Junior Miyah Harris enjoyed a big game with 24 points for Laurel Highlands.

The Mustangs have now won four straight and 10 of their last 11 games.

The Golden Rams have a five-game winning streak coming into their playoff opener.

The other three girls basketball 4A quarterfinals games Friday are:

• No. 1 Blackhawk (20-2) hosting No. 8 Greensburg Salem (16-7) at 7 p.m. The Golden Lions defeated Hopewell in the opening round, 43-20, thanks to sophomore Mya Heasley scoring 14 points. The host Cougars have not lost a game since Dec. 21 and have won 14 in a row.

• Defending champion North Catholic (14-7) opens up its title defense when it hosts No. 7 Central Valley (12-10). The Warriors defeated West Mifflin in the first round, 69-59, as junior Nyah Hayes scored 23 points. The Trojans did not lose to a Class 4A team all season.

• No. 3 Elizabeth Forward (20-2) will indeed get a home playoff game when it welcomes No. 6 Knoch (14-9). The Knights disposed of Belle Vernon in Round 1 with Karlee Buterbaugh leading the way with 14 points in the 45-28 win. The Warriors have built an impressive 18-game winning streak.

Consolation openers

Once again this season, teams will earn their way into the PIAA basketball playoffs with consolation games.

Teams that lose in the quarterfinals, or in the case of Class 6A, the semifinals, will play consolation games to qualify for the state playoffs and earn their seed out of District 7.

The first eight games are set for Friday.

In boys 4A, South Allegheny (17-7) visits Montour (20-4) at 8 p.m. while North Catholic (14-9) is home to Knoch (15-9) at 8 p.m.

In boys A, West Greene (16-8) visits section foe Monessen (18-5) at 7 p.m. while Carlynton (8-15) is home to Aquinas Academy (15-9) at 8 p.m.

In girls 3A, Keystone Oaks (16-7) visits South Park (16-8) at 7 p.m. and Seton LaSalle (14-9) takes on rival OLSH (16-8) at Carlynton at 6 p.m.

In girls 2A, Winchester Thurston (11-13) visits Clairton (18-5) in the battle of the Bears at 7 p.m. and Fort Cherry (18-6) faces Rochester (15-8) at Montour at 6 p.m.

Championship weekend

Friday is Day 1 of the 2024 WPIAL Class 2A individual wrestling championships.

The two-day event takes place at Chartiers Valley.

Friday is also the first day of the 2024 WPIAL diving championships at North Allegheny.

Class 2A divers take center stage Friday with the girls championships at 9:30 a.m. and the boys beginning at 1 p.m.

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