What to watch for in WPIAL sports on Feb. 24, 2024: Semifinal round ready to tip off

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Saturday, February 24, 2024 | 12:25 AM


Welcome to opening day of the district final four, the WPIAL basketball semifinals in boys Class 4A and A along with girls 3A and 2A.

One standout junior is on his way to 500 points for the season. Another super senior has eclipsed that point total and is headed to 600 points.

The two won’t be worried about point totals on Saturday, though; they are just looking to lead their team to victory and a spot in the WPIAL finals when Avonworth (17-7) faces Hampton (21-3) in a boys 4A semifinals game at North Allegheny that you can watch on Trib HSSN.

Avonworth junior Rowan Carmichael has been lights out this postseason.

Averaging 20 points per game through the regular season, Carmichael scored 32 points in the Antelopes’ first-round win over Highlands and then scored 33 points in a quarterfinal victory over No. 3 Montour.

Hampton senior Peter Kramer, a spectator last postseason, has been doing his part to advance his team to the final for the first time since 2017.

Kramer scored 24 points in the Talbots’ opening-round win over Central Valley and dropped 22 points in the second-round victory over South Allegheny. Teammate Liam Mignogna led Hampton with 28 points in the quarterfinals.

Kramer averaged 23.5 points per game in the regular season and was one of eight district boys basketball players to top 500 points in the regular season.

In the other boys 4A semifinal Saturday, top seed Lincoln Park will battle No. 4 Uniontown in a game between the top two ranked 4A teams for a majority of the season.

The Leopards have won 13 straight and have been led all season by the dynamic duo of senior Brandin Cummings and junior Meleek Thomas.

In playoff wins over Freeport and Knoch, the two have combined for 107 points.

The Red Raiders had a duo of their own leading them to a quarterfinals win over North Catholic by 22 points. Notorious Grooms and Calvin Winfrey each scored 16 points.

Both teams are 21-3 and last met in the PIAA semifinals a year ago.

The Leopards crushed the Red Raiders, 85-64, with Cummings scoring 25 points and Thomas adding 20 points.

The game tips off at noon at Peters Township and can be heard on Trib HSSN.

Public vs. private

By no means is this meant to stir the always explosive topic of boundaries vs. non-boundaries, but in the boys Class A semifinals, both games pit a public school against a private school.

This topic ran wild around this time last year when, after Imani Christian defeated Union in the Class A title game, Scotties coach Mark Stanley spoke openly on the subject.

The matter was not an issue, though, when the teams met weeks later in the PIAA final four.

Imani Christian won both games convincingly, 64-41 in the district finals and 72-40 in the state semifinals.

Junior Lucas Stanley has had the hot hand for Union this postseason, scoring a combined 58 points in wins over Hillel Academy and Monessen.

The Saints jumped out to a 43-9 halftime lead in their lone playoff game this season before settling in to beat West Greene, 60-26.

Imani Christian (12-10) against Union (14-10) is set for 2 p.m. at Montour and can be heard on Trib HSSN.

The other semifinal pits No. 2 Neighborhood Academy (17-5) against No. 3 Rochester (17-6) at Montour at noon and can be heard on Trib HSSN.

The Bulldogs trio of junior Shamar Simpson, freshman Kedron Gilmour and junior Courtney Wallace combined for 56 points in the quarterfinal victory over Aquinas Academy, 79-56.

X marks the spot for Rochester this season.

The Rams have been led by senior Xavier Rigby, who has scored 37 points in playoff wins over St. Joseph and Carlynton.

Champs vs. former champs

Over the last three years, the Avonworth (21-1) and the Neshannock (17-7) girls basketball programs have captured gold.

The Antelopes are the defending 3A champions while the Lancers won district gold in 2021 and 2022 and a state title in 2022.

Avonworth is tied for sixth place in girls basketball championships with seven while Neshannock has become a power with the arrival of Luann Grybowski, winning three titles in a four-year span.

The powers collide in a 3A semifinal Saturday at North Allegheny at 2 p.m. and can be heard on Trib HSSN.

Senior Rebecca Goetz led the Antelopes with 21 and 17 points in playoff wins over Apollo-Ridge and Keystone Oaks.

Senior Kait Fries scored 15 against Brownsville in the opening round and 12 against South Park while sophomore Payton Newman had a game-high 19 against the Eagles.

You can hear the game on Trib HSSN from North Allegheny at 2 p.m.

The other 3A semifinal features No. 2 Shady Side Academy (22-2) against No. 3 Beaver Falls (16-6). The game is at Mt. Lebanon at 2 p.m. and can be viewed on Trib HSSN.

Bulldogs sophomore sensation Maggie Spell eclipsed 1,000 points for her career in a first-round win over Mohawk. Fellow SSA sophomores Cassie Sauer and Karis Thomas each scored 13 points in the second-round victory over OLSH, 37-36.

Fighting Tigers senior Avina Norman led the way in both Beaver Falls playoff wins, scoring 24 in a first-round victory over McGuffey and scoring 17 points in a second-round triumph over Seton LaSalle.

Ram tough

While most of the brackets have gone according to seeds, one surprise has made its way to the final four in girls Class 2A.

No. 12 South Side (15-9) has picked up consecutive upset wins over No. 5 Chartiers-Houston and No. 4 Fort Cherry in this postseason thanks to the play of junior Bailey Strnisa, who has scored 37 points in the two stunners.

Now the true test of these South Side underdogs comes when they meet top-seeded Greensburg Central Catholic (18-6).

Centurions senior Mya Morgan has 35 points in postseason wins over Northgate and Rochester.

The game starts at 2 p.m. at Peters Township.

The other semifinal has No. 2 Aliquippa (21-3) squaring off against No. 3 Serra Catholic (20-4).

The Quips defense has been outstanding, limiting California and Clairton in this postseason to a total of 52 points.

Meanwhile, the Eagles have done well scoring the basketball with 126 points in victories over Brentwood and Winchester Thurston.

Aliquippa battles Serra Catholic at Mt. Lebanon at noon and you can watch it here on Trib HSSN.

Consolation round continues

It’s Day 2 of the consolation round to determine qualifiers and seeds for the upcoming PIAA basketball playoffs.

There are six games Saturday.

In boys 5A, Kiski Area (15-8) visits Fox Chapel (13-11) at noon while Gateway (17-7) is home to Bethel Park (12-12) at noon.

In boys 3A, Derry (14-7) visits Ellwood City (16-8) at noon while Shady Side Academy (16-8) battles Yough (19-5) at Fox Chapel at 2 p.m.

In girls A, West Greene (10-14) visits section rival Monessen (18-6) at noon and Bishop Canevin (7-14) hosts Eden Christian Academy (9-14) for a third time this season.

Championship weekend concludes

Saturday is the final day of the 2024 WPIAL Class 2A individual wrestling championships.

The semifinals, consolation and championship finals take place at Chartiers Valley.

It is also the final day of the 2024 WPIAL diving championships at North Allegheny.

Class 3A divers take the spotlight with the girls championships at 9:30 a.m. and the boys beginning at 1:30 p.m.

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