What to watch for in WPIAL sports on Feb. 28, 2024: Baldwin looks to crash 6A party

By:
Tuesday, February 27, 2024 | 12:20 AM


Welcome to the final night of the 2024 WPIAL basketball semifinals with final four games in boys Class 6A and 2A, along with girls 5A and 4A.

Three of the final four teams in boys Class 6A have won recent district championships.

Top-seeded Mt. Lebanon won it all five year ago, defeating Butler in the 2019 WPIAL championship game.

Three years ago, No. 3 Upper St. Clair knocked off Pine-Richland in the district title game to capture gold in 2021.

Last season, No. 2 Central Catholic defeated New Castle in the WPIAL 6A finals to win its first basketball crown in 15 years.

Then there is Baldwin.

The Highlanders have knocked one playoff drought off their backs this postseason when they defeated North Allegheny in the quarterfinals for the school’s first playoff win since 2003.

Now No. 4 Baldwin hopes to reach the title game for only the second time in school history and the first time in nearly four decades.

The Highlanders’ only other trip to the WPIAL championship game came in 1987, when they lost to Latrobe, 67-59.

Baldwin (17-6) will battle Mt. Lebanon (19-4) for the third time this season in a semifinal at Bethel Park at 7 p.m., a game you can hear on Trib HSSN.

The Blue Devils crushed the Highlanders on the road on the second day of 2024, 73-50. The second game was much closer as host Mt. Lebanon edged Baldwin, 51-46.

In the other 6A semifinal, defending champion Central Catholic (15-8) faces Upper St. Clair (18-5) at Gateway at 8 p.m. and heard here on Trib HSSN.

The teams met in the semifinals a year ago with the Vikings rolling past the Panthers, 65-41. Senior Dante DePante scored a game-high 25 points to lead the onslaught for Central Catholic.

Gridiron champions collide

This past fall at Acrisure Stadium, both Aliquippa in 4A and Fort Cherry in Class A celebrated championships and raised gold on the North Shore.

On Tuesday, the schools go head to head for a berth in the WPIAL Class 2A basketball title game.

Top seed and defending champion Aliquippa is 19-5 and has won nine of its last 10 games.

The Quips have yet to lose to a 2A opponent.

They have won their two playoff games against Nazareth Prep and Serra Catholic by 13 and 26 points thanks to the play of Josh Pratt. The sophomore scored 11 points in the first-round win and 24 points in the Quips’ quarterfinals triumph.

No. 4 Fort Cherry is 19-5 and has won five straight and 13 of its last 14 games.

The Rangers have had four different players lead the scoring in postseason wins over Winchester Thurston and Bishop Canevin.

Senior Derek Errett, junior Shane Cornali and sophomore Blake Sweder each had 20 points in the opening round while senior A.J. Tarolli led Fort Cherry in the second-round win over the Crusaders with 16 points.

The game is at Chartiers Valley at 8 p.m.

In the other 2A final four matchup, No. 2 Greensburg Central Catholic battles No. 3 Northgate at Gateway. It can be heard on Trib HSSN at 6 p.m.

The Centurions are 22-2 and have won 13 games in a row.

GCC senior Tyree Turner is having quite the postseason with 38 points scored in playoff wins over Frazier and Eden Christian Academy.

The Flames, runners-up in the district a year ago, are 18-5 and have been victorious in 10 of their last 12 games.

Senior Josh Williams has scored 29 points in postseason wins over Clairton and Jeannette.

Defending champs still roaring

When two-time defending WPIAL girls basketball 5A champion South Fayette finished in third place in Section 4-5A, two games behind co-champions Lincoln Park and Trinity, and was the No. 6 seed when the brackets were released, few people thought a three-peat was remotely possible.

However, the postseason has been the Lions’ time to roar in recent years and they are back in the semifinals where on Tuesday, South Fayette (16-8) faces No. 2 McKeesport (20-3).

Sophomore Haylie Lamonde has been a force on the score sheet for the green and white.

Lamonde scored 24 points in South Fayette’s 55-36 first-round victory over Mars. She then scored 19 points in the 53-39 quarterfinal win over section rival Trinity.

Senior Rachel Manfredo has been the unstoppable force for McKeesport all season and into the postseason.

Manfredo scored 14 points in the Tigers tight opening-round win over Hampton, 49-46. In the quarterfinals, Manfredo scored 16 as McKeesport knocked off Indiana, 50-41.

On Jan. 18, these teams met in a nonsection game at McKeesport with the Tigers taming the Lions, 62-44. Senior Kaylee Charles scored 23 points while Manfredo had 16 for McKeesport. Sophomore Juliette Leroux led South Fayette with 18 points.

The rematch Tuesday is at Peters Township at 8 p.m. and can be heard on Trib HSSN.

In the other 5A semifinal, top seed and undefeated Oakland Catholic faces Armstrong at Fox Chapel. It can be heard on Trib HSSN at 8 p.m.

Now 24-0, the Eagles were led by junior London Creach and her 17 points in the first-round win over Penn Hills, then junior Josie Fontana led the way in the quarterfinals with 12 points as OC rolled past North Hills by 19 points.

Trib HSSN player of the week Emma Paul has led the way for No. 4 Armstrong in two playoff wins.

The senior scored 20 points in an opening-round victory over Latrobe and followed up with 25 points in the quarterfinals win over Lincoln Park by 28 points to improve the River Hawks to 20-4.

Something has to break

In the WPIAL girls basketball Class 4A semifinals game between No.2 North Catholic and No. 3 Elizabeth Forward, something has to give. They meet at Fox Chapel with audio coverage at 6 p.m. on Trib HSSN.

The Trojans are 15-7 and the Warriors enter the game with a record of 21-2.

However, of their combined nine losses, none have come against a team from Class 4A.

After an opening-round bye, defending champion North Catholic crushed Central Valley, 65-32, with senior Alayna Rocco leading the way with 21 points.

Elizabeth Forward also had a first-round bye and stormed past Knoch, 43-31, with junior Michelle Jellison leading the way with 15 points.

Five years ago, these programs met in the district semifinals and North Catholic knocked off Elizabeth Forward, 64-50.

In the other semifinal, top seed Blackhawk takes on No. 5 Laurel Highlands at Peters Township at 6 p.m. with audio on Trib HSSN.

The Cougars are 21-2 and have won 15 straight games.

Following a bye, Blackhawk crushed Greensburg Salem, 49-25. Sophomore Aubree Hupp had 22 points for the green and gold.

The Mustangs are 20-2 and were named Trib HSSN team of the week for their two playoff victories last week.

Junior Maiyah Harris scored 24 points in the first round as Laurel Highlands crushed Quaker Valley by 36 points, and then it was sophomore Taylor Irwin leading a balanced attack with 12 points in a 12-point win at Highlands in the second round.

Consolation round continues

It’s a busy day of consolation round games Tuesday to determine qualifiers and seeds for the upcoming PIAA basketball playoffs.

There are 11 games Tuesday.

In boys 4A, Avonworth (17-8) visits Uniontown (21-4) at 7 p.m. for third place out of the WPIAL in the upcoming PIAA playoffs, North Catholic (15-9) is home to South Allegheny (18-7) at 7 p.m. for fifth place, and Knoch (15-10) travels to Montour (20-5) at 7 p.m. for the seventh and final spot in the PIAA playoffs.

In boys A, Union (14-11) heads to section rival Rochester (17-7) at 7 p.m. for third place while Monessen (19-5) hosts Carlynton (9-15) at 7 p.m. for the fifth and final state playoff berth out of Class A.

In girls 3A, Neshannock (17-8) visits section rival Beaver Falls (21-3) at 7 p.m. for third place, Seton LaSalle (15-9) goes across the street to battle section rival Keystone Oaks (17-7) at 7 p.m. for fifth place, and South Park (16-9) is home to Our Lady of the Sacred Heart (16-9) at 7 p.m. for the seventh and final PIAA playoff berth.

In girls 2A, South Side (15-10) will travel to face section rival Aliquippa (21-4) for third place, Clairton (19-5) makes the trek to Rochester (16-8) at 7 p.m. for fifth place and Winchester Thurston (11-14) battles Fort Chery (18-7) at 6 p.m. at Chartiers Valley for the seventh seed in the state playoffs.

Penguins Cup playoffs begin

The PIHL Penguins Cup postseason begins with four Class A first-round games this week, with the first game set for Tuesday.

In what is basically the No. 8 vs. No. 9 matchup, Mars (15-5) will face Moon (11-9) at the UPMC Lemieux Sports Complex in Cranberry at 9:20 p.m.

The winner gets top seed Chartiers Valley in the quarterfinals next week.

More Basketball

Hampton basketball readies for rare coaching search
Hall of fame basketball coach Joe Lafko steps down at Hampton
Corey Dotchin steps down as Highlands boys basketball coach
PIAA taking bids to host basketball championships
Basketball coach Rob Niederberger, who lifted Shaler from last place to WPIAL contender, resigns