What to watch for in WPIAL sports on Jan. 25, 2022: Top 4 teams square off in Section 4-5A

Monday, January 24, 2022 | 11:54 PM

Mars is the only boys basketball team in Section 4-5A to have already clinched a WPIAL playoff berth, but it might be only a matter of time before Highlands, Shaler and Hampton soon follow.

Those top four teams in Section 4 have built a 2½-game gap between themselves and the other three teams in the section: Armstrong, Plum and Indiana.

The top four teams in each section qualify for the upcoming WPIAL basketball playoffs.

Those top four will go head-to-head against each other Tuesday.

Mars (7-0) will visit Shaler in a game you can watch at 7:30 p.m. on Trib HSSN.

The Fightin’ Planets are alone in first place with a 7-0 section record, while the Titans are sitting in third place at 5-2, two games off the lead.

The other key contest has Hampton hosting Highlands.

The Talbots are in fourth place at 4-3, trailing the second-place Golden Rams (5-1) by two games.

You can listen to that game on Trib HSSN at 7:30 p.m.

Second round winding down

Section 1-6A boys basketball is unique.

In every other section in boys and girls hoops, teams play their section opponents twice, once at home and once on the road.

Because the section only has five teams, not wanting to play only an eight-game section schedule, it was decided before last season that each team would play its other four section foes three times for a total of 12 section games.

On Tuesday, the second go-around concludes with a pair of games as first-place North Hills hosts North Allegheny while Pine-Richland visits Seneca Valley.

The front-running Indians are running away with the section title with a 7-0 record.

However, only two games separate the other four teams in a chase that looks to be going down to the final night of section play.

Pine-Richland is a notch above, sitting in second place with a 4-3 record.

Butler is 3-5 while both North Allegheny and Seneca Valley are 2-5 heading into Tuesday’s games.

Because a two-team tie would be broken by the three-game head-to-head tiebreaker, a three-way tie that isn’t clearly broken is the only way all five teams could qualify for the playoffs.

In nonsection games, the five Section 1-6A teams are 27-8 with three teams — North Hills, Butler and North Allegheny — sporting perfect records against teams outside of Section 1.

3-3 logjam

Last year’s Class 3A runner-up South Allegheny has built a two-game lead over second-place Shady Side Academy in the fight for first place in Section 3-3A.

However, there is quite a logjam building in the battle for third and fourth place in the section.

Two games separate four teams that all square off against each other Tuesday.

Ligonier Valley is in third place with a 4-3 section record. Apollo-Ridge is 3-4, East Allegheny is 2-3 and Steel Valley checks in at 2-5.

East Allegheny visits Ligonier Valley while Steel Valley hosts Apollo-Ridge.

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