What to watch for in WPIAL sports on Jan. 26, 2024: North Catholic takes another crack at Lincoln Park

Friday, January 26, 2024 | 12:19 AM

It’s a busy night of WPIAL boys basketball on the final Fray-day of January with all 21 district sections now into the second half of section play.

One of the marque matchups is a battle for first place in Section 2-4A as North Catholic (10-5) hosts Lincoln Park (13-3).

The Trojans are in second place with a 6-1 section record. They are a perfect 6-0 thus far in 2024.

The top-ranked Leopards hit the midway point with a perfect 7-0 section record. The defending champions are 5-0 since losing to Neumann-Goretti in a rematch of the 2023 PIAA 4A finals.

These programs have dominated first 3A and now 4A over the last half-decade, facing each other in four of the last five WPIAL championship games.

Lincoln Park beat North Catholic in the 2019 3A finals, 62-50, in the 2021 4A title game, 66-57, and in the 2023 4A championship game, 78-68.

The Trojans knocked off the Leopards in the 2020 3A finale at The Pete, 65-56.

The one year they did not square off in the finals since 2019 was in 2022 when Lincoln Park eliminated North Catholic in the district quarterfinals, 77-67.

In the first meeting between the two this season, Lincoln Park defeated North Catholic, 72-58, in a game played over the holidays at PPG Paints Arena.

The Leopards’ dynamic duo was in full force as senior Brandin Cummings scored a game-high 23 points while junior Meleek Thomas had 15 points and 13 rebounds.

Senior Max Hurray led North Catholic with 17 points while sophomore Jude Rottman added 15 points.

Thrice as nice

Coming into Friday’s district boys basketball action, there are five sections where two teams are tied for first place.

However, there is a Class 6A section where three teams are deadlocked for the top spot.

Section 2-6A has Baldwin, Mt. Lebanon and Upper St. Clair on top with 4-1 section records.

Two of them collide when the Highlanders visits the Blue Devils.

Baldwin is 12-3 overall and has won five straight games, including a huge 55-54 win at Upper St. Clair last week to force the three-way tie.

Mt. Lebanon has an overall record of 13-3. The Blue Devils won their first eight games this season and have won three of their last four and five of their last seven games.

Upper St. Clair is 11-4 this season and will host Hempfield (0-5, 4-13) on Friday.

In the first meeting earlier this month, the Blue Devils won big over the host Highlanders, 73-50.

Sophomore Liam Sheely scored 30 points for Mt. Lebanon while junior Caden Chrico scored 15 points to lead Baldwin.

That same night, visiting Upper St. Clair defeated Hempfield, 57-25 as Christian Ito scored 16 points for the Panthers.

Both games can be seen on Trib HSSN with Hempfield — USC at 7 p.m. and Baldwin-Lebo at 7:30 p.m.

Defense anyone?

On Thursday, Moon defeated South Fayette, 58-49, to open a two-game lead in Section 4-5A.

Now, Thomas Jefferson will try to do the same thing when it visits Peters Township in a Section 1-5A showdown between the two top teams.

The Jaguars are a perfect 5-0 in the section and 12-3 overall; however, they had their eight-game winning streak snapped Tuesday in a nonsection home loss to South Fayette, 71-56.

The Indians are 4-1 in the section. The 2023 5A runners-up have won six straight games and are 12-4 this season.

Thomas Jefferson won the first game between the two at home, 90-74.

TJ was led by senior Evan Berger’s 24 points while Jack Dunbar had 21 points for PT.

The 164 points scored in that first meeting is offensively impressive, but it pales in comparison to the meeting between the Jaguars and Indians at Peters Township a year ago.

In a game of the year candidate, Thomas Jefferson outlasted Peters Township 105-100 in triple overtime.

Berger had 43 points for the Jaguars while Dunbar scored 37 points for the Indians.

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