What to watch for in WPIAL sports on Jan. 31, 2023: Aquinas Academy star Vinnie Cugini on verge of breaking WPIAL scoring record

Monday, January 30, 2023 | 6:57 PM

We could be closing out the month of January with a little history Tuesday.

It might turn out to be a record-setting day in the neighborhood when Aquinas Academy (3-2, 14-2) visits Neighborhood Academy (3-3, 12-4) in a Section 3-A boys basketball tilt.

All eyes will be on Crusaders senior Vinnie Cugini as he tries to become the all-time scoring leader in the WPIAL.

Cugini needs 31 points to break the record held by new WPIAL Hall of Famer Tom Pipkins of Valley, who has had the record for 31 years with 2,838 points.

For most players, 31 points in a game might be a tall task. However the 6-foot-2 guard averages over 45 points per game and has led the district in scoring in each of his first three years.

In his most recent outing Friday, Cugini scored 57 points as the Crusaders lost to Summit Academy, 89-83.

This is also a key game in the section as Aquinas leads both Neighborhood and Summit by only a half-game in the chase for second place behind top-ranked Imani Christian.

The Crusaders beat the Bulldogs, 81-77, in the first meeting Jan. 6.

You can watch the game on Trib HSSN starting at 5 p.m.

Free 4 all

There are two games set for Tuesday that will either bring some classification to their respective section title chases or further muddy the waters with the likelihood of two or possibly three teams sharing the section crown becoming more of a reality.

In Section 4-5A, a Mars thriller over North Hills last week now has three teams separated by only one game.

North Hills (14-4) remains in first place with a 5-1 section record, one game ahead of both Moon (9-6) and Mars (12-5), both who are 4-2 in section play.

On Tuesday, the Indians host the Tigers while the Fightin’ Planets visit West Allegheny (1-5, 8-10).

In Section 4-4A, defending champion Quaker Valley (10-5) is tied for first place with South Allegheny (14-2) with 5-1 section marks, one game ahead of a West Mifflin (9-7) team that has won four of their six section games.

This is a big week for the Titan. On Tuesday, the visit the Quakers, then on Friday, they host the Gladiators.

Be my Valentine

Fresh off scoring 63 points in a victory over Brentwood on Friday, senior Makhai Valentine leads Steel Valley (9-9) into a Section 2-3A showdown against defending WPIAL and PIAA champion Our Lady of the Sacred Heart (14-3) on Tuesday.

The visiting Chargers are 7-1 in the section and a half-game in front of the Ironmen, who are 7-2 in section play.

Steel Valley has won three straight and five of its last six since losing 71-66 to OLSH on Jan. 6.

The 63 points scored by Valentine is tied for the third-most points in a game in WPIAL boys basketball history.

Tuesday girls hoops

There are only five WPIAL section girls basketball games Tuesday, but three of them have playoff ramifications.

In Section 1-5A, four teams are separated by only one game in the chase for third and fourth place.

Plum is in third place (5-4, 11-7) trailing first-place Indiana (8-0, 12-6) and second-place Woodland Hills (6-2, 9-9).

Penn Hills (4-5, 7-9) and Franklin Regional (4-5, 6-11) are tied for fourth place, a half-game ahead of Kiski Area (3-5, 6-11).

On Tuesday, Franklin Regional visits Kiski Area while Penn Hills hosts Woodland Hills.

Also on Tuesday, next-door neighbors go at it when Keystone Oaks (12-6) goes across the street to battle Seton LaSalle (11-6).

The Golden Eagles are 4-2 and in third place, one game ahead of the Rebels at 3-3 in Section 2-3A.


More Basketball

Trib 10: State champs take top spots in season’s final power rankings
Trib HSSN Boys Basketball State Rankings for March 28, 2023
Trib HSSN Girls Basketball State Rankings for March 27, 2023
A-K Valley Senior Spotlight: St. Joseph’s Jimmy Giannetta
Westmoreland County Senior Spotlight: Yough’s Laney Gerdich