What to watch for in WPIAL sports on March 11, 2023: Heavyweights collide when New Castle meets Erie

Saturday, March 11, 2023 | 12:02 AM

Opening weekend on the Road to Hershey continues Saturday.

Last year, New Castle lost in the WPIAL finals to Laurel Highlands and then ripped off four wins in the state playoffs to reach the PIAA Class 5A championship game, where the Red Hurricane lost to Imhotep Charter.

The last time Erie participated in the PIAA postseason was two years ago when it faced the Upper St. Clair Six in the first round. A covid-19 outbreak after the Panthers won the WPIAL 6A championship stripped them of their head coach, several assistant coaches and all but six of their players.

Nonetheless, the Panthers stunned the District 10 champion Royals, 62-57, in one of the best high school sports stories in 2021.

D-10 champions once again this year, Erie (17-9) heads south to battle WPIAL runner-up New Castle.

The Royals defeated McDowell in the D-10 title game, 47-45. Erie then defeated City League champion Allderdice in a PIAA play-in game, 62-58, before losing to D-6 champion State College, 73-41.

New Castle (22-3) was the top seed in 6A this year, but lost to Central Catholic in the championship game last weekend, 61-52.

The game tips off at 3 p.m.

Here are the other two 6A boys first-round games Saturday involving WPIAL teams:

• West Lawn Wilson (18-8) vs. Central Catholic (16-9) at Gateway at 3:30 p.m.

Upper St. Clair (16-9) at State College (23-2) at 4 p.m.

Even up

Coaches love to talk about throwing records out the window come playoff time.

That might be a good thing for the No. 3 team out of the WPIAL and the District 5 champions.

Combined, Steel Valley (15-10) and Bedford (10-14) are 25-24, not exactly striking fear into upcoming opponents.

The Ironmen lost their first five games and were 1-7 while many of their players returned from a long football season.

Steel Valley finished strong enough to earn the 3A top seed in the WPIAL tournament but lost to eventual champion Deer Lakes in the semifinals, 65-63.

With only two teams in 3A in District 5, the Bisons defeated Chestnut Ridge in the D-5 finals, 54-34, before losing to District 9 champion Brookville in the regional championship game, 50-39.

Tip off at Bedford is set for 2 p.m.

Here are the other six 3A boys first-round games Saturday involving WPIAL teams:

• Seneca (13-12) at Deer Lakes (17-8) at 3:30 p.m.

Yough (17-9) at Penn Cambria (21-5) at 5 p.m.

• Westmont-Hilltop (17-7) vs. Our Lady of the Sacred Heart (19-6) at South Fayette at 3 p.m.

Shady Side Academy (17-9) at Franklin (21-4) at 5 p.m.

Neshannock (18-7) at Oil City (19-6) at 3 p.m.

Seton LaSalle (13-11) at Brookville (22-2) at 5 p.m.

Highs and lows

The Bishop Canevin boys basketball program knows all about the lows and highs of the state playoffs.

Two years ago, moments before the start of the Class A quarterfinals game between BC and Berlin-Brothersvalley, the Crusaders had to forfeit when a sick player not at the game informed administrators that he had tested positive for covid-19 and his teammates may have been exposed.

Then last year, fresh off a district championship, Bishop Canevin defeated Johnsonburg, DuBois Central Catholic, Imani Christian, Elk County Catholic and St. John Neumann to win the PIAA Class A championship.

On Saturday, Bishop Canevin (20-6) begins its defense on the road when it battles District 9 champion Clairtion-Limestone (25-2) at 2 p.m.

Here are the other six 2A boys first-round games Saturday involving WPIAL teams:

• Karns City (21-5) at Aliquippa (20-6) on Saturday, Mar. 11 at 2 p.m.

• McConnellsburg (22-4) at Northgate (19-7) on Saturday, Mar. 11 at 2 p.m.

Clairton (12-14) vs. Erie First Christian (14-10) at Hagerty Events Center in Erie on Saturday, Mar. 11 at 3 p.m.

Greensburg Central Catholic (18-6) at Otto-Eldred (23-2) on Saturday, Mar. 11 at 4:30 p.m.

Serra Catholic (15-11) vs. United (25-2) at Central Cambria on Saturday, Mar. 11 at 4 p.m.

Eden Christian Academy (19-6) at Conemaugh Township (19-7) on Saturday, Mar. 11 at 2 p.m.

Near perfect in girls 5A

There are no undefeated teams in the PIAA girls 5A playoff bracket, but three district winners are near perfect.

District 10 champion Erie Cathedral Prep is 21-1 with its only loss coming to 4A WPIAL champion North Catholic, 59-57, on Jan. 7.

District 3 winner Greencastle-Antrim enters the state playoffs with a record of 23-2 with its only blemishes coming against Northern York and Altoona.

WPIAL and defending PIAA champion South Fayette is 24-2 with losses to Norwin and St. Thomas Aquinas (NJ) back in December.

Two of those teams open up the state postseason against WPIAL opponents.

Cathedral Prep faces Trinity (18-7) at the Hagerty Family Events Center in Erie at 4:30 p.m., and Greencastle-Antrim hosts Penn-Trafford (17-9) at 4 p.m. South Fayette is also home as it welcomes West York (13-13) at 4:30 p.m.

Here are the other four 5A girls first-round games Saturday involving WPIAL teams:

Woodland Hills (13-13) at Mechanicsburg (19-7) at 3 p.m.

Mars (17-8) at York Suburban (18-8) at 3 p.m.

• Northern York (21-4) at McKeesport (21-5) at 2 p.m.

• Manheim Central (23-5) vs. Oakland Catholic (22-4) at Gateway at 2 p.m.

Familiar start

For the second straight year, Knoch opens up the PIAA Class 4A girls basketball playoffs against the District 9 champions.

As the WPIAL runner-up a year ago, the Knights hosted D-9 champion St. Mary’s and cruised to a 30-point victory, 65-35.

Now Knoch (17-9) is the No. 5 seed out of the WPIAL after losing in the quarterfinals and beating Belle Vernon and Beaver in the consolation bracket.

The Knights travel to Punxsutawney (22-1), whose only loss this year was to 5A power Erie Cathedral Prep on Feb. 1, 52-31.

Here are the other five 4A girls first-round games Saturday involving WPIAL teams:

• Warren (18-7) at Blackhawk (21-4) at 2 p.m.

• Conneaut (15-10) at North Catholic (22-3) at 2 p.m.

Quaker Valley (17-8) at Harbor Creek (19-6) at 3 p.m.

Highlands (16-9) at Penn Cambria (12-12) at 3:30 p.m.

• Beaver (15-10) at Fairview (19-8) at 3 p.m.

Battle of the Bishops

Ten years ago, Bishop Canevin followed up its WPIAL 2A championship by winning five more times, including a title game victory over York Catholic, to win the program’s first and only PIAA crown.

The Crusaders’ opponent in the opening round of the state Class A playoffs Saturday is girls hoops royalty.

Bishop Guilfoyle has won seven state championships (1984, 1991, 1993, 2007, 2009, 2010 and 2021). The Marauders’ title two years ago included a semifinals win over WPIAL Class A champion Rochester, 55-50.

Now Bishop Canevin (12-8) visits Bishop Guilfoyle (14-11) in a Class A opener in one of the later starts of the day at 6 p.m.

Here are the other four Class A girls first-round games Saturday involving WPIAL teams:

Monessen (17-6) at Otto-Eldred (23-2) at 3 p.m.

• Clarion (11-14) at Union (18-6) at 2 p.m.

St. Joseph’s (20-6) vs. Williamsburg (26-1) at Claysburg-Kimmel at 4 p.m.

• Juniata Valley (16-8) vs. Aquinas Academy (16-9) at Deer Lakes at 2 p.m.

Grappling for gold

The 2023 PIAA individual wrestling championships conclude Saturday with Day 3 and the crowning of champions at the Giant Center in Hershey.

The top 3A wrestlers hit the mats early on the final day with semifinal bouts along with fourth- and fifth-round consolations at 9 a.m.

Survivors in 3A will return to center stage for the consolation and championship finals at 7 p.m.

The best wrestlers in 2A will compete in the consolation and championship finals matches at 2 p.m.

You can listen to full day coverage from both championships once again on Trib HSSN.

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