What to watch for in WPIAL sports on March 15, 2024: 4 WPIAL teams square off in Class 5A quarterfinals

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Friday, March 15, 2024 | 12:37 AM


Welcome to Quarterfinals Friday on the Road to Hershey with third-round PIAA basketball games in boys Class 5A, 4A and A, along with girls 6A, 3A and 2A taking center stage.

The WPIAL had dominated boys 5A through two rounds.

All four teams in the “western” semifinals are from District 7.

There is little surprise that section champions Moon, Franklin Regional and Shaler have reached the third round of the state playoffs. Those three teams have a combined overall record of 75-9 with each owning a record of 25-3.

If there is a darkhorse in the chase for gold, it’s the Black Hawks.

Bethel Park finished in third place in Section 1, four games behind champion Thomas Jefferson. The Hawks’ longest win streak was six in a row and their longest losing skid was four straight.

Bethel Park brings an overall record of 15-13 into its game against WPIAL champion Moon on Friday at Chartiers Valley at 7 p.m.

The game will be a battle of styles.

Moon has size and speed and likes to get up and down the floor, averaging 62.3 points per game.

Bethel Park likes a slower, half-court pace in which they grind out wins. In six playoff games, the Black Hawks have averaged 43 points per game.

The other PIAA quarterfinal on the western side of the bracket is a rematch of a WPIAL semifinal as Franklin Regional faces Shaler at Gateway at 7:30 p.m.

In that district final four matchup, the Panther jumped all over the Titans in the opening quarter and led after one, 17-5.

After Shaler closed the gap to 10 points by halftime, Franklin Regional again came out of the locker room flying and put the game away by outscoring the Titans 16-7 in the third quarter to cruise to a 28-point win, 68-40.

Fin Hutchinson scored 16 points and Connor Crossey added 14 for the Panthers while Keegan Smetanka had 15 points for the Titans.

The teams also met in the regular season with Franklin Regional beating visiting Shaler in January, 72-62.

Owning District 7

Over the last few years, the Lincoln Park boys basketball team has dominated the locals.

The Leopards haven’t lost to a WPIAL team since last January when they fell to eventual 6A champion Central Catholic.

They not only have swept district teams in the WPIAL playoffs the last two seasons, they are also a perfect 6-0 against them in the PIAA postseason.

Last year on their way to a state championship in 4A, Lincoln Park defeated South Allegheny, Highlands, Laurel Highlands and Uniontown before edging Neumann-Goretti in the finals.

Already this season, the Leopards have disposed of Montour and Uniontown to reach the state quarterfinals.

On Friday, Section 2-4A foes collide for a third time as Lincoln Park (25-3) takes on North Catholic (18-9) at Fox Chapel at 6 p.m.

In the two regular season section meetings, the Leopards swept the Trojans, winning at PPG Paints Arena in December, 72-58, then rolling in the rematch in Cranberry, 95-77.

WPIAL runner-up Hampton (24-4) will go out of district to face Eastern York (20-7) at Bald Eagle at 5:30 p.m.

The Talbots crushed Hickory in the first round before beating Johnstown in a close game in the second round, 50-48.

The District 3 champion Golden Knights had a big scare in the opening round by a WPIAL team as they barely got by South Allegheny, 56-55.

Deja vu

WPIAL boys Class A champion Imani Christian continues to dominate the competition on a similar path on the Road to Hershey as last year.

Last year, they defeated Clarion and Union-Rimersburg from District 9 before facing District 10 champion Farrell in the quarterfinals.

This year, the defeated Union-Rimersburg and Clarion again in the first two. Now Imani Christian (16-10) will play Farrell (21-5) at Slippery Rock University at 7:30 p.m.

In last year’s quarterfinals meeting, the Saints destroyed the Steelers, 80-50.

In their two state playoff wins thus far, Imani Christian has outscored their opponents, 167-110.

If Imani wins, there is a chance it could meet the same team it faced in the state semifinals last year in Union.

The Scotties racked up a 26-point win over Turkeyfoot Valley in the first round before outlasting Elk County Catholic in the second round, 64-62.

Now Union (17-11) will challenge District 6 champion Bishop Carroll (17-10) at Norwin at 6 p.m.

The Huskies eliminated WPIAL runner-up Neighborhood Academy in the second round, 71-70 in overtime.

Lonely Knights

Entering the second round of the PIAA playoffs Tuesday, Norwin was one of four WPIAL teams alive for state gold after all four District 7 teams in 6A girls were perfect in the opening round.

However, following second-round losses by Chartiers Valley, Peters Township and North Allegheny, the Knights are all alone from the WPIAL in the 6A bracket.

Friday, Norwin (23-3) heads east to square off with Spring-Ford (23-5) at State College at 6:30 p.m.

Spring-Ford is one of four teams out of eight remaining in the highest classification from District 1.

The Rams lost to Perkiomen Valley in the D-1 finals, but rebounded with state playoff wins over Northeastern York by 34 points and Peters Township by 21 points.

Norwin has won 14 straight games.

The Knights-Rams victor will take on the winner of Lansdale North Penn (24-4) against Garnet Valley (23-5) at Bensalem at 7 p.m.

North Penn eliminated North Allegheny in the second round, 56-54 in overtime.

Two for the show

WPIAL Class 3A girls basketball finalists Shady Side Academy and Avonworth are still alive and could face each other gain in the PIAA semifinals.

First, though, the Bulldogs and Antelopes have to take care of business in the quarterfinals.

Shady Side Academy (26-2) will take on Westmont-Hilltop (21-4) at Norwin at 7:30 p.m.

Avonworth (24-2) heads north to Slippery Rock University to play Mercyhurst Prep (23-3) at 6 p.m.

The WPIAL champion Bulldogs have now won 20 straight games, including victories over River Valley and Northwestern in the state playoffs.

The District 6 runner-up Hilltoppers have already defeated two WPIAL teams on the Road to Hershey, beating Beaver Falls by 21 points and Seton LaSalle by six points.

The WPIAL runner-up Antelopes has two double-digit wins in the state playoffs, beating Wilmington by 14 points and District 6 champion Forest Hills by 15 points.

The District 10 champion Lakers have also defeated a pair of District 7 teams to reach the quarters. Mercyhurst Prep edged OLSH by three points in the opening round and rolled past Neshannock in the second round by 21 points.

D-7 champs vs. D-5 winners

The only WPIAL Class 2A girls basketball team still in the hunt for state gold is district champion Greensburg Central Catholic (22-6) as it prepares to face District 5 winner Everett (20-7) at Forest Hills at 7 p.m.

Eight WPIAL teams qualified for the PIAA 2A playoffs, but more than half of those were wiped out in the opening round as Serra Catholic, Aliquippa, Fort Cherry, Rochester and Winchester Thurman all lost.

Then in the second round, South Side and Clairton suffered season-ending losses.

That leaves on the Centurions left to face a Warriors squad that defeated a pair of Rams: Rochester in the first round and South Side in the second.

In the quarterfinals last year, GCC beat then-WPIAL champion Shenango, 53-37.

The winner will take on whoever is triumphant in the Bishop McCort vs. Kennedy Catholic game, set to be played at Gateway at 6 p.m.

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