What to watch for in WPIAL sports on March 16, 2024: Jeannette looks to continue surprising state playoff run

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Friday, March 15, 2024 | 11:56 PM


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

What a difference six weeks make.

After losing to rival Greensburg Central Catholic in early January by 27 points at home, Jeannette traveled to GCC 25 days later and lost by only 21 points on Jan. 30, 73-51.

So what chance did the Jayhawks have 42 days later when they played the Centurions on a neutral floor in the PIAA second round?

Turns out the odds were pretty good.

Freshman Markus McGowan scored 13 points and sophomore Kymon’e Brown added 11 points as Jeannette upset WPIAL runner-up Greensburg Central Catholic in overtime, 48-46.

Jeannette (18-8) will now battle fellow district foe Fort Cherry (22-6) in a PIAA 2A quarterfinal at Peters Township at 1 p.m.

The Jayhawks are making their first trip to the state Elite 8 since losing to Sewickley Academy in the PIAA quarterfinals in 2018.

The Rangers’ only trip to the PIAA quarterfinals was 63 years ago when they knocked off Marion Center in the 1961 quarterfinals, 60-59.

The Rangers just played at Peters Township when they defeated Serra Catholic on Wednesday, 88-71.

Sophomore Blake Sweder (21), senior Derek Errett (20) and junior Shane Cornalli (19) combined to score 60 points for the Rangers.

In the other “western” 2A quarterfinal, WPIAL champion Aliquippa (23-5) will take aim at District 9 champion Redbank Valley (24-3) at Slippery Rock University at 1 p.m.

The Quips have won 13 of their last 14 games and crushed Eisenhower in the PIAA second round, 79-47.

Sophomore Joshua Pratt led all scorers with 23 points as he continued his red-hot postseason.

The Bulldogs were also impressive in Round 2 as they smoked West Shamokin, 54-21.

Luck of the Lancers

Many people will celebrate St. Patrick’s Day on Saturday, when green is the color of the day and luck is in the air.

It hasn’t been luck but hard work and outstanding play that has brought WPIAL champion Deer Lakes (23-4) to the PIAA quarterfinals as the Lancers prepare to take on District 10 runner-up Franklin (22-5) at Sharon at 2:30 p.m.

The Lancers have won 16 of their last 18 games, including an impressive win Forest Hills in the second round of the state playoffs, 67-51.

Over the last two years, the Lancers are 6-1 in PIAA playoff games.

Senior Billy Schaeffer led Deer Lakes with 22 points while the two big men for the Lancers, junior Nathaniel Moore (17) and senior Wayne Love (15), combined for 32 points.

The District 10 Knights ousted Neshannock in the first round, 69-55, and Chestnut Ridge in the second round, 64-57.

In the other “western” quarterfinal, it will be another WPIAL vs. District 10 matchup as Mohawk (19-8) will battle D-10 champion Girard (25-2) at Slippery Rock University at 4 p.m.

The Warriors eliminated Ellwood City in the second round, 55-50.

Sophomore Bobby Fadden scored 28 points in the win for the Warriors.

The Yellowjackets were in a Round 2 dogfight, but prevailed over Bishop Guilfoyle, 55-52.

Panthers pride

WPIAL boys Class 6A champion Upper St. Clair will be playing a quarterfinal in the state playoffs for only the third time in program history Saturday.

USC lost in the 2003 PIAA quarterfinals to State College, 44-37.

Then 18 years, the St. Clair six took center stage and won their first PIAA game in the champions-only postseason.

After winning the 2021 WPIAL title, most of the team, head coach Danny Holzer and several assistants tested positive for covid-19 and had to miss the quarterfinal against Erie.

With only six players and one assistant, the Panthers shocked all by beating the Royals, 62-57.

USC then lost in the semifinals to District 3 power Reading, 68-46.

Upper St. Clair (22-5) will face Central York (23-3) in a battle of the Panthers at Altoona at 2 p.m.

Central York was the top seed in the District 3 6A playoffs but was upset in the quarterfinals by Red Lion, 66-65. It knocked out Red Lion in the PIAA second round, 70-54.

In the other “western” quarterfinals, Reading (19-9) battles Coatesville (20-8) at Martz Hall in Pottsville at 1 p.m.

5A girls flying high

Three WPIAL girls basketball teams have reached the elite eight in the PIAA Class 5A playoffs.

Two of them will square off at Norwin at 11:30 a.m. when district runner-up Armstrong (23-5) will take on McKeesport (23-4).

The River Hawks own two wins over teams from the east, beating District 3 Palmyra in the opening round, 44-33, and then knocking off District 6 champion Hollidaysburg in the second round, 54-39.

Winners of 18 of their last 19 games, the River Hawks were once again led by senior Emma Paul, who scored 30 points in the win over the Golden Tigers.

After beating West York in the opener, the Tigers rolled past Indiana, 48-27, in Round 2 on Wednesday as the Little Indians were held to only 16 points total in the final three quarters by the McKeesport defense.

In the other 5A “western” quarterfinal, Oakland Catholic (26-2) will go up against District 10 champion Cathedral Prep at Sharon at 1 p.m.

Following the loss of leading scorer London Creach to injury, the Eagles have adjusted and seem to be playing much better as evidenced by their victory over WPIAL champion South Fayette in the state second round, 48-28.

Sophomore Josie Fontana scored 14 points, junior Alayla Bivens 13 points and freshman Kaylee D’Angelo 12 points for Oakland Catholic.

In the first round, Cathedral Prep knocked out Trinity by 24 points before defeating Northern York by 25 points.

Points may be at a premium as the Eagles have given up only 62 points in their two state playoffs wins while the Ramblers have allowed 65 points.

Two for the show

WPIAL Class 4A girls basketball finalists North Catholic and Blackhawk could face each other again in the PIAA semifinals if the Trojans and Cougars can win on Saturday.

North Catholic (19-7) will take on undefeated Wyomissing (27-0) at Bald Eagle Area at 2 p.m.

Blackhawk (24-3) heads north to Slippery Rock University to play Fairview (22-5) at 2:30 p.m.

The WPIAL champion Trojans faced the District 3-winning Spartans last year in the PIAA quarterfinals with North Catholic prevailing big, 60-27.

In the second round Wednesday, the Trojans cruised past Warren, 59-32, as senior Alayna Rocco led the way with 19 points.

The Spartans on Wednesday knocked off Neumann-Goretti, 62-52.

The WPIAL runner-up Cougars crushed District 9 champion St. Mary’s in the second round, 63-33.

Senior Alena Fusetti scored 17 points and sophomore Aubree Hupp added 15 points for Blackhawk.

The District 10 champion Tigers defeated Laurel Highlands on Wednesday, 45-36, as Breanna Heidt scored 18 points for Fairview.

Champs all alone

WPIAL Class A girls basketball finalists Union and St. Joseph were the only two District 7 teams to survive the opening round of the state playoffs.

Then Wednesday in the second round, St. Joe’s lost to Berlin-Brothersvalley, leaving the defending state champion Scotties as the only WPIAL team left on the block.

Union (21-5) will now play District 6 champion Bishop Guilfoyle (26-3) at Norwin at 1:30 p.m.

The Scotties have won 16 straight games, including a PIAA second-round victory over Northern Bedford, 52-42.

Senior Kelly Cleaver scored 17 points for Union while junior Kylie Fruehstorfer added 16 points for Union.

The Marauders beat Riverview in the opening round by 25 points then crushed DuBois Central Catholic in the second round by 26 points.

In the other “western” quarterfinal, District 6 runner-up Williamsburg (26-3) will face District 5 champion Berlin-Brothersvalley (23-5) at Richland at 2 p.m.

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