What to watch for in WPIAL sports on March 19, 2024: Aliquippa, Fort Cherry set for rematch

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Monday, March 18, 2024 | 11:59 PM


Welcome to Semifinals Tuesday and the final stop on the Road to Hershey with PIAA basketball final four games in boys Class 6A, 3A and 2A, along with girls 5A, 4A and A.

While the Class 5A and 4A “western finals” were rematches of WPIAL championship games this winter, the 2A PIAA semifinal is a rematch of a WPIAL final four contest.

WPIAL champion Aliquippa (24-5) takes on Fort Cherry (23-6) at Pine-Richland at 5:30 p.m.

In their district semifinals matchup, the Quips beat the Rangers on Feb. 27, 55-36.

The Aliquippa defense limited Fort Cherry to only eight points in each of the first, second and fourth quarters against a Rangers offense that has averaged nearly 68 points per game this season.

The Quips led by six points after one quarter and 11 points by halftime and built on that double-digit lead from there.

Sophomore Josh Pratt led Aliquippa with 26 points while senior Cameron Lindsey added 14 points.

Senior Derek Errett led Fort Cherry with 14 points.

The Quips have now won seven straight playoff games with the closest margin of victory being 16 points.

Including the loss in the district semifinals, the Rangers have won nine of their last 10 games.

It was 75 years ago that Aliquippa played in its first PIAA semifinal as it defeated Sharpsville, 57-48. The Quips later won the 1949 state championship by beating York by 12 points.

This is the 18th state semifinals boys basketball Aliquippa has played in. The Quips are now 12-5 in final four contests after defeating Otto-Eldred a year ago, 56-28.

By contrast, this is only the second time Fort Cherry has played in a PIAA semifinal.

The Rangers defeated Cochranton 63 years ago, 71-44, to reach the 1961 state title game.

In the other PIAA semifinal in boys 2A, District 12 winner Philadelphia Constitution (25-6) battles District 2 champion Holy Cross (23-3) at Bethlehem Liberty at 7:30 p.m.

A Tigers tale

It has been a wild ride for the McKeesport girls basketball team this season, one that has brought the Tigers to within two victories of a state championship.

They won their first five games, then following a loss to 6A top-ranked Norwin, won 10 of their next 11 games before a sudden coaching change thrust the program in the spotlight for reasons that had nothing to do with their successful campaign.

McKeesport football coach Matt Miller, whose daughter Madison is a starter on the team, was asked to take over on an interim basis with hardly any basketball coaching in his background.

What he and some of his gridiron assistants were able to do is keep the speeding Tigers train on the tracks with three wins in their final four games.

As the 5A No. 2 seed, McKeesport beat Hampton and Indiana before falling to eventual champion South Fayette in the district semifinals.

The Tigers have won three state playoff games and are now healthy again with the return of senior Kaylee Charles, who has yet to play in the postseason.

The latest victory came in the state quarterfinals Saturday when the Tigers defeated Armstrong, 57-35. Senior Rachael Manfredo scored 22 points for the ’Port.

On Tuesday, McKeesport (24-4) will take on District 10 champion Cathedral Prep (22-3) at Slippery Rock University at 6 p.m.

The Ramblers eliminated Oakland Catholic in the PIAA quarterfinals, 39-29. Jayden McBride scored 14 points while Addie Biel added 10 points for Prep.

In the other state semifinal, defending PIAA 5A girls basketball champion Archbishop Wood (24-5) will take on District 11 champion Bethlehem Catholic (23-5) at Norristown at 6 p.m.

Familiar path

A year ago, Blackhawk was the top seed in the WPIAL playoffs, reached the Class 4A championship game and lost to North Catholic. The Cougars rebounded with four wins in the PIAA playoffs before settling for silver again with a state title game loss to Lansdale Catholic.

Here in the 2024 postseason, Blackhawk again earned the top seed, reached the district finals and lost in heartbreaking fashion to North Catholic again, 40-37 in overtime.

Once again, the Cougars did not pout or put their heads down. They went back to work and defeated Harbor Creek, St. Mary’s and Fairview to reach the state semifinals.

In the win over the District 10 champion Tigers in the quarterfinals, sophomore Aubree Hupp scored 23 points while the Cougars defense held Fairview to only 11 first-half and eight second-half points with single-digit scoring each quarter.

Blackhawk (25-3) will have to play that kind of defense against as they prepare to Face District 3 champion Wyomissing (28-0) at Altoona at 5:30 p.m.

The undefeated Spartans defeated North Catholic in the quarterfinals, 61-46.

Amaya Stewart had 24 points, Annie McCaffrey had 13 and Aubrey Hurleman added 10 points for Wyomissing.

In the other 4A state semifinal, District 12 champion Universal Audenried (25-5) faces District 2 winner Scranton Prep (22-25) at Bethlehem Liberty at 6 p.m.

Other state semifinals

There are no WPIAL teams left in boys 6A, boys 3A and girls A, but the beat goes on in those three brackets with final four contests Tuesday.

Central York (24-3), the team that eliminated Upper St. Clair in the quarterfinals, will take on Reading (20-9) in an all-District 3 “western final” at Warwick at 7 p.m.

Archbishop Wood (19-6) faces District 11 champion Parkland (24-5) at Norristown at 7:30 p.m.

The last time a District 12 team did not win 6A boys state gold was in 2021 when D-3’s Reading was victorious.

In the boys Class 3A semifinals, it will be two District 10 teams in the west and a pair of District 12 teams in the East.

Franklin (23-5) faces Girard (26-2) in a rematch of the D-10 finals won by Girard. The game is at Edinboro at 7 p.m.

Devon Prep (13-13) defeated Math, Civics & Science (20-10) in the D-12 title game. Now the two meet at Cardinal O’Hara at 6 p.m. for a spot in the state finals.

In girls Class A, a new champion will be crowned after 2023 winner Union lost in the state quarterfinals.

The team that beat the Scotties, Bishop Guilfoyle (27-3), faces a familiar foe in the team it beat for the District 6 championship, Williamsburg (27-3) at Altoona at 7 p.m.

Greenwood (18-11) goes up against District 2 champion Mountain View (23-4) at Berwick at 6 p.m.

Remember when…

Five years ago, both North Allegheny and Pine-Richland raised the cup after winning high school hockey championships.

The Tigers won the 2019 Penguins Cup 3A title and the Rams captured the PIHL 2A crown.

Now the two clash for the cup Tuesday in the Penguins Cup Class 3A championship game at the UPMC Lemieux Sports Complex in Cranberry at 6:15 p.m. in a game you can watch on Trib HSSN.

Pine-Richland (17-4-1) won the 3A regular season title with a late surge to leap over North Allegheny (16-4-2), Seneca Valley and Peters Township.

Those four teams, separated by only one point in the standings, met in the semifinals last week.

Pine-Richland scored four unanswered goals after falling behind by two to defeat Peters Township, 4-2.

Zachary Howard had a goal and an assist for the Rams.

North Allegheny jumped out to a 3-0 lead, then held on to beat Seneca Valley, 4-2.

Luke Walkauskas had a goal and a helper for the Tigers.

The Rams swept the Tigers during the regular season, winning in October, 5-4, and then edging NA again in January, 4-3.

Perfection vs. underdog

The PIHL Penguins Cup Class A title game takes place at the UPMC Lemieux Sports Complex in Cranberry and pits the league’s lone undefeated team against a team that barely made the playoffs and has pulled off three straight upsets.

Chartiers Valley (22-0) takes on Greensburg Salem (16-5-2) at 8:45 p.m. here on Trib HSSN.

The Colts have defeated Moon and Indiana to reach the title game with a spotless record.

In the Class A semifinals, Noah Callender had a goal and an assist and goalie Matthew Colberg stopped 27 of 28 shots as Chartiers Valley squeaked by Indians, 2-1.

Following upset wins over Plum (5-1) and Quaker Valley (2-0), the Golden Lions stunned Shlaer in the semifinals, 2-1.

Luke Dieter scored the game winner on a second period penalty shot for Greensburg Salem while netminder Tristan Gonzales continued his hot play, allowing only two goals in three postseason games.

This is the first meeting of the year between the Colts and the Golden Lions.

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