What to watch for in WPIAL sports on March 2, 2021: Round of 16 action tips off

Monday, March 1, 2021 | 11:54 PM

After two days of old-school preliminary round play in the 2021 WPIAL boys and girls open basketball playoffs, it’s time to lift the lid on the Sweet 16.

First-round action Tuesday will features games from boys 6A, boys A, girls 4A and girls 2A.

Boys first round

• Two years ago, one of the most exciting games played in the postseason was a quarterfinal battle in boys Class 6A between top seed and tournament favorite Pine-Richland against No. 9 seed Peters Township.

The Rams enjoyed a first-round bye while the Indians raced past Penn-Trafford.

The game came down to the end and had a bit of a controversial finish on the winning shot, but defending champion Pine-Richland prevailed, 66-64.

The Rams beat Butler by two points in the semifinals before falling to Mt. Lebanon in the championship game.

Both coaches from that classic game are gone. Jeff Ackermann from Pine-Richland left for Baldwin while Gary Goga from Peters Township is now an assistant at Bethel Park.

Now Joe Urmann is in his first year as Indians head coach and Bob Petcash is wrapping up his first year leading the Rams. The teams square off Tuesday at Pine-Richland.

• Vinny Cugini has lit up the WPIAL as he ends his second high school season at Aquinas Academy.

He made a big splash his freshman season, leading the WPIAL in scoring with 734 points for an average of 35 points per game.

This year he was even better, again leading the district in scoring with an average of nearly 40 points per game.

That hasn’t transitioned into team success for the Crusaders though.

Aquinas Academy finished 6-16 last year and missed out on the postseason. This year, the Crusaders improved to 7-8.

Cugini gets his first taste of WPIAL playoff basketball Tuesday when Aquinas Academy visits Union in a Class A first-round game.

All 15 Class 6A and A boys playoff games Tuesday can be seen or heard only here on Trib HSSN.

Girls opening round

• Their schools met in one other big postseason game already this year. Now it will be a Battle of the Warriors II.

Both Elizabeth Forward and Central Valley finished in the middle of the pack in their respective sections. EF ended up in fourth place in the seven-team Section 3 while CV was a fifth-place finisher in the eight-team Section 2.

Central Valley will host Elizabeth Forward on Tuesday.

The last time these schools met in a playoff game was in November when Central Valley shut out Elizabeth Forward, 35-0, in the 2020 WPIAL Class 3A football championship game.

• Four years ago, Chartiers-Houston and Winchester Thurston were celebrating WPIAL championships.

The Buccaneers won the 2017 2A title while the Bears took home the first of their back-to-back Class A crowns.

Now the two are set to meet Tuesday in a first-round 2A girls game at Chartiers-Houston.

The Bucs are the reigning Trib HSSN girls team of the week after three wins last week, including a preliminary round victory over Frazier.

The Bears are 10-3 with all three losses coming against good Class 5A teams.

All 15 Class 4A and Class 2A first-round games can be seen or heard Tuesday on HSSN.

More Basketball

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