WPIAL bracketology: Don Rebel, Chris Harlan forecast the 2024 girls basketball playoff pairings

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Saturday, February 10, 2024 | 10:35 PM


The 2024 WPIAL girls basketball playoff field is set with 81 teams in the six classifications.

Class 6A will go right into the quarterfinals round with eight teams, Class 3A and 2A each have a perfect field of 16 and both 4A and A have 12 teams that qualified and will have four first-round byes.

The brackets will be unveiled at 2 p.m. Monday on the WPIAL Basketball Playoff Pairings Show on TribLive HSSN.

Here is what myself and Chris Harlan believe might happen when the steering WPIAL basketball committee meets Monday morning.

Class 6A

Don Rebel’s bracket

No. 8 Upper St. Clair at No. 1 Norwin

No. 5 Chartiers Valley at No. 4 Mt. Lebanon

No. 7 Seneca Valley at No. 2 Peters Township

No. 6 Pine-Richland at No. 3 North Allegheny

Rebel says: Norwin has not lost to a WPIAL team this season and the Knights have a strong resume with double-digit wins over 6A teams Mt. Lebanon and Upper St. Clair and 5A powers McKeesport and South Fayette. Peters Township seemed headed for the top spot before Friday’s loss to Canon-McMillan, which was the Indians’ first of the season. Despite losing twice to Norwin, defending champion North Allegheny is always dangerous and knows how to win in February and March. The committee could flip-flop Chartiers Valley and Pine-Richland to avoid section rematches, but the Colts have earned a top five seed.

Chris Harlan’s bracket

No. 8 Seneca Valley at No. 1 Norwin

No. 5 Chartiers Valley at No. 4 Mt. Lebanon

No. 7 Pine-Richland at No. 2 Peters Township

No. 6 Upper St. Clair at No. 3 North Allegheny

Harlan says: The WPIAL basketball committee traditionally avoids first-round rematches of teams from the same section, but with only eight teams in this bracket, it’s hard to avoid them.

Class 5A

Don Rebel’s bracket

No. 16 Hampton/Penn Hills winner at No. 1 Oakland Catholic

No. 9 Plum at No. 8 South Fayette

No. 13 Moon at No. 4 McKeesport

No. 12 Thomas Jefferson at No. 5 Armstrong

No. 15 Woodland Hills at No. 2 Trinity

No. 10 Penn-Trafford at No. 7 Indiana

No. 14 Mars at No. 3 Lincoln Park

No. 11 Latrobe at No. 6 North Hills

Rebel says: The toughest thing to figure out when it comes to bracketing is co-section champions. Here in Class 5A, there are two sections with co-champs. To make matters more difficult, you have a strong second-place finisher in McKeesport. Oakland Catholic is the clear No. 1, but after that, the water becomes murky. I gave a nod to the co-champs in Section 4, Trinity and Lincoln Park, with the No. 2 and 3 seeds due to the overall strength of their section and some impressive nonsection wins. McKeesport is next, followed by the co-champs in Section 2, Armstrong and North Hills. That drops outright Section 1 champion Indiana all the way to No. 7.

Chris Harlan’s bracket

No. 16 Hampton/Thomas Jefferson at No. 1 Oakland Catholic

No. 9 Plum at No. 8 South Fayette

No. 13 Mars at No. 4 Lincoln Park

No. 12 Woodland Hills at No. 5 Armstrong

No. 15 Moon at No. 2 McKeesport

No. 10 Penn-Trafford at No. 7 North Hills

No. 14 Penn Hills at No. 3 Trinity

No. 11 Latrobe at No. 6 Indiana

Harlan says: The three-way tie for third place in Section 3 between Penn-Trafford (14-8), Latrobe (11-11) and Thomas Jefferson (9-12) makes this bracket more difficult to arrange. With a 15-team field, two teams must meet in a play-in game. I picked Hampton (12-10) and TJ. The Talbots were headed for a much better seed before backing into the playoffs with four straight section losses. Fourth-place finishers Penn Hills or Moon could find themselves in that game instead, but both have some better nonsection wins they can point to.

Class 4A

Don Rebel’s bracket

No. 1 Blackhawk – bye

No. 9 Hopewell at No. 8 Knoch

No. 4 Laurel Highlands – bye

No. 12 Quaker Valley at No. 5 Highlands

No. 2 Elizabeth Forward – bye

No. 10 Greensburg Salem at No. 7 West Mifflin

No. 3 North Catholic – bye

No. 11 Belle Vernon at No. 6 Central Valley

Rebel says: This class has three very strong section champions that did not lose a section game this season and were a combined 52-10. It would be a surprise if two of the three don’t reach the finals at The Pete. I have Blackhawk earning the top seed with Elizabeth Forward No. 2 and defending champion North Catholic at No. 3. North Catholic beat Blackhawk in last year’s title game and it wouldn’t shock anybody to see a rematch, although EF would like to spoil that idea.

Chris Harlan’s bracket

No. 1 Blackhawk – bye

No. 9 West Mifflin at No. 8 Central Valley

No. 4 Highlands – bye

No. 12 Quaker Valley at No. 5 Laurel Highlands

No. 2 North Catholic – bye

No. 10 Hopewell at No. 7 Greensburg Salem

No. 3 Elizabeth Forward – bye

No. 11 Belle Vernon at No. 6 Knoch

Harlan says: There could be a real debate here about who is No. 1. Blackhawk (20-2), defending champion North Catholic (12-7) and Elizabeth Forward (19-2) could all make a case. North Catholic surely played the tougher nonsection schedule, but those seven losses stick out. Usually, being seeded either No. 4 or 5 makes little difference, but this time there’s a bye involved. For strength of schedule, I give the edge to Highlands (16-6) over Laurel Highlands (18-2).

Class 3A

Don Rebel’s bracket

No. 16 Apollo-Ridge at No. 1 Avonworth

No. 9 Seton LaSalle at No. 8 Burrell

No. 13 Mt. Pleasant at No. 4 Beaver Falls

No. 12 Mohawk at No. 5 South Park

No. 15 McGuffey at No. 2 Shady Side Academy

No. 10 Our Lady of the Sacred Heart at No. 7 Ellwood City

No. 14 Brownsville at No. 3 Neshannock

No. 11 Keystone Oaks at No. 6 Waynesburg Central

Rebel says: Two co-champions make this bracket tough to predict. However, the two outright champions are a strong No. 1 and 2, with defending champion Avonworth earning the top seed and Shady Side Academy second. I have the Section 1 co-champs, Neshannock and Beaver Falls, getting the No. 3 and 4 seeds, with Neshannock having a stronger resume despite a loss to Tigers this past week. Of all the teams in this bracket that finished in second or lower in their section, watch out for Ellwood City.

Chris Harlan’s bracket

No. 16 Apollo-Ridge at No. 1 Avonworth

No. 9 Keystone Oaks at No. 8 Burrell

No. 13 Brownsville at No. 4 Neshannock

No. 12 Ellwood City at No. 5 South Park

No. 15 Mohawk at No. 2 Shady Side Academy

No. 10 Mt. Pleasant at No. 7 Our Lady of the Sacred Heart

No. 14 McGuffey at No. 3 Beaver Falls

No. 11 Seton LaSalle at No. 6 Waynesburg

Harlan says: When it comes to seeding co-champions, the WPIAL committee usually rewards the team that won the late-season rematch. If that holds true, Beaver Falls is ahead of Neshannock after a 48-38 win Thursday. I took the same approach with South Park’s 53-46 win over Waynesburg on Monday.

Class 2A

Don Rebel’s bracket

No. 16 Northgate at No. 1 Greensburg Central Catholic

No. 9 Clairton at No. 8 Freedom

No. 13 Brentwood at No. 4 Serra Catholic

No. 12 Winchester Thurston at No. 5 Chartiers-Houston

No. 15 California at No. 2 Aliquippa

No. 10 Rochester at No. 7 Washington

No. 14 Beth-Center at No. 3 Fort Cherry

No. 11 South Side at No. 6 Burgettstown

Rebel says: The two outright champions are No. 1 and 2 with Greensburg Central Catholic winning Section 3 and Aliquippa winning Section 1. The Centurions’ resume is very impressive outside of a tough section, so they get the top seed. Seeding three through 10 was very difficult with little separation. Fort Cherry gets No. 3, having beaten both Washington and Chartiers-Houston. I know the committee rewards the team that won the second matchup between tied schools; however, I gave Chartiers-Houston the nod over Washington because of wins over Burgettstown and Freedom.

Chris Harlan’s bracket

No. 16 Northgate at No. 1 Greensburg Central Catholic

No. 9 Rochester at No. 8 Burgettstown

No. 13 Beth-Center at No. 4 Fort Cherry

No. 12 Brentwood at No. 5 Chartiers-Houston

No. 15 Winchester Thurston at No. 2 Aliquippa

No. 10 Clairton at No. 7 Freedom

No. 14 California at No. 3 Serra Catholic

No. 11 South Side at No. 6 Washington

Harlan says: Section 1 gets three of the top nine spots for Aliquippa, Freedom and Rochester. Bolstering the section’s resume was a win by Freedom at Burgettstown, 60-37, a few days after Christmas. Nonsection matchups like that are key for the WPIAL basketball committee. However, Freedom lost to Chartiers-Houston, 33-31, which helped boost the Bucs to a No. 5 seed.

Class A

Don Rebel’s bracket

No. 1 Union – bye

No. 9 Eden Christian at No. 8 West Greene

No. 4 Monessen – bye

No. 12 Mapletown at No. 5 Riverview

No. 2 Aquinas Academy – bye

No. 10 Jeannette at No. 7 Geibel Catholic

No. 3 St. Joseph’s – bye

No. 11 Leechburg at No. 6 Bishop Canevin

Rebel says: Union has to be considered a heavy favorite to repeat, having not lost to a Class A opponent all season. Despite a second-place finish in Section 1, last year’s WPIAL runner-up Aquinas Academy defeated Section 3 champ St. Joe’s earlier this season and gets the nod at No. 2. Watch out for traditional power Bishop Canevin. The Crusaders finished third in Section 1 and six games under .500 overall against a brutal nonsection schedule, but they’ve won three of their last four, including a victory over Aquinas.

Chris Harlan’s bracket

No. 1 Union – bye

No. 9 Jeannette at No. 8 West Greene

No. 4 Monessen – bye

No. 12 Leechburg at No. 5 Bishop Canevin

No. 2 St. Joseph – bye

No. 10 Eden Christian at No. 7 Geibel Catholic

No. 3 Aquinas Academy – bye

No. 11 Mapletown at No. 6 Riverview

Harlan says: Yes, St. Joseph lost to Aquinas in mid-December in a game that went to overtime and ended as a four-point difference. Usually, I give the head-to-head winner the edge, but here I reward St. Joseph for finishing 19-2 overall and with an undefeated section record. And since both teams would receive a first-round bye, there’s not a lot of difference between seeds two and three.

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