WPIAL Class 3A girls basketball preseason breakdown

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Tuesday, December 3, 2019 | 8:45 PM


WPIAL girls basketball season will tip off next weekend.

Preparing to defend their district championship from a year ago are Peters Township (6A), Chartiers Valley (5A), North Catholic (4A), Neshannock (3A), Our Lady of the Sacred Heart (2A) and Rochester (A).

North Catholic is looking for a fourth straight district crown while Chartiers Valley hopes to win a third WPIAL title in the last four years.

Also last year, Peters Township and Chartiers Valley capped off perfect seasons with PIAA championships.

Here is a rundown of players to watch, team rankings and other notable facts for Class 3A girls basketball. Check out a breakdown of each class this week on the TribLive High School Sports Network. Click here for the Class 6A, 5A and 4A previews.

WPIAL Class 3A

Preseason Player of the Year

Jada Lee

Carlynton

5-8, senior, guard

18.5 ppg in 2018-19

Players to watch

Vanessa Hudson

Seton LaSalle

5-8, Sr., F, 11.3 ppg

Amaia Johnson

East Allegheny

5-9, Sr., G, 21.8 ppg

Nadia Lape

Mohawk

5-5, Jr., G, 13.5 ppg

Emma Pavelek

Beaver

5-8, Jr., PG, 18.9 ppg

Bella Skobel

Charleroi

5-8, Sr., G, 13.0 ppg

Preseason Top 5

1. Beaver (19-6)

After reaching the PIAA quarterfinals last season, the Beaver girls basketball team has a “nice returning cast,” as coach Greg Huston put it. Four starters are back, including junior point guard Emma Pavelek, who averaged 18.9 points last season and was an all-section honoree. The team also will get a boost from senior forward Kristi Buckenheimer, who focused on soccer last season and didn’t play basketball. Junior guard Maddi Weiland was honorable mention all-section last season.

2. Carlynton (19-5)

Four starters also return for Carlynton, last season’s Section 3 runner-up that reached the WPIAL quarterfinals. The Cougars will be led by senior guard Jada Lee, a Mt. St. Mary’s recruit who averaged 18.5 points last season and was a first-team all-section selection. Senior forward Angelicah “Jelly” Diallo, a Penn State Beaver recruit, also returns.

3. Neshannock (25-3)

The defending WPIAL champion Lancers lost leading scorer Bella Burrelli (16.7 ppg) to graduation, but a talented backcourt returns after helping the team reach the PIAA quarterfinals. The group includes seniors Kaylee George and Ellina DeLillo, as well as sophomore Neleh Nogay.

4. East Allegheny (14-8)

East Allegheny finished the regular season strong a year ago, winning five of its final seven games to reach the playoffs. The Wildcats return three starters, including senior guard/forward Amaia Johnson, who averaged 22 points. Also back is 6-1 junior forward Abby Henderson, who averaged 16.5 points and 11 rebounds. Senior forward Makala Ruffin also returns, and freshman guard Casmere Marshall is expected to make an impact.

5. Seton LaSalle (11-11)

Four starters return for the Rebels, who finished third in Section 2 last season. The group includes last season’s leading scorer and rebounder, senior forward Vanessa Hudson, who was an all-section selection after averaging 11 points. Also back are guards Chloe Lestitian, Emma Walsh and Sarah Merlina.

Notable

• Shady Side Academy (20-5) is coming off one of the best seasons in program history. They won Section 3, were WPIAL runners-up and reached the second round of the PIAA playoffs. Back is 5-11 junior guard Nyla Rozier, but the other four starters graduated.

• Five starters are back for Mohawk (7-16), including senior guard Karly McCutcheon, a West Liberty recruit, and junior guard Nadia Lape, who averaged 15 points in an all-section campaign. Junior guard Paige Julian also is be a scoring option.

• Avonworth (18-8) finished third in Section 1 and reached the WPIAL quarterfinals last season but returns just two starters for new coach Frank Halloran – senior forward Kat Goetz and junior guard Harris Robinson.

• Ellwood City (13-10) is coming its best season in 15 years. The Wolverines reached the WPIAL playoffs for the first time in four seasons and return five of their top seven players, including junior forward Maria Ioanilli (6.1 ppg, 9.3 rpg) and sophomore guard Kyla Servick (6.7 ppg).

• Gene Brisbane has taken over as coach at Derry (9-11), which will lean on sophomore guard Tiana Moracco (8.0 ppg), as well as forward Kamryn Kelly and guard/forward Hannah Wedow.

Alignment

Section 1: Avonworth, Beaver, Beaver Falls, Ellwood City, Freedom, Mohawk, Neshannock, Riverside

Section 2: Beth-Center, Brownsville, Charleroi, McGuffey, Seton LaSalle, South Park, Washington, Waynesburg

Section 3: Carlynton, Deer Lakes, Derry, East Allegheny, Shady Side Academy, South Allegheny, Steel Valley, Valley

Bill Hartlep is the sports editor of the┬áTribune-Review. You can contact Bill at [email protected] or via Twitter @TribHSInsider.

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