WPIAL Class 5A boys basketball preseason breakdown
Sunday, December 1, 2019 | 8:28 PM
A new decade of WPIAL boys basketball tips off next weekend.
Preparing to defend their district championships from a year ago are Mt. Lebanon (6A), Mars (5A), New Castle (4A), Lincoln Park (3A), Our Lady of the Sacred Heart (2A) and Nazareth Prep (A).
New Castle is looking for a fourth straight WPIAL crown while Mars and Lincoln Park are shooting for a three-peat in 2020.
Also last year, Moon won a PIAA title in Class 5A and Lincoln Park won state gold in 3A.
Here is a rundown of players to watch, team rankings and other notable facts for Class 5A boys basketball. Check out a breakdown of each class this week on the TribLive High School Sports Network. Click here to check Class 6A.
WPIAL Class 5A
Preseason Player of the Year
6-1, senior, guard
21.0 ppg in 2018-19
Players to watch
6-6, Sr., F, 15.9 ppg
6-6, Sr., F/C, 21.0 ppg
5-10, Jr., G, 17.0 ppg
6-4, Jr., F, 15.0 ppg
6-3, Sr., G, 17.0 ppg
Preseason Top 5
1. Mars (27-2 last season)
The Fightin’ Planets are the two-time defending WPIAL champions and reached the PIAA semifinals where they lost to a Moon team they beat in the district title game. First-team all-section players Andrew Recchia and Khori Fusco have graduated, but forward Michael Carmody and guard Joey Craska lead the way for returning players.
2. Penn Hills (20-5)
The Indians won the Section 1-5A crown a year after winning the WPIAL Class 6A title. Penn Hills hopes of a WPIAL repeat ended with a semifinals loss to Moon. Penn Hills’ leading scorer from a year ago, Tyree Spencer, graduated, but second-leading scorer and first-team all-section forward Wes Kropp returns.
3. Chartiers Valley (18-7)
The Colts started the post-Tim McConnell era with a strong kick last year thanks to the play of since-graduated guard Joe Pipilo (18 ppg). However the cupboard is not bare for second-year coach Brandon Sensor, with guards Jared Goldstrom and Brayden Reynolds and forward Sean Banas returning.
4. Shaler (16-9)
The Titans will be led by senior guard Mekhi Reynolds, who was a driving force behind a Shaler team that finished in third place in Section 3, reached the district quarterfinals and earned a PIAA playoff berth. It was the first taste of postseason play of any kind for the program in seven years.
5. McKeesport (11-10)
The Tigers finished in third place in Section 1 behind Penn Hills and Woodland Hills. Deamontae Diggs was one of the top players in the classification as a junior and was first-team all-section and second-team all-state, averaging 21 points and 11 rebounds per game.
• Since the expansion to six classifications three years ago, Mars has been out of this world in Class 5A. The Fightin’ Planets have reached the WPIAL semifinals all three years and won district crowns in 2018 and ‘19. They should be in the hunt for gold again this season.
• Expect Moon to make some noise in Section 2 despite a big offseason loss. Adam Kaufman guided the Tigers to a 2017 WPIAL championship and a 2019 PIAA title, but senior standout Donovan Johnson (22.1 ppg) transferred to Hillcrest Prep in Phoenix in August to be closer to his brother Cam at Arizona.
• It’s back to the future for Woodland Hills basketball. After Odell Miller resigned as coach of the Wolverines, the school hired former coach Matt Furjanic. The 68-year old coached at Woodland Hills from 1991-95 and has been coaching on the college level since.
• Two other new faces will take over Class 5A programs this season. Former Brownsville coach Mark Marino is the new coach at Plum, taking over for Hart Coleman. Former assistant Mark Zahorchak is the new head coach at Greensburg Salem where he replaces Craig Mankins.
• Another team to watch this winter is Montour. Bill Minear’s Spartans finished in third place in Section 2 behind Moon and Chartiers Valley and featured a lot of underclassmen last season. Leading the way for Montour will be senior James Eubanks.
Section 1: Albert Gallatin, Gateway, Greensburg Salem, Laurel Highlands, McKeesport, Penn Hills, Woodland Hills
Section 2: Chartiers Valley, Montour, Moon, South Fayette, Thomas Jefferson, Trinity, West Allegheny, West Mifflin
Section 3: Armstrong, Franklin Regional, Hampton, Indiana, Kiski Area, Mars, Plum, Shaler
Don Rebel hosts the Rebel Yell podcasts for HSSN.