WPIAL Class 5A girls basketball preseason breakdown
Sunday, December 1, 2019 | 8:43 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 5A girls basketball. Check out a breakdown of each class this week on the TribLive High School Sports Network. Click here for the Class 6A preview.
WPIAL Class 5A
Preseason Player of the Year
5-7, senior, guard
15.0 ppg in 2018-19
Players to watch
5-9, Sr., G/F, 17.0 ppg
6-3, Sr., C, 16.9 ppg
5-10, So., G, 10 ppg
5-11, Jr., F, 17.5 ppg
5-9, So., G, 19.7 ppg
Preseason Top 5
1. Chartiers Valley (30-0)
Coming off a perfect season where they claimed district and state titles, Chartiers Valley’s girls basketball players have big shoes to fill. It appears they have the right players to step into them and make another run toward WPIAL and PIAA championships. The Colts have three returning players who are likely Division I bound. Senior guard Megan McConnell, a Duquesne recruit, averaged 15.0 points and was a first-team all-state selection. Sophomore guard Aislin Malcolm, who has offers from Pitt, West Virginia, Kent State and Western Michigan, also returns after earning second-team all-section honors last year. Sophomore forward Perri Page, who has an offer from Duquesne, also should make an impact with an expanded role this season. The Colts graduated first-team all-state forward Mackenzie Wagner (16.7 ppg) and center Gabi Legister.
2. Gateway (19-4)
After winning the Section 2 title last season, Gateway had an early exit from the playoffs, falling to Thomas Jefferson in the WPIAL quarterfinals. The Gators have sights of advancing further behind 6-3 senior center Lexi Jackson, a Kent State recruit who was picked third-team all-state last season. She averaged 16 points, 18 rebounds and 5 blocks for the Gators. Junior guard/forward Dynasty Shegog and sophomore point guard Lexi Margolis also return.
3. Thomas Jefferson (22-8)
The Jaguars reached the WPIAL championship game and PIAA Final Four a season ago, running into district and state champion Chartiers Valley in both rounds. The Colts defeated TJ four times a year ago, but the Jaguars still compiled one of the program’s best seasons. Two starters return, including Fairmont State recruit Alyssa DeAngelo, a 5-10 senior guard who averaged 15 points and 6 rebounds. Senior forward Molly Wagner also returns, and the Jaguars also will lean on sophomore point guard Graci Fairman and junior guard/forward Maddy Trainer. All-state guard Jenna Clark (Yale) and her 20.5 ppg will be missed.
4. Trinity (12-13)
Trinity (12-13) will look to contend under first-year coach Kathy McConnell-Miller, a former Pitt women’s assistant coach who replaced Bob Miles. McConnell-Miller also was the head coach at Colorado and Tulsa. Her brother is Chartiers Valley coach Tim McConnell. The Hillers will be led by senior guard Riley DeRubbo, a Fordham recruit who averaged 17 points as a sophomore and missed last season with an ACL injury, as well as 6-1 junior forward Courtney Dahlquist and junior guard Kaylin Venick, who was second-team all-section.
5. Moon (13-9)
Reilly Sunday may only be a sophomore guard for Moon, but she has made quite an impression. After averaging nearly 20 points last season, she received offers from Robert Morris, Marshall, Colgate, Toledo, Youngstown State and Western Michigan. The Tigers also welcomed sophomore guard/forward Emma Theodorsson, a transfer from Bishop Canevin who averaged 12.4 points last season and garnered Division I interest.
• Mars (18-6) has been led by Division I players the past two seasons — Lauren Wasylson (Xavier) in 2017-18 and Tai Johnson (Bucknell) last season. Stepping into the spotlight this year is Mt. St. Mary’s recruit Bella Pelaia, a 6-foot forward who was a second-team all-section selection. Junior guards Ellie Coffield and Alek Johnson also return after earning honorable mention all-section recognition.
• Oakland Catholic (22-5) returns just one starter — senior point guard Margaret Terry — after winning the Section 3 title and reaching the PIAA quarterfinals a year ago. Freshman Rachel Haver and Alexa Washington also are expected to make an immediate impact.
• Penn Hills (17-8) will be junior-heavy after graduation losses. The group includes forwards Jasmyn Golden and Delaney Carpenter and guards Jayla Golden and Amoni Blackwell. Senior forward Niya Moore also returns.
• Uniontown (1-20) finished last in Section 3 last season but hopes to improve behind Brown recruit Mya Murray, an all-section forward who averaged 17.4 points last season.
• Junior forward Peyton Pinkney returns for Woodland Hills (12-11) after earning first-team all-section honors. She has offers from Duquesne and Robert Morris. The Wolverines are expected to contend for the Section 3 title.
• Plum (11-12) has its sights set on winning the program’s first section title behind Kennedie Montue (17.5 ppg), a first-team all-section junior forward, as well as fellow returning starters Mackenzie Lake and Jamie Seneca. Montue has an offer from Marshall.
• Lincoln Park (7-15) has three starters returning, and will be led by the talented senior backcourt tandem of Riley Arrigo, a New York Tech recruit, and Taylor Smith, as well as junior guard Paige Brown, who was the team’s leading rebounder last year.
• Bella Long returns to lead Penn-Trafford (13-10), which finished last season on a 7-3 run. Long, a 5-11 senior guard/forward headed to Slippery Rock, is the team’s all-time leading 3-pointer scorer.
• Latrobe (12-9) will look to move up from fifth in the Section 3 standings behind Division I prospect Anna Rafferty, a 6-1 sophomore forward who averaged 9 points and 7 rebounds last season. Forward Lex Pynos is the team’s lone senior. Junior guard Rachel Ridilla (14.6 ppg) led the team in scoring.
Section 1: Chartiers Valley, Lincoln Park, Montour, Moon, South Fayette, Thomas Jefferson, Trinity, West Allegheny
Section 2: Armstrong, Franklin Regional, Gateway, Hampton, Kiski Area, Mars, Plum
Section 3: Albert Gallatin, Laurel Highlands, Latrobe, Oakland Catholic, Penn Hills, Penn-Trafford, Uniontown, Woodland Hills
Bill Hartlep is the sports editor of the Tribune-Review. You can contact Bill at [email protected] or via Twitter @TribHSInsider.