WPIAL Class A boys basketball preseason breakdown
Thursday, December 5, 2019 | 4:19 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 A boys basketball. Check out a breakdown of each class this week on the TribLive High School Sports Network. Click here to check out Class 6A, 5A, 4A, 3A and 2A previews.
Class A boys basketball
Preseason Player of the Year
6-0, senior, guard
26.2 ppg in 2018-19
Players to watch
6-0, Jr., G, 15.2 ppg
5-10, Sr., G, 19.0 ppg
6-1, Sr., G, 16.5 ppg
6-6, Jr., F, 15.5 ppg
6-3, Sr., G, 19.0 ppg
Preseason Top 5
1. Vincentian Academy (20-9 last season)
The Royals started the season with a young team and began 3-5 against a tough schedule. Vincentian Academy won 17 of its final 21 games as the team of the future was having success now. A pair of junior starters return in guard Alex Griggs and forward Angelo Reeves. Two other key players are senior guard Ethan Embleton and sophomore guard Matt McDonough.
2. Cornell (21-6)
The Raiders enjoyed a successful 2018-19 season with a team full of underclassmen, including the classification’s leading scorer — senior guard Kaden DiVito, who averaged 26.2 points, and senior guard Zaire Harrison, who added 16.5 points per game. Cornell finished tied for second in a tough Section 1 and reached the district semifinals and state quarterfinals.
3. Nazareth Prep (21-4)
The Panthers had a season to remember last winter as they captured the school’s first WPIAL basketball championship with a victory over a Vincentian Academy team that Nazareth Prep lost to twice in the regular season. Senior guard Will Taylor leads the way among the returning players after averaging 19 points.
4. Geibel Catholic (11-12)
The Gators return the leading scorer in Section 2 last year in senior Enzo Fetsko, a first-team all-section guard who averaged 19 points a year ago. He is not the only talent coming back as several starters were underclassmen last year, including guard Cole Kendall, who has eclipsed 1,000 points heading into his senior season.
5. Bishop Canevin (14-8)
The Crusaders enjoyed a successful regular season as they finished in second place behind Monessen in Section 2. However, that success did not carry over into the postseason as Bishop Canevin was knocked off by Leechburg in first round. Sophomore guard Kevaughn Price leads a group of returning players who saw key playing time a year ago.
• The 2019 postseason had a silver lining for Vincentian Academy. After the Royals won the strong Section 1 regular season, they advanced to the WPIAL Class A championship game only to lose to Nazareth Prep, 69-62, after beating the Panthers twice in the regular season. Vincentian enjoyed state playoff success and reached the PIAA championship game only to fall Sankofa Freedom Academy, 83-61.
• What a difference a name change makes. Tiny Holy Family Academy, located off Ohio River Boulevard in Emsworth, joined the WPIAL for the 2016-17 season and finished 2-18 overall. It improved greatly the following year and ended up with a record of 13-9 and lost to Propel Andrew Street in a 2018 first-round game. Last year, the school changed its name to Nazareth Prep, finished 21-4 and won WPIAL gold.
• The WPIAL doesn’t like to make a lot of section changes in the middle of a two-year cycle, but two new teams will compete in Class A this winter while one school has left the district for boys basketball this season. Aquinas Academy returns to the WPIAL and joins Section 3, along with Propel Montour, the third Propel charter school in the district. They will replace Trinity Christian.
• There were only three coaching changes in Class A this offseason, but two of them involve veteran coaches. Hart Coleman left Plum to take the St. Joseph job, replacing Kelly Robinson, who retired after 21 seasons as Spartans coach. Christian Hyland takes over for Greg Bisignani at Greensburg Central Catholic. Bisignani’s second stint at GCC lasted one year; he coached the Centurions nine of the last 10 years. Donnell Wilkins replaces Christopher Giles as head coach at Propel Andrew Street.
• Monessen took a hit when its lost first-team all-section sophomore guard Devin Whitlock, a dynamic player who was a big part of the Greyhounds’ Section 2 title and semifinal runs in both the district and state playoffs. He transferred to Belle Vernon. Senior forwards Marquell Smith and Dawayne Howell return for the ‘Hounds. Senior Sayvon Knight and junior Andrew Sullivan were all-section players at Propel Andrew Street and St. Joseph a year ago.
Section 1: Cornell, Eden Christian, Nazareth Prep, Quigley Catholic, Rochester, Union, Vincentian Academy, Western Beaver
Section 2: Avella, Bishop Canevin, Geibel Catholic, Jefferson-Morgan, Mapletown, Monessen, West Greene
Section 3: Aquinas Academy, Clairton, Greensburg Central Catholic, Imani Christian, Leechburg, Propel Andrew Street, Propel Montour, St. Joseph
Don Rebel hosts the Rebel Yell podcasts for HSSN.