Monday, February 12, 2024 | 8:57 PM
Favorite: Mt. Lebanon coach Joe David published a book about his “Bora Defensive System,” and his team has probably boosted sales. The Blue Devils won the Section 2 title behind a defense that allowed only 44.9 points per game — the best in WPIAL 6A. The team is chasing its fifth WPIAL title overall and first since 2019. Guard Nate Girod is a 15-point scorer for an offense that averages 62 points. Lebo already has wins over five of the seven other teams in the bracket.
Challengers: Central Catholic is the defending WPIAL champion but returned just one player from last season’s lineup: senior Payton Wehner. The new-look Vikings proved they’re WPIAL contenders by winning the Section 1 title. … Upper St. Clair split a two-game series with Mt. Lebanon, handing Lebo its only section loss. USC has the second-stingiest defense in 6A at 45.5 ppg. The Panthers seek their second WPIAL title in four years. … Baldwin, which ranked second in scoring offense at 63.2 ppg, is led by 16-point scorer Nate Wesling. … North Allegheny came within a last-second shot of winning the Section 1 title. The Tigers are led by senior G Joe Dopirak (21 ppg).
Don’t overlook: Butler has a pair of standout scorers in senior Braylon Littlejohn (22 ppg) and sophomore Donovan Carney (18), who fuel the top-scoring offense in WPIAL 6A (63.8 ppg).
Prediction: Upper St. Clair over Mt. Lebanon
Favorite: Behind a pair of strong scorers, Moon is favored to win its first WPIAL title since 2017. Elijah Guillory is a 19-point scorer, and Aiden Reesman averages 15 for the Section 4 champions. Both are seniors. Guillory is 6-foot-5 and Reesman is 6-4. The Tigers enter the playoffs on a hot streak, having won 17 of 18. Second-year coach Gino Palmosina won two WPIAL titles and a state title at Bishop Canevin.
Challengers: Franklin Regional and Shaler met in a nonsection battle that needed two overtimes. Franklin Regional won 72-62. Franklin Regional went on to win the Section 3 title, and Shaler won Section 2. Neither team has ever won a WPIAL boys basketball title. … 6-5 senior Cam Rowell is an 18-point scorer for Franklin Regional. … Thomas Jefferson also is seeking its first WPIAL title. 6-4 senior Evan Berger is a 17-point scorer for the Jaguars, who went undefeated in Section 4 and have the second-best offense in 5A (71.5 ppg). … Peters Township has the highest-scoring offense at 74 ppg. The Indians were WPIAL runner-up a year ago. … South Fayette has a top scorer in senior Michael Plasko (24 ppg).
Don’t overlook: Penn Hills lost a couple of its top players from a year ago, but coach Chris Giles’ team is the defending champ.
Prediction: Moon over Franklin Regional
Favorite: Lincoln Park is the heaviest favorite in any of the six classes. The Leopards are defending WPIAL and PIAA champions behind two elite scorers in senior Brandin Cummings (22 ppg) and junior Meleek Thomas (21). Cummings is a Pitt recruit, and Thomas has many major-college offers. They lead the highest-scoring offense in the WPIAL at 79.6 points per game. The Leopards, under coach Mike Bariski, are seeking a fifth WPIAL title in a seven-year span.
Challengers: PIAA transfer rules left Hampton without Lehigh recruit Peter Kramer in last year’s playoffs, but the 24-point scorer is back and chasing a WPIAL title as a senior. The Talbots seek their first league title since 2009. … Montour has a strong inside-outside game with guard Jake Wolfe (19 ppg) and 6-9 center Ama Sow (16 ppg). The Spartans look to bounce back from an early exit last year. … Uniontown, which reached the semifinals a year ago with a young team, is poised for another run behind Jamire Braxton (19 ppg) and Tori Grooms (15). … North Catholic was the WPIAL runner-up to Lincoln Park a year ago and finished second this winter behind the Leopards in Section 2. Max Hurray (22 ppg) leads the Trojans. … Avonworth is led by 20-point scorer Rowan Carmichael.
Prediction: Lincoln Park over Hampton
Favorite: Deer Lakes will try to duplicate last year’s historic run that saw the Lancers win their first WPIAL title and ultimately reach the state finals. The team graduated much from that lineup but still has senior Billy Schaeffer, a 17-point scorer. They repeated as section champions under second-year coach Albie Fletcher, this time winning the title outright.
Challengers: Mohawk forced double overtime before losing to Deer Lakes in a nonsection matchup in December. The Warriors haven’t won a WPIAL title since 1970, but 20-point sophomore Bobby Fadden might get them one. … Shady Side Academy boosted its seed by defeating Deer Lakes in the section finale. Eli Teslovich is a 20-point scorer for the Bulldogs, who won a WPIAL title in 2022. … There were two sets of section co-champions in 3A. Our Lady of the Sacred Heart and Seton LaSalle tied atop Section 2, and Yough and Washington shared the Section 4 title. … Yough boasts the WPIAL’s leading scorer in Terek Crosby, a 26-point scorer. … Neshannock finished second in Section 1 and drew a top-four seed after a late-season win over Mohawk. David Kwiat is a 17-point scorer.
Don’t overlook: Ellwood City has one of the WPIAL’s top multi-sport athletes in Joseph Roth, a 26-point scorer who excels as a swimmer.
Prediction: Mohawk over Deer Lakes
Favorite: Aliquippa won WPIAL and PIAA football titles in the fall. The Quips now will try to win a couple of basketball titles with the same athletes. Pitt linebacker recruit Cameron Lindsey (14 ppg) and quarterback Quentin Goode (13) are among those two-sport stars. On the hardwood, the Quips are the defending WPIAL champions and were state runners-up last year. Sophomore Josh Pratt (16 ppg) is the team’s top scorer.
Challengers: Greensburg Central Catholic fell to Aliquippa in the WPIAL semifinals a year ago, a matchup that could take place at Petersen Events Center this time. The Centurions are led by Tyree Turner, a 21-point scorer, and Franco Alvarez, who averages 15. GCC, winner of 11 in a row, seeks its first WPIAL title. … Northgate finished behind Aliquippa in Section 1 but has a 21-point scorer in Josh Williams. The Flames, then a six seed, lost to Aliquippa in last year’s final. … Fort Cherry won its first WPIAL football title last fall, and the Rangers now chase their first basketball title since 1961. … Bishop Canevin changed coaches late in the season but finished undefeated in Section 2.
Don’t overlook: Third-place Serra Catholic was solid down the stretch, including in a tight two-point loss to GCC.
Prediction: Aliquippa over Greensburg Central Catholic
Favorite: There were changes in the past year since Imani Christian won WPIAL and PIAA titles, but one thing hasn’t — the Saints are very good. Led by guards Nate Brazil (18 ppg) and R.J. Sledge, the team went undefeated in Section 3 while playing a nonsection schedule mostly against out-of-state teams. Two top players from a year ago transferred out, and assistant Khayree Wilson became head coach before the season but Imani remains the WPIAL favorite.
Contenders: Neighborhood Academy lost twice to section rival Imani but earned a No. 2 seed behind junior Courtney Wallace, a 21-point scorer. The Bulldogs beat No. 3 seed Rochester, 64-33, in December. … Section 1 champion Rochester is led by 20-point scorer Xavier Rigby. The Rams, who last won a WPIAL title in 1983, edged Union for the section title with a six-point win last week. … Monessen is chasing its fourth WPIAL title since 2012. Lorenzo Gardner, a 23-point scorer, led the Greyhounds to a Section 2 title. The 6-4 senior scored 64 points in Friday’s section finale. … Union is trying to reach the finals for the third year in a row. The Scotties are led by junior Lucas Stanley (22 ppg).
Don’t overlook: Aquinas Academy graduated the WPIAL’s all-time leader scorer but averages 65 points behind Jake Guillen (21 ppg) and Sam Duer (18).
Chris Harlan is a TribLive reporter covering sports. He joined the Trib in 2009 after seven years as a reporter at the Beaver County Times. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.