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Breaking down the 2024 WPIAL girls basketball playoff brackets | Trib HSSN

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Monday, February 12, 2024 | 3:50 PM


A closer look at the WPIAL girls basketball playoffs:

Class 6A

Favorite: With a strong backbone of nonsection games, Norwin strengthened its resume. It has not lost to a WPIAL team this season and did not drop a section game. Four starters are back from a WPIAL and PIAA semifinal team. The Knights, who rely on defense and depth, have held teams to 36.7 points. They are led by senior forward Lauren Palangio and junior guard Kendall Berger. Coach Brian Brozeski won back-to-back WPIAL titles in 2015-16.

Challengers: One of only two undefeated teams in the WPIAL until Friday, Peters Township hadn’t lost since last year’s quarterfinals, when it fell to Canon-McMillan, 44-41. The Indians were 13-11 a year ago. Natalie Wetzel, a 6-foot-3 junior who has numerous Division I offers, averages 17 points and alters shots on defense. Gemma Walker (15 ppg) is another scoring threat. Peters Township, ranked fourth in the state, has the highest scoring average in 6A at 56.4 ppg. … Defending champion North Allegheny and coach Spencer Stefko can never be taken lightly. The Tigers have won five of the seven WPIAL titles since the advent of 6A. A potential semifinal matchup with Norwin would attract a crowd in the eight-team bracket.

Don’t overlook: Seneca Valley nearly upset Norwin and North Allegheny and has one of the top shooters in the classification in sophomore Natalie Hambly. … Chartiers Valley and Mt. Lebanon tied for second in Section 2. Mt. Lebanon earned the No. 4 seed and Chartiers Valley No. 5. … Upper St. Clair can win with defense, but losing leading scorer Rylee Kalocay to injury has been game changing. … Madison Zavasky-led Pine-Richland has a win over 4A power North Catholic and played well in the second matchup with Norwin.

Prediction: Norwin over Peters Township

Class 5A

Favorite: How can it be anyone other than unbeaten Oakland Catholic? The WPIAL runner-up last year to South Fayette also made a run to the PIAA semifinals. The Eagles lead the WPIAL in scoring at 65.7 points a game. They have topped 70 points five times and 80 twice. London Creach (16 ppg) is a tough matchup as a 5-8 shooting guard, and freshman Kaylee DeAngelo might be the best shooter in any classification.

Challengers: Despite a coaching change late in the season, McKeesport has the talent to make a deep run. The Tigers lost twice to Oakland Catholic in section play. Rachael Manfredo and Maddie Hertzler are part of a long-limbed lineup. … Section 4 co-champions Lincoln Park and Trinity are lurking. Maddie Syka (18 ppg) and J’La Kizart (17 ppg) power Lincoln Park, while forward Ruby Morgan (15 ppg) leads the Hillers. … Armstrong takes a 13-game winning streak into the postseason. Emma Paul averages 21 points. … Indiana, the Section 2 champion, is holding teams to 36.7 points.

Don’t overlook: South Fayette is the two-time defending champion. … North Hills won its first section title in 44 years. … Plum, led by Megan Marston (17.8 ppg), finished second to Indiana. … Hampton’s Megan Murray (22.6 ppg) can light it up. She is a Kent State commit.

Prediction: Oakland Catholic over McKeesport

Class 4A

Favorite: Top-seeded Blackhawk was the WPIAL and PIAA runner-up last season and features a minuscule defensive scoring average of 26.6 points. Mercyhurst recruit Alena Fusetti averaged 16 points for the fast-paced Cougars.

Challengers: While it’s not the first time, North Catholic has a scary-good lineup led by senior point guard and Harvard commit Alayna Rocco (19.5 ppg). The defending champion Trojanettes have six WPIAL titles in the last seven years, including one in 3A. They have won 103 consecutive section games. … Section 3 winner Elizabeth Forward averages 60 points and took a 17-game winning streak into its last regular-season game. … Highlands, the runner-up to North Catholic in Section 1, only lost 43-39 to the Trojanettes in their second meeting. … Laurel Highlands has one loss in its last 10 games and allows just 28.6 points.

Don’t overlook: Greensburg Salem, which started 10-1, has size and can apply defensive pressure. … Savaughn Wimbs (18 ppg) is a tough matchup in the West Mifflin starting five.

Prediction: North Catholic over Blackhawk

Class 3A

Favorite: Defending champion Avonworth won Section 2 with a 10-0 mark while allowing just 32.6 points. Rebecca Goetz is a talented producer who can score from the wing. The Antelopes’ lone defeat was to 5A Armstrong.

Challengers: Shady Side Academy has a skilled backcourt and the highest-scoring offense in 3A. Maggie Spell (19 ppg) and Karis Thomas (16 ppg) are a formidable duo. Duquesne offered Thomas a scholarship when she was in fourth grade. … Waynesburg, which allows only 32 points a game, tied for the Section 4 title with South Park after the teams split their two-game series. Kaley Rohanna leads Waynesburg in scoring with a 16-point average. … Neshannock and Beaver Falls also were co-champs in Section 1. Taylor Pullen (15 ppg) leads Beaver Falls’ attack.

Don’t overlook: Burrell was the runner-up in Section 3 behind Shady Side Academy. The Buccaneers only allow 29 points a game. … Keystone Oaks, Our Lady of the Sacred Heart and Seton LaSalle were co-runners-up behind Avonworth. Senior point guard Bailey Rieg makes Keystone Oaks go on offense. Mallory Daly (24.4 ppg), a Buffalo commit and 1,000-point scorer, leads Seton LaSalle.

Prediction: Shade Side Academy over Avonworth

Class 2A

Favorite: Greensburg Central Catholic, fresh off its third straight section title, has the look of a title contender. The guard trio of Mya Morgan, Erica Gribble and Avery Davis are a tough matchup. GCC was bumped off in the quarterfinals last year by Burgettstown but rebounded to make the PIAA semifinals.

Challengers: Aliquippa has a winning record for the first time since 2014 and won a section title for the first time since 2011. … Fort Cherry and Burgettstown were Section 2 co-champs. Fort Cherry took a nine-game winning streak into the weekend. Burgettstown was a semifinalist last year. Kaitlyn Nease averages 16 points for the Blue Devils. … Serra Catholic has size and solid guard play and averages 63.7 points.

Don’t overlook: Chartiers-Houston and Washington split the Section 4 title. … Iyanna Wade of Clairton leads the WPIAL in scoring at 41.3 points. She had 65 in one game. … Shaye Bailey averages 21 a game for Freedom.

Prediction: Greensburg Central Catholic over Serra Catholic

Class A

Favorite: Union is the defending champion and has not lost in 2024, a streak of 11 games. Six-foot guard Kelly Cleaver (15 ppg) is a Millersville commit. The Scotties are only allowing 31.9 points a game.

Challengers: Aquinas Academy was the runner-up to Union in Section 1. It has a win over St. Joseph, 66-62 in overtime. … St. Joseph has size and experience, and the Spartans lead Class A in scoring (62.9 ppg). They took a 14-game winning streak into their last regular-season game. Sharp-shooter Julie Spinelli averages 21 points. The 5-11 guard is a Frostburg State commit. … Riverview finished second in St. Joseph’s section. … Monessen won the Section 2 title with a 10-0 mark. An experienced group saw time in the state playoffs last season, including Hailey Johnson, MyAsia Majors and Sidney Campbell.

Don’t overlook: Geibel allowed less than 40 points a game.

Prediction: Union over St. Joseph

Bill Beckner Jr. is a TribLive reporter covering local sports in Westmoreland County. He can be reached at bbeckner@triblive.com.

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