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Breaking down the 2024 WPIAL women’s basketball playoff brackets

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Monday February 12, 2024 | 3:50 p.m.


A closer look at the WPIAL women’s basketball playoffs:

Class 6A

Favorite: With a solid backbone of non-section games, Norwin has strengthened his CV. It hasn’t lost to any WPIAL teams this season and hasn’t lost a section game. Four starters return from a WPIAL and PIAA semifinal team. The Knights, who rely on their defense and depth, limited their 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 through Friday, Peters Township hadn’t lost since last year’s quarterfinals, when it fell to Canon-McMillan, 44-41. A year ago, the Indians were between 13 and 11 years old. Natalie Wetzel, a 6-foot-3 junior who has numerous Division I offers, averages 17 points and changes shots on defense. Gemma Walker (15 points per game) is another scoring threat. Peters Township, ranked fourth in the state, has the highest average in 6A at 56.4 points per game. … Defending champion North Allegheny and coach Spencer Stefko can never be taken lightly. The Tigers have won five of seven WPIAL titles since the advent of 6A. A potential semifinal matchup with Norwin would draw a crowd to the eight-team bracket.

Do not neglect: Seneca Valley nearly upset Norwin and North Allegheny and has one of the top shooters in the rankings, sophomore Natalie Hambly. … Chartiers Valley and Mt. Lebanon tied for second in Section 2. Mt. Lebanon won fourth and Chartiers Valley No. 5. … Upper St. Clair can win with defense, but lose leading scorer Rylee Kalocay due to injury was a game changer. … Pine-Richland, led by Madison Zavasky, picked up a win over 4A power North Catholic and played well in the second matchup with Norwin.

Prediction: Norwin on Peters Township

Class 5A

Favorite: How can it be anyone other than undefeated Oakland Catholic? Last year’s WPIAL runner-up to South Fayette also reached the PIAA semifinals. The Eagles lead the WPIAL with 65.7 points per game. They exceeded 70 points five times and 80 twice. London Creach (16 points per game) is a tough matchup as a 5-8 shooter, and rookie Kaylee DeAngelo might be the best shooter in any classification.

Challengers: Despite a coaching change at the end of the season, McKeesport has the talent to make a deep run. The Tigers lost twice to Oakland Catholic in sectional play. Rachael Manfredo and Maddie Hertzler are part of a long-limbed lineup. …Section 4 co-champions Lincoln Park and Trinity are in hiding. 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 playoff winning streak. Emma Paul averages 21 points. … Section 2 champion Indiana holds teams to 36.7 points.

Don’t do it neglect: South Fayette is the two-time defending champion. … North Hills won its first sectional title in 44 years. … Plum, led by Megan Marston (17.8 points per game), finished second behind Indiana. … Hampton’s Megan Murray (22.6 points per game) can light things up. She is committed to Kent State.

Prediction: Oakland Catholic vs. McKeesport

Class 4A

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

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

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

Prediction: Northern Catholic vs. 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’ only loss was against 5A Armstrong.

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

Don’t do it neglect: Burrell was a Section 3 runner-up behind Shady Side Academy. The Buccaneers are allowing just 29 points per game. … Keystone Oaks, Our Lady of the Sacred Heart and Seton LaSalle were co-finalists behind Avonworth. Senior point guard Bailey Rieg drives Keystone Oaks on offense. Mallory Daly (24.4 points per game), a Buffalo commit and 1,000-point scorer, leads Seton LaSalle.

Prediction: Shade Side Academy on Avonworth

Class 2A

Favorite: Greensburg Central Catholic, fresh off its third straight sectional title, looks like a title contender. The guard trio of Mya Morgan, Erica Gribble and Avery Davis makes for a tough matchup. GCC was eliminated in the quarterfinals last year by Burgettstown, but bounced back to advance to 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-champions. Fort Cherry had a nine-game winning streak consecutive this 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 is averaging 63.7 points.

Do not neglect: Chartiers-Houston and Washington share the Section 4 title. …Clairton’s Iyanna Wade leads the WPIAL with 41.3 points. She had 65 in a single match. … Shaye Bailey averages 21 per game for Freedom.

Prediction: Greensburg Central Catholic vs. Serra Catholic

Class A

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

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

Do not neglect: Geibel allowed less than 40 points per game.

Prediction: Union on Saint-Joseph

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

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