Friday, February 9, 2024 | 12:09 p.m
The 2023-2024 WPIAL basketball season began 71 days ago. On Friday, section play concludes with two boys basketball teams locked in the Section 1-6A championship race.
Defending champion Central Catholic visits North Allegheny (10-11) in a battle of 7-2 teams battling for an outright title.
The Vikings are 3-3 in their last six games, but are coming off a big home win over Butler on Tuesday to remain tied for first place.
The Tigers have bounced back from a 3-7 start and have won four straight and seven of their last 10.
In the first meeting between the two in Oakland on Jan. 16, the Vikings led by 10 points after the first quarter and never came back to win, 50-37.
Senior Vernon Settles scored 14 points to lead the way for Central Catholic while senior Ben Lukitsch led North Allegheny with nine points as the Tigers were held to 20 points below their season average.
While there are other top sectional spots still up for grabs, there are only two more games involving head-to-head battles for first place, matchups between a first-place team visiting the second-place team with the opportunity of co-champions if the host teams win.
In Section 2-5A, top-ranked Shaler (19-2) visits Fox Chapel (12-9).
The Titans are 8-1 in the section and have won five straight. The Foxes are 7-2 in section play and have won three straight.
When they met last month, Shaler defeated visiting Fox Chapel in a defensive battle, 39-27.
Shaler senior Joe DeSabato was the only player in double figures with 11 points. The Jefferson-Moorefield-Brown senior scored seven to lead Fox Chapel.
In Section 4-2A, Fort Cherry (15-5) travels to face Burgettstown (16-5)
The first-place Rangers are 10-1 and have won nine of their last 10 games. The Blue Devils are 9-2 in the section and have won back-to-back games.
On January 16, Fort Cherry cruised to a big 66-41 victory, outscoring Burgettstown 28-15 in the middle two quarters.
Senior Derek Erret had 18 points to pace the Rangers, while leading scorer for the Blue Devils was senior James Leuice with 12 points.
You can listen to the Central Catholic at North Allegheny game on Trib HSSN, while you can watch the other two games first, all starting at 7:30 p.m.
There have been 79 WPIAL boys basketball teams that have clinched a playoff berth, but some teams enter the final night of section play with their postseason hopes up in the air.
Here’s what needs to happen for the bubble teams to buckle down and join the February Frenzy.
• In section 1-6A: New Castle can get by with a home win over Seneca Valley. Pine-Richland can get by with a win at Butler. If Seneca Valley beats New Castle and Pine-Richland loses to Butler, forcing a three-way tie for fourth place, Pine-Richland qualifies based on a 3-1 head-to-head record.
• In section 3-5A: Latrobe can get by with a home win over Gateway and a Kiski Area loss against visiting Penn-Trafford.
• In section 1-4A: Indiana, Freeport and Greensburg Salem are all tied for fourth place. The winner of Freeport in Indiana on Trib HSSN will be captured and the loser is eliminated. Greensburg Salem will come away with a win in Hampton.
• In section 3-4A: Albert Gallatin can get by with a home win over Southmoreland.
• In section 2-3A: The Keystone Oaks can get by with a home win over OLSH and a Sto-Rox loss at Seton LaSalle.
• In section 1-2A: South Side can get by with a win at Sewickley Academy.
• In section 3-2A: Springdale can get there with a win at Greensburg Central Catholic.
• In Section 4-2A: Frazier’s winner at Beth-Center will earn a playoff spot. Although Frazier has a one-game lead, a Beth-Center win gives it a season series sweep.
• In Section 3-A: Hillel Academy, Summit Academy and St. Joseph are tied for fourth. Hillel Academy visits Imani Christian, Summit Academy is at Neighborhood Academy and St. Joe’s hosts Aquinas Academy. If two of them or all three finish tied for fourth place, the tied teams will all qualify because they were all 2-2 head-to-head.
A Last Place of Endangered Girls
The WPIAL girls basketball postseason field has been finalized with the exception of a possible final playoff berth in Class 5A.
Franklin Regional and its playoff hopes sit back and await the outcome of two Section 1-5A girls games on Friday.
The Panthers will clinch if Penn Hills loses at Kiski Area or if Woodland Hills falls at Gateway.
Day 2 in Hershey
Day two of the PIAA Giant Center double-elimination wrestling playoffs finds two district teams still alive for state gold in the winners bracket and three more fighting to stay alive in the losers bracket .
In Class 3A, WPIAL runner-up Trinity was victorious Thursday and advances to the quarterfinals at 2 p.m. The Hillers face a tough task as they battle two-time defending champion Bethlehem Catholic.
District champion Connellsville faces District 10 champion Cathedral Prep while Franklin Regional battles District 3 runner-up Boiling Springs in the first round of the 3A losers bracket.
In Class 2A, WPIAL champion Burrell battles District 6 champion Bishop McCort at noon, while District 7 runner-up Burgettstown is in the loser’s bracket against District 4 runner-up Montoursville at 9 a.m.