The 2023-2024 WPIAL basketball season began 71 days ago. On Friday, section play concludes with two boys basketball teams deadlocked in the race for the Section 1-6A championship.
The Vikings are 3-3 in their last six games but are coming off a huge win at home over Butler on Tuesday to remain tied for first place.
The Tigers have bounced back after a 3-7 start and have won four straight games 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 opening quarter and never looked back in winning, 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 average this season.
While there are other section top spots still up for grabs, there are only two other games involving head-to-head battles for first place, matchups between a first-place team visiting the second-place team with the possibility of co-champions if the host teams win.
The Titans are 8-1 in the section and have won five games in a row. The Foxes are 7-2 in section play and have won three straight.
Senior Joe DeSabato of Shaler was the only player in double figure scoring with 11 points. Senior Jefferson-Moorefield-Brown scored seven to lead Fox Chapel.
The first-place Rangers are 10-1 and have been victorious in nine of their last 10 games. The Blue Devils are 9-2 in the section and have won consecutive games.
Senior Derek Erret had 18 points to pace the Rangers while the high 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 fights for first, all starting at 7:30 p.m.
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There have been 79 WPIAL boys basketball teams that have clinched a playoff berth, but several teams enter the final night of section play with their postseason hopes up in the air.
Here is what needs to happen for the bubble teams to clinch and join the February Frenzy.
• In Section 1-6A:New Castle can clinch with a win at home over Seneca Valley. Pine-Richland can clinch 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 3-1 record head to head.
• In Section 1-4A:Indiana, Freeport and Greensburg Salem are all tied for fourth place. The winner of Freeport at Indiana on Trib HSSN will clinch and the loser is eliminated. Greensburg Salem will clinch with a win at Hampton.
• In Section 3-A: Hillel Academy, Summit Academy and St. Joseph’s are tied for fourth place. 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 of them end up tied for fourth place, the tied teams will all qualify because they were all 2-2 head to head.
One final girls spot at stake
The WPIAL girls basketball postseason field has been finalized with the exception of one final possible playoff spot in Class 5A.
Franklin Regional and its playoff hopes sit and wait the outcome of two girls Section 1-5A games Friday.
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Day 2 in Hershey
The second day of the double-elimination PIAA team wrestling playoffs from the Giant Center finds two district teams still alive for state gold in the winners bracket and three others fighting to stay alive in the losers bracket.
In Class 3A, WPIAL runner-up Trinity was a winner Thursday and is advancing to the quarterfinals at 2 p.m. The Hillers face a tall task as they battle two-time defending champion Bethlehem Catholic.
In Class 2A, WPIAL champion Burrell battles District 6 champion Bishop McCort at noon while District 7 runner-up Burgettstown is in the losers bracket against District 4 runner-up Montoursville at 9 a.m.