Despite carrying a 12-game winning streak into the postseason, some questioned whether Peters Township was the rightful choice for the No. 1 seed in Class 5A, with many believing No. 2 Penn Hills was more deserving of the top spot.
Now, both teams will get the chance to settle that debate once and for all.
The two red-hot juggernauts will meet at 9 p.m. Thursday at Petersen Events Center on the opening night of this year’s WPIAL championships, with Peters now riding a 15-game win streak into the title game. Penn Hills has a record of 17-1 over its past 18 games and is seeking to win its first title since 2018 and sixth overall, while Peters is looking to claim its first WPIAL title in 14 years and only the second in school history.
“It feels great. It’s been a fun season so far,” Peters coach Joe Urmann said. “Obviously there’s still work to be done, but we’re super excited.”
Peters had to battle through tough tests against Penn-Trafford, South Fayette and Gateway in all three rounds to reach the championship game, scoring less than 70 points in all three contests after scoring 70-plus in 12 of their previous 13 games going into the postseason. Still, Urmann’s bunch has found a way to win with a grittier, more rugged style of basketball than the team was used to playing during the regular season.
Penn Hills, on the other hand, has turned its stifling defense up a notch in the playoffs, holding its three postseason foes to an average of just 40.3 points per game. Those were no measly opponents, either — Penn Hills held No. 15 Trinity to 29 points (29.3 points below the Hillers’ season average), No. 7 Mars to 41 points (26 points below the Planets’ average) and No. 3 North Hills to 51 (19 points below the Indians’ average). For the season, Penn Hills has allowed only 44.2 ppg, best in Class 5A.
“Our guys are defensive-minded guys. That’s what we hang our hats on,” Penn Hills coach Chris Giles said. “We think that gives us an opportunity to be in the game. They say defense wins games and defense travels. We’re just trying to look at our philosophy and our principles and staying true to who we are.”
Junior forward Jack Dunbar led Peters in scoring during the regular season with an even 20 points per game, and he has taken his game to an even higher level when it matters most, as proven by his 29-point performance in a 62-55 WPIAL semifinal win vs. Gateway. Along with Dunbar, Peters has received plenty of contributions from senior guard Brendan McCullough, junior guard Nate Miller, senior forward Jake Ziegler and several other key players to get to this point.
“The thing about Jack is, he’s fearless,” Urmann said. “He’s just in attack mode, and he’s taking a lot of pressure off our guys, being able to score the ball this year, especially early in games. He’s been able to lift the lid off the basket sometimes.
“He does fly under the radar a little bit, but with us being in the championship game, hopefully that will change.”
For Penn Hills, senior 6-5 guard Daemar Kelly is a two-time all-section pick who led the team in scoring once again with 16.1 ppg during the regular season after averaging 17.4 ppg as a junior. This year, though, Kelly has had arguably more help than ever before, with a handful of supporting players capable of stepping up and being the top scorer on any given night. Point guard Noah Barren, guard-forward Julian Dugger and even unsung guard Lamire Redman have all had their moments in the spotlight this year.
Put it all together, and you have the recipe for one of the most even championship matchups you’ll find — and you can throw the seeds out the window now.
“There’s always controversy, whether it’s the NBA, college or high school,” Urmann said. “But No. 1 and No. 2 in the finals? You can’t ask for more than that.”
The Class 1A championship features a similar matchup of No. 1 vs. No. 2 seeds, although there wasn’t much controversy when it came to those brackets. Despite having a regular-season record of 15-6 compared to 20-2 for Union — not to mention having lost to the Scotties in the WPIAL playoffs in each of the past two years — you won’t find many complaints about Imani Christian receiving the No. 1 seed in Class 1A.
That’s because the Saints played a schedule as tough as any team in the WPIAL, regardless of classification, and they earned several notable wins along the way. Imani started its season with a 77-74 loss vs. Class 4A finalist Lincoln Park, then beat Monsignor Scanlan (N.Y.) before losing three consecutive games vs. Devon Prep, City League champion Allderdice and North Allegheny. Despite the 1-4 start, the Saints never wavered — and they since have won 16 of their past 18 games, including victories against Cuyahoga Valley Christian (Ohio), Theodore Roosevelt (Washington, D.C.), Philadelphia powerhouse Chester and Class 6A finalist Central Catholic.
“We played a super tough schedule all season to try to prepare us for this. To be honest, I feel like we played the toughest schedule in the whole WPIAL,” Imani Christian coach Omar Foster said. “I think it just took some time for us to learn the style of basketball that I like. Just to jell together, that’s all.”
The Saints feature the tallest player in the area in 6-11 sophomore forward Alier Maluk, a top-20 national recruit in the 2025 class who averaged 15.2 ppg during the regular season. Sophomore guard Dame Givner, who transferred from Obama before the season, is the team’s leading scorer at 15.9 ppg, and sophomore guard R.J. Sledge is another reliable scorer for the team after transferring from Bishop Canevin following his freshman year.
On top of that terrific trio, junior guard Avery Wesley gives Imani another capable threat on the wing, while 6-8 junior forward Virgil Hall provides another monstrous presence in the paint alongside Maluk. Resembling a high school all-star team at the Class 1A level, Foster believes his team has received unwarranted criticism for its star-studded roster.
“These kids are kids. We walk in gyms and you’ve got adult parents who boo them. It’s ridiculous,” Foster said. “All of these kids are 3.0 or better students. That’s the most important thing. That’s what Imani doesn’t get credit for.”
As for Union, the Scotties won their first 16 games to start the season after losing to Bishop Canevin in last year’s title game. With most of its key players returning, Union had lofty expectations going into the season, and the Scotties have played like a well-oiled machine since the beginning of December.
Senior guard Matt Stanley leads the way with an average of 17.4 ppg, and his younger brother, Lucas, led the team with 26 points in an 80-58 WPIAL semifinal win against Carlynton. Matt’s twin brother, Mark Stanley, also recently returned from injury and is rounding back into top form at just the right time for Union.
“Matthew is our leader,” said Scotties coach Mark Stanley, who has three sons on the team and another who recently graduated. “He controls the game as our point guard. I think any coach will tell you, when you have a good point guard, it makes things a lot easier.”
A win on Thursday with a tipoff of 5 p.m. at Petersen Events Center would give Union its first WPIAL title in 20 years and only the second in program history, while the Saints are looking to raise their first WPIAL championship banner. And although Imani seems to be the clear favorite, you’d be wise not to count these Scotties out.
“The only people who probably believe we’ve got a chance to win are the people in our locker room,” Stanley said. “When you talk team, I think these guys are right there with anybody. They share the ball. They don’t care who gets the credit. Their big thing is, they’re addicted to winning. Winning is fun, and they’ve been able to do a lot of it.
“Whether they get the gold in this or not, they’ve been so successful.”
For WPIAL postseason basketball brackets, results and schedules, go here: