Playing on the road in a tough environment Friday, one of the top teams in WPIAL Class 5A found itself trailing defending WPIAL champion Penn Hills by six points at the half.

But when Shaler coach Rob Niederberger addressed his team in the locker room, the discussion had more to do with passion and desire than it did X’s and O’s.

“My kids just needed to up their intensity,” Niederberger said. “They’re winners. They find a way. We just talked about what we needed to do, and I think they then knew where the intensity needed to be. They hadn’t lost on that court in a few years. My kids needed to step up and they did.”

Did they ever.

Shaler held Penn Hills without a point in the third quarter and ended the Indians’ 16-game home win streak with an impressive 52-38 victory in Section 2.

“I think it’s the biggest win Shaler has had in a long time,” Niederberger said.

Keegan Smetanka scored a game-high 18 points for Shaler (18-2, 7-1), which holds a one-game lead over Fox Chapel (6-2) in the section standings. Shaler hosts Armstrong on Tuesday before traveling to Fox Chapel in the section finale Feb. 9. Penn Hills (11-7, 4-4) sits in fourth place. Like Shaler, the Indians have clinched a postseason berth.

If Shaler goes on to win the section title, the Titans can look back on Friday’s second half, and particularly the third quarter, for playing a big part. After trailing Penn Hills, 26-20, at the half, Shaler outscored Penn Hills, 13-0, in the third quarter to take a 7-point lead, an advantage that would grow to as many as 16 in the fourth quarter when the Titans held a 19-12 scoring edge. Overall, in the second half, Penn Hills was 5 of 22 from the field, including 0 of 10 from 3-point range.

“They were flying. You could see it,” Niederberger said of his players. “There was a lot of emotion. It was a total team effort.”

Brandon London added 10 points and 12 rebounds for Shaler and teammate Kaden Orga also scored 10 points. Smetanka was 11 of 12 from the free-throw line, where Shaler was 20 of 31 overall. Penn Hills was just 2 of 2.

Darien Roberson (10 points) was the only player to score in double-figures for Penn Hills, which had not lost at home since falling to Highlands in the WPIAL Class 5A quarterfinals in 2022. The home section loss was the Indians’ first since January 2020, when they lost Rodney Gallagher and Laurel Highlands.

Northgate’s Josh Williams works against the Aliquippa defense in a 58-39 loss Friday, Feb. 2, 2024, at Northgate High School. (Emily Matthews/Pittsburgh Union Progress)

Other boys games

North Allegheny coach Dave DeGregorio picked up his 500th career win while guiding the host Tigers (9-11, 6-2) to a 70-61 win against Butler (15-3, 5-2) in Class 6A Section 1. The Tigers outscored Butler, 20-6, in the fourth quarter. Ty Iwanonkiw and Joey Dopirak led the Tigers with 17 points apiece. Donovan Carney led Butler with 19.

Mt. Lebanon (16-3, 7-1) avenged its only section loss and moved into sole possession of first place in Class 6A Section 2 by defeating visiting Upper St. Clair (13-5, 6-2), 60-43. Nate Girod scored 23 points and Liam Sheely added 20 for the Blue Devils, who held a 24-8 scoring advantage in the final quarter. Christian Ito scored a team-best 12 points for Upper St. Clair.

• It didn’t go to overtime this time, but New Castle (13-7, 2-6) beat visiting Central Catholic (11-8, 6-2) for the second time this season, 54-48, in Class 6A Section 1. Ralphie Blundo scored 20 points and Damian Harrison 19 for New Castle. Enzo Khalil led Central Catholic with 21.

• After scoring 100 points against Westinghouse (1-11, 1-7) in a win last month, Allderdice (16-3, 8-0) went even higher as the Dragons defeated the host Bulldogs, 105-33, in City League action. Logan Golle led the Dragons with five 3-pointers and 31 points. Azerick Jetter added 20 points for the Dragons, who had six players score in double-figures.

• Michael Plasko scored 18 of his 24 points in the second half to push South Fayette (11-8, 5-3) into second place in Class 5A Section 4 with a 52-34 win against Mars (10-10, 4-4). South Fayette held a 28-12 scoring edge in the second half. Ryan Ceh and Will Wilson each scored 10 points for Mars, which has dropped five of its past six games.

• The last of Zach Washington’s 18 points came on a free throw with 1.2 seconds remaining and gave Quaker Valley (10-8, 5-3) a 55-54 home win against Avonworth (12-6, 6-2) in Class 4A Section 4. Teammate Joe Coyle scored 25 points, while Rowan Carmichael led Avonworth with 26.

• Calvin Winfrey scored 20 points and Jamire Braxton had 17 to help Uniontown (16-3, 7-1) end a two-game losing streak with a 78-56 win against visiting Southmoreland (14-6, 3-5) in Class 4A Section 3. Uniontown led by eight points at the half before outscoring Southmoreland, 30-13, in the third quarter. Noah Felenzter scored 23 points for Southmoreland.

• Max Hurray’s 18 points propelled North Catholic (12-6, 8-2) to a 73-46 win at Central Valley (12-7, 5-5) in Class 4A Section 2. Winners of eight of nine, North Catholic led, 36-17, at the half. Tanner Stevenson led Central Valley with 12 points, all coming on 3-pointers.

• Avery Molek scored 22 points and Jack Lochran chipped in 21 as host Chartiers-Houston (15-5, 8-3) dealt Fort Cherry (14-5, 9-1) its first section loss, 86-68, in Class 2A Section 4. The Bucs outscored Fort Cherry, 48-34, in the second half. Shane Cornali scored 22 points for Fort Cherry.

• Just more than a week after losing at home by three points to West Greene, Lorenzo Gardner pumped in 30 points to help Monessen (15-3, 7-1) grab a 66-55 road win against the Pioneers in Class 1A Section 2. Lane Allison paced West Greene (11-7, 6-2) with 21 points.

Girls games

Armstrong (16-4, 9-2) won its 11th game in a row and stayed in first place in Class 5A Section 2 courtesy of a 39-31 win at Hampton (11-8, 6-4). Armstrong outscored Hampton, 14-4, in the first quarter. Emma Paul led Armstrong with 15 points. Meghan Murray paced Hampton with 12.

• Egypt Coleman scored a game-high 18 points and Penn Hills (9-10, 6-5) raced to a 17-point halftime lead before holding on for a 47-44 win against visiting Plum (12-7, 8-2) in Class 5A Section 1. Pascale Olczak led Plum with 17 points.

Three stars

*** — Gary Tarbuk, Geibel Catholic. Tarbuk made four 3-pointers and scored a game-high 24 points to lead Geibel (1-19, 1-7) to its first win of the season, 62-58, in overtime at Mapletown (2-14, 1-6) in Class 1A Section 2.

** — Ama Sow, Montour. Sow’s triple-double of 20 points, 12 rebounds and 10 blocks vaulted Montour (15-3, 7-1) to a 71-29 win at East Allegheny (3-16, 0-8) in Class 4A Section 4.

* — Nate Papuga, Derry. Three nights after notching his 1,000th career point, Papuga scored 20 to help Derry (12-5, 6-4) claim a playoff berth for the fifth time in six years with a win at Valley (5-13, 3-7), 78-51, in Class 3A Section 3.

Hot from deep

Players with 3 or more 3-pointers: David Kwiat, Neshannock, 6; Logan Golle, Allderdice, 5; Donovan Carney, Butler, 5; Ayden Davis, Butler, 5; Joe Coyle, Quaker Valley, 5; Xavier Rigby, Rochester, 5; Jacob Ziolecki, California, 4; Tanner Stevenson, Central Valley, 4; Peter Kramer, Hampton, 4; Michael Wisniewski, Ligonier Valley, 4; Zach Washington, Quaker Valley, 4; Anthony Zavolta, St. Joseph, 4; Matt Farah Avonworth, 3; Noah Goetz, Avonworth, 3; Katie Lucarelli, Baldwin, 3; Bryson Paga, Freeport, 3; Gary Tarbuk, Geibel Catholic, 3; Triston Redinger, Indiana, 3; Derek Lang, Knoch, 3; Nate Girod, Mt. Lebanon, 3; Grace Heliger, North Allegheny, 3; Caroline Henderson, North Allegheny, 3; Justin Kontul, North Catholic, 3; Andrew Mendelovich, Pine-Richland, 3; Ryan Frohlich, Shady Side Academy, 3.

Fans cheer on Northgate and Aliquippa on Friday, Feb. 2, 2024, at Northgate High School. Aliquippa won, 58-39. (Emily Matthews/Pittsburgh Union Progress)

Boys scores

Aliquippa 58, Northgate 39

Allderdice 105, Westinghouse 33

Bethel Park 74, Connellsville 49

California 51, Jefferson-Morgan 47

Canon-McMillan 45, Hempfield 44

Chartiers-Houston 86, Fort Cherry 68

Derry 78, Valley 51

Fox Chapel 61, Armstrong 36

Franklin Regional 57, Latrobe 49

Geibel Catholic 62, Mapletown 58 (OT)

Hampton 66, Freeport 42

Jeannette 39, Clairton 36

Knoch 51, Indiana 41

Mohawk 67, Riverside 36

Monessen 66, West Greene 55

Montour 71, East Allegheny 29

Moon 60, Chartiers Valley 36

Neshannock 80, New Brighton 22

North Catholic 73, Central Valley 46

Quaker Valley 55, Avonworth 54

Pine-Richland 54, Seneca Valley 44 (OT)

Rochester 54, Carlynton 40

Serra Catholic 65, Riverview 60

Sewickley Academy 51, Laurel 32

Shady Side Academy 91, Ligonier Valley 33

Sto-Rox 54, Steel Valley 28

Summit Academy 57, St. Joseph 43

Uniontown 78, Southmoreland 56

Washington 72, Waynesburg 28

Winchester Thurston 40, Nazareth Prep 31

Girls scores

Armstrong 39, Hampton 31

Baldwin 52, Canon-McMillan 48

Nazareth Prep 34, Leechburg 33

North Allegheny 58, Butler 53

Penn Hills 47, Plum 44

Brad is a sports writer at the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, but he's currently on strike. Email him at

Brad Everett

Brad is a sports writer at the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, but he's currently on strike. Email him at