Here’s a look at the WPIAL boys basketball playoffs, which begin Friday and conclude Feb. 29-March 2 at Pitt’s Petersen Events Center.

Payton Wehner and Central Catholic captured the Class 6A Section 1 title last Friday courtesy of a 58-57 win at North Allegheny. (Emily Matthews/Pittsburgh Union Progress)


Defending champion: Central Catholic

No. 1 seed: Mt. Lebanon

Best quarterfinal game: Upper St. Clair vs. Butler

Player to watch: Braylon Littlejohn, Butler. Yeah, this Miami (Ohio) football signee has been a hit on the basketball court, too. A 6-foot-2 senior guard, Littlejohn tops all Class 6A playoff qualifiers in scoring (21.1 points per game) and pairs with sophomore sharpshooter Donovan Carney (17.6 ppg) to give Butler a potent one-two punch. Butler opened the season as the “team to beat,” and despite finishing third in Section 1 has the talent to go all the way.

Sleeper: Baldwin. You can’t spell Baldwin without “win,” and this Highlanders squad might just stack a few of those together in these playoffs. And who knows, maybe even win their first title. The No. 4 seed comes in having won 9 of 11 and has some strong wins on its resume (Upper St. Clair, Allderdice, Uniontown). Junior guard Nate Wesling averages 16 points a game and coach Jeff Ackermann has won five WPIAL titles.

The lowdown: After ending a 15-year championship drought a season ago, Central Catholic will shoot for a second consecutive title. The Vikings, who returned only one starter from last season (senior guard Payton Wehner), claimed the Section 1 title Friday with a dramatic 58-57 win at North Allegheny. Sophomore guard Enzo Khalil and 6-5 junior forward Bradley Gompers are two other key players. … No Class 6A team comes in hotter than Section 2 winner Mt. Lebanon (18-3), which has won six games in a row. The Blue Devils shoot it well from the perimeter and boast the No. 1 scoring defense (44.9 ppg) in the class. Senior guards Nate Girod and Brody Barber and sophomore guard Liam Sheely can all fill the bucket in bunches. … Upper St. Clair split a pair of meetings with Mt. Lebanon in the regular season and has won six of its last seven overall. Tyler Robbins, a 6-9 junior forward, can be a handful down low, and the Panthers’ backcourt features seniors Christian Ito and Brett Meinert. … North Allegheny may only be 10-12, but the Tigers have some bite to them. Senior guard Joey Dopirak (20.9 ppg) and 6-11 senior forward Ty Iwanonkiw make them a team to keep an eye on.

Championship picks: Baldwin (Brad Everett), Mt. Lebanon (Steve Rotstein), Upper St. Clair (John Santa).

Elijah Guillory averages a team-best 20.3 points per game for top-seed Moon, which is seeking its fifth WPIAL title. (Emily Matthews/Pittsburgh Union Progress)


Defending champion: Penn Hills

No. 1 seed: Moon

Best first-round game: Peters Township vs. Kiski Area

Player to watch: Elijah Guillory, Moon. This No. 5 hopes to shoot Moon to a fifth WPIAL title. A smooth, 6-5 senior guard who is receiving Division I interest, Guillory has pumped in 20.3 points per game and closed the regular season with efforts of 30 and 32 points. He scored 25 against Lincoln Park in the season opener and can score just as easily on long-range 3-pointers as he can on drives to the rim. 

Sleeper: South Fayette. Not only did South Fayette (13-8) win its final three section games to clinch a playoff spot as the runner-up to Moon in Section 4, but the No. 6-seeded Lions also have one of the hottest players around in senior guard Michael Plasko. Plasko put up a career-high 50 points in a win at North Hills last week and leads all Class 5A players with 25.2 points a game. The Lions have played right with some of the best, falling to Moon and Shaler in overtime.

The lowdown: Guillory may be Moon’s brightest star, but the lengthy Tigers are far from a one-man show. Aidan Reesman, a 6-4 senior guard-forward, 6-5 junior guard-forward Michael Santicola and 6-6 junior guard Carter Tumulty team with Guillory to give the Tigers four regulars 6-4 or taller, and all of them can shoot the 3-ball. … After winning its first section title in a decade, Thomas Jefferson will try to win its first WPIAL championship ever. Evan Berger, a 6-4 senior guard, is the program’s all-time leading scorer and averages 17 points a game. Senior Noah Prosser and sophomore Nick Trklja add to what is an excellent backcourt. … Franklin Regional has won eight games in a row, one of them being a 72-62 triumph against Section 2 champion Shaler. Cam Rowell is a 6-5 senior guard-forward who leads the team in scoring (18.7 ppg). … Shaler isn’t very flashy, but the Titans are loaded with seniors and play outstanding defense (45 points a game). One of those veterans, 6-2 senior Brandon London, is one of the top post players in the class. … Don’t sleep on defending champ Penn Hills. The Indians may only be 13-7, but those wins include Moon, Central Catholic and Gateway.

Championship picks: Thomas Jefferson (Brad Everett), Moon (Steve Rotstein), Moon (John Santa).

Standout senior guard and Lehigh recruit Peter Kramer (23.7 ppg) will try to help Hampton unseat Lincoln Park as WPIAL Class 4A champions. (Alexandra Wimley/Pittsburgh Union Progress)


Defending champion: Lincoln Park

No. 1 seed: Lincoln Park

Best first-round game: Avonworth vs. Highlands

Player to watch: Meleek Thomas, Lincoln Park. While you could just as easily put teammate Brandin “Beebah” Cummings in this spot, a lot of eyes will be on Thomas, who is regarded as one of the top juniors in the country. A 6-4 guard, Thomas averages 21.9 points a game and affects the game in so many other ways. Thomas, who recently took official visits to Auburn and Kentucky, has scored 1,551 career points.

Sleeper: Highlands. The Golden Rams (14-7) are the No. 11 seed, but don’t be surprised if they make a run. Bradyn Foster is a 6-8 guard-forward and Penn recruit who comes in averaging 21.5 points per game. Senior guard Cam Reigard (17.8 ppg) is a very good 3-point shooter and like Foster a 1,000-point career scorer. The Golden Rams have won four of five since an overtime loss to Hampton. They reached the WPIAL semifinals each of the past two seasons.

The lowdown: With Thomas and Cummings, Lincoln Park has arguably the best two players in the WPIAL. Cummings has poured in a team-best 23.1 points a game. With future coach Jeff Capel watching courtside, the 6-4 senior guard and Pitt recruit scored 27 points in a win against Imani Christian on Saturday. Lincoln Park has won 11 games in a row and is averaging a whopping 89.8 points over its last nine games. … Can anyone challenge Lincoln Park? Hampton and Montour would seem to have the best shots. Hampton didn’t drop a section game and owns strong non-section wins against Moon, Allderdice and Peters Township. Senior guard and Lehigh recruit Peter Kramer has hit a couple of game-winners this season and averages 23.7 points a game. Montour captured its first section title since 2012 and boasts an outstanding duo in senior guard Jake Wolfe (19.4 ppg) and 6-11 junior forward Ama Sow (16.2 ppg). Sow also averages 13.5 rebounds and 2.2 blocks a game. … Uniontown started the season 14-0, but is 5-3 over its last eight games. The Red Raiders, who won at Thomas Jefferson in December, are loaded at the guard position. Senior guard Jamire Braxton averages a team-high 18.4 points.

Championship picks: Lincoln Park (Brad Everett), Lincoln Park (Steve Rotstein), Lincoln Park (John Santa).

Billy Schaeffer was the only returning starter from Deer Lakes’ WPIAL Class 3A championship team, but the senior guard has the Lancers in position to potentially repeat as champions. (Emily Matthews/Pittsburgh Union Progress)


Defending champion: Deer Lakes

No. 1 seed: Deer Lakes

Best first-round game: Washington vs. Ellwood City

Player to watch: Joseph Roth, Ellwood City. While he was edged out by just two points in the race for the WPIAL regular-season scoring title, Roth has been so dominant that he very well could put the Wolverines on his back and help them make some noise in the playoffs. A 6-5 senior forward, Roth averages 25.6 points, 15 rebounds and 6.6 assists per game. Last week, Roth became the program’s all-time leading scorer.

Sleeper: Our Lady of the Sacred Heart. Sure, OLSH (17-4) has reached the WPIAL final six consecutive seasons, but not a lot of people are talking about a Chargers team that shared the Section 2 title with Seton LaSalle and has won eight games in a row. Last season’s WPIAL runner-up, the Chargers have been excellent defensively, surrendering only 44 points a game. 

The lowdown: Deer Lakes returned only one starter from last year’s championship team that also reached the PIAA final, but this is still a veteran group that is very talented. Senior guard Billy Schaeffer averages a team-high 17 points a game, while 6-4 junior forward Nathaniel Moore and 6-3 senior forward Wayne Love give the Lancers some weapons down low. … Shady Side Academy was edged out by Deer Lakes for the Section 3 title, but the Bulldogs beat the Lancers by two points on the road last week and have won eight of nine overall. Senior guard Eli Teslovich has been on a tear and averages 21 points a game. … Mohawk and Neshannock are Section 1 teams that could go a long way. Mohawk had won 12 games in a row before losing to Neshannock, 69-67, last Friday. Sophomore guard Bobby Fadden (22.1 ppg) is Mohawk’s top scorer. Neshannock boasts the No. 1 scoring offense (65.4 ppg) and defense (43.1 ppg) in the class and has a sophomore leading scorer of its own in guard David Kwiat (17 ppg). … Yough and Washington shared the Section 4 title. Yough senior guard Terek Crosby leads the WPIAL in scoring with 25.7 points a game and is nearing 2,000 for his career.

Championship picks: Deer Lakes (Brad Everett), Shady Side Academy (Steve Rotstein), Yough (John Santa).

Sophomore guard Josh Pratt will try to help Aliquippa win a 14th WPIAL title, which would tie New Castle for most in league history. (Emily Matthews/Pittsburgh Union Progress)


Defending champion: Aliquippa

No. 1 seed: Aliquippa

Best first-round game: Bishop Canevin vs. Burgettstown

Player to watch: Josh Williams, Northgate. A year after leading Northgate to its first WPIAL championship appearance since 1988, Williams hopes to help the Flames win their first title. A 6-foot senior guard and the program’s all-time leading scorer, Williams is averaging a team-high 21.7 points per game. 

Sleeper: Fort Cherry. A magical football season saw the Rangers win a WPIAL title and reach the PIAA final. Will the school’s basketball team experience similar postseason success? Champions of Section 4, the No. 4-seeded Rangers (16-5) have won 10 of their last 11 games. Senior guard Derek Errett (19 ppg) and junior guard Shane Cornali (15.5 ppg) are the top scorers for a Rangers squad that averages a Class 2A-best 67.7 points per game.

The lowdown: Aliquippa has won 13 WPIAL titles all time and one more would tie New Castle for the most in league history. Led by senior forward Cameron Lindsey and sophomore guard Josh Pratt, the Quips went 10-0 in Section 1, have won seven of their last eight games, and beat Class 6A section champ Central Catholic last month. As usual, defense is the team’s calling card as the Quips surrender a Class 2A-low 42.1 points a game. … With Williams and a few other key players back from last year’s team that reached the final, Northgate could make another run. The red-hot Flames have won eight of nine and lost their two regular-season meetings with Aliquippa by margins of five and 19 points. … This could be the season Greensburg Central Catholic wins its first title. The Centurions were undefeated Section 3 champions and enter the playoffs riding an 11-game win streak. They own terrific non-section wins against Gateway, Penn-Trafford, Yough and Bishop Canevin, and feature an excellent outside-inside tandem in senior guard Tyree Turner (21 ppg) and 6-5 senior forward Franco Alvarez (15 ppg). … It has been an odd season for Bishop Canevin, which won the Section 2 title and got a new coach last month. Aaron McGee, a former Canevin assistant who spent the first two months of the season as an assistant at Moon, replaced first-year coach Damien Cornish late last month.

Championship picks: Greensburg Central Catholic (Brad Everett), Aliquippa (Steve Rotstein), Bishop Canevin (John Santa).

Junior RJ Sledge is one of three guards on Imani Christian who have Division I offers. (Emily Matthews/Pittsburgh Union Progress)


Defending champion: Imani Christian

No. 1 seed: Imani Christian

Best first-round game: West Greene vs. Avella

Player to watch: Lorenzo Gardner, Monessen. The kid scored 64 points last Friday. What more needs to be said? Gardner, a 6-4 guard and three-year starter, leads Class 1A in scoring (22 ppg) and his career-high performance in a 90-59 win at California tied for the second-most points in WPIAL history. Monessen won the Section 2 title.

Sleeper: Union. After losing in the final each of the past two seasons, will the Scotties (12-10) get back again and make sure the third time’s a charm? If they do, it will be as a No. 5 seed after finishing as the runner-up to Rochester in Section 1. Junior guard Lucas Stanley (22.1 points, 7.8 rebounds) is the leading scorer and rebounder for a team that had to replace all five starters from last season. The Scotties have won six of their last seven games.

The lowdown: Imani Christian, which is also the reigning PIAA champion, is the heavy favorite. The Saints, who will move up to Class 6A next season, don’t have the height as they did a season ago, but there is no shortage of outstanding guards. Seniors Nate Brazil (17.9 ppg) and Avery Wesley (11.1 ppg) and junior RJ Sledge (8.5 ppg) all have Division I offers and can all score in bunches. The Saints are 10-1 against WPIAL opponents, their only loss coming to Lincoln Park, 83-74, on Saturday. … With junior guard Courtney Wallace leading the way, Neighborhood Academy could make a deep run. Wallace averages 22 points per game and has several triple-doubles this season. Imani Christian (by 29 and 16 points) is the only Class 1A team to defeat the Bulldogs, who boast non-section wins against Section 1 champ Rochester and Bishop Canevin. … No Class 1A team comes into the playoffs as hot as Rochester, which has won eight games in a row and 13 of 14. The Rams split two meetings with Union, losing by 16 on their home floor and then winning by five on the road. Senior guard Xavier Rigby averages 20 points a game and is a very good perimeter shooter.

Championship picks: Imani Christian (Brad Everett), Imani Christian (Steve Rotstein), Imani Christian (John Santa).

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