Even those of us who do this for a living are running out of words to describe Iyanna Wade.

Fresh off the second-highest scoring regular season in WPIAL history, Clairton’s sensational 5-foot 4 junior point guard delivered a game for the ages with a 52-point performance, leading the No. 10-seeded Bears (18-4) to a thrilling 78-65 overtime win at No. 7 Freedom (12-11) Friday night in a marquee Class 2A first-round showdown. Wade accounted for 38 of her 52 points after halftime, none bigger than a tying 3-pointer with less than three seconds remaining in regulation.

“They played good defense on her initially, but my daughter is a monster. She doesn’t back down from anybody,” said Clairton coach Carlton Wade, Iyanna’s father. “She didn’t give up. She fought through double teams. She was double-teamed the whole second half. And I knew somebody was going to get into foul trouble watching her, because she’s too quick, too crafty, too smart.

“She’s a special player, man.”

Freedom’s Shaye Bailey looks toward the basket as Clairton’s Jamiya JuJu Childs tries to stop her in the first round of Class 2A WPIAL playoffs on Friday, Feb. 16, 2024, at Freedom High School. Clairton won, 78-65, in overtime. (Emily Matthews/Pittsburgh Union Progress)

A fearless competitor with astonishing speed and athleticism, Wade has the ability to score from anywhere on the court — evidenced by her 40.1 points per game average in the regular season. She also broke the WPIAL single-game scoring record with a 65-point effort Jan. 25 against Steel Valley.

For all of her remarkable milestones and achievements to date, though, Wade might have outdone herself Friday.

“I wouldn’t want any other player in the WPIAL taking that shot,” Carlton Wade said about the tying 3. “She lined it up, her footing was great, and I saw it leave her wrist and knew it was going in. She’s just that type of player.”

The back-and-forth affair featured two of the most talented guards in the area in Wade and Bulldogs senior Shaye Bailey, who fouled out late in the fourth quarter after posting a team-high 25 points. Bailey finished No. 5 in the WPIAL in the regular season with 22.3 ppg.

“I thought that if we took care of the ball and didn’t let Shaye stay in the passing lanes and get steals, I thought we had a good opportunity to beat them,” Carlton Wade said.

The Bears found themselves trailing by double digits at halftime, 36-24, and things were starting to look bleak with Wade scoring just 14 points in the opening half. But it didn’t take long for her to catch fire after the break, willing Clairton back into the game with clutch bucket after clutch bucket.

Once the game went to overtime with Bailey stuck on the bench for Freedom, it was almost a foregone conclusion that the Bears were going to advance. Sure enough, Wade single-handedly dominated the extra period, scoring 12 points in overtime as Clairton easily outscored the Bulldogs, 16-3.

“I knew once we went to overtime, if Iyanna Wade was still on the court, that we were going to win,” Carlton Wade said.

Carlton Wade wasn’t happy with his team’s seeding and the ensuing first-round matchup at Freedom after the Bears posted a 17-win regular season, and things won’t get any easier from here for Clairton going into the quarterfinal round Wednesday against No. 2 Aliquippa. All the Bears can do now, though, is play the team in front of them — and with Iyanna Wade on their side, anything is possible.

“It’s definitely possible,” Carlton Wade said. “We’re going to get back in the gym and work on some things, and see what happens. I’ll take her anywhere. I’ll take her over anybody in the WPIAL in any game.”

Clairton’s Karma Fuqua grabs the ball away from Freedom’s Cassidy Harris in the first round of Class 2A WPIAL playoffs on Friday, Feb. 16, 2024, at Freedom High School. Clairton won, 78-65, in overtime. (Emily Matthews/Pittsburgh Union Progress)

Other Class 2A girls

• In one of the most lopsided playoff games in WPIAL history, No. 1 Greensburg Central Catholic (17-6) trounced No. 16 Northgate (7-16) at home via the mercy rule, 77-10. The Centurions built a 59-5 halftime lead before taking their foot off the gas in the second half. Mya Morgan led four double-digit scorers for Greensburg C.C. with 20 points, followed by 16 from Cara Dupilka, 15 from Avery Davis and 12 from Erica Gribble.

• Marque Taylor led all scorers with 21 points for No. 9 Rochester (15-7), which picked up a 48-39 road win against No. 8 Burgettstown (13-9). Paige Klodowski led three players in double figures for the Blue Devils with 14 points.

• Raney Staub registered a playoff career-high 30 points for No. 4 Fort Cherry (17-5), which cruised to a 66-16 victory against No. 13 Beth-Center (11-11) at Peters Township. Olivia Kemp added 11 points for the Rangers.

• Abby Genes scored a game-high 18 points to lead a trio of double-digit scorers for No. 3 Serra Catholic in a 59-23 blowout at home against No. 14 Brentwood (10-13). Cate Clarke and Caitlin Cooley added 10 points apiece for the Eagles (19-4). Mia March led the Spartans with 10 points.

Class 5A girls

• Hannah Pugliese put up a game-high 28 points for No. 17 Penn Hills (12-11), which scored a 59-43 preliminary-round victory at No. 16 Thomas Jefferson to advance to the Round of 16. Egypt Coleman added 13 points for the Indians along with 10 from Milani Oliver. Laekynn Flynn led the Jaguars (9-13) with 19 points.

Clairton coach Carlton Wade reacts as the Bears increase their lead against Freedom in the first round of Class 2A WPIAL playoffs on Friday, Feb. 16, 2024, at Freedom High School. Clairton won in overtime, 78-65. (Emily Matthews/Pittsburgh Union Progress)

Class 4A boys

• In one of the most anticipated matchups of the evening, No. 6 Avonworth got the better of No. 11 Highlands for a 74-59 home win. Talented junior guard Rowan Carmichael turned in a terrific performance with a game-high 31 points for the Antelopes (16-7), aided by 18 from Anthony Arlia. Jordyn Tavarez finished with 17 points for the Golden Rams (14-8), while Penn recruit Brayden Foster contributed 16.

• Michael Michalski led No. 7 South Allegheny (17-6) to a 71-62 home victory against No. 10 Belle Vernon (12-9), tallying a team-high 22 points to go along with 19 from Cam Epps. Leopards junior Zion Moore, the WPIAL scoring leader in the regular season, finished with 22 points to go with 16 from Alonzo Wade.

• Star senior Peter Kramer put up a double-double with 24 points and 10 rebounds, and 6-8 forward Liam Mignogna added 23 points and eight boards to power No. 2 Hampton (19-3) to a 66-55 home win against No. 15 Central Valley. Isiah Jeter led all players with 27 points for the Warriors (14-8).

• Jamire Braxton scored a team-leading 16 points and Isaac Ellsworth added 15 to go with 12 from Jeremiah Hager, helping No. 4 Uniontown (19-3) cruise to a 64-45 home win against No. 13 Quaker Valley (11-12). Joe Coyle led all scorers with 20 points for the Quakers, and Zach Washington tacked on 16.

• Led by 17 points from Derek Lang, 14 from Teegan Finucan and 12 from Jackson Bauman, No. 8 Knoch (14-8) rallied for a narrow 52-48 victory against No. 9 Beaver (12-11). Brady Mayo led the Bobcats with 17 points, followed by 11 from Evan Baker and 10 from Nick Krzeczowski.

• Three players reached double figures for No. 3 Montour (20-3) in a 71-44 rout at home against No. 14 Southmoreland (16-7), led by 18 points from 6-10 junior Ama Sow. Kaleb Platz followed with 17 for the Spartans and Jake Wolfe finished with 16. Wyatt Richler led the Scotties with 18 points.

Class 1A boys

• One year after all-time WPIAL scoring leader Vinnie Cugini led Aquinas Academy to its first playoff victory in school history, the No. 7 Crusaders clinched their second consecutive trip to the quarterfinal round with an 84-50 win against No. 10 California at Peters Township. Jacob Guillen buried seven 3-pointers on his way to a game-high 37 points, and Sam Duer contributed 22 for Aquinas (15-8). Noah Neil finished with 18 points and Vinny Manzella added 16 for the Trojans (7-16).

• Only a week after recording a historic 64-point outburst in a win over California — good for the second-highest single-game total in WPIAL history — Monessen senior Lorenzo Gardner tallied a game-high 44 points to lead the host No. 4 Greyhounds (18-5) past No. 13 Summit Academy (4-13), 78-56. Gardner finished fifth in the WPIAL in the regular season with an average of 25.2 points.

• Jake Moldovan paced a trio of double-digit scorers for No. 6 Carlynton (8-14), tallying a game-high 19 points in a 55-41 home win against No. 11 Jefferson-Morgan (13-10). Jaydin McKnight and Lekhi Turner chipped in 12 points apiece for the Cougars, while Jase Bedillion finished with 17 for the Rockets.

Clairton’s Jamiya JuJu Childs reacts after scoring three points to tie the score, 56-56, in the fourth quarter against Freedom in the first round of Class 2A WPIAL playoffs on Friday, Feb. 16, 2024, at Freedom High School. Clairton won, 78-65, in overtime. (Emily Matthews/Pittsburgh Union Progress)

Boys scores

Class 5A preliminary round

Woodland Hills 64, Trinity 42

Class 4A first round

Avonworth 74, Highlands 59

Hampton 66, Central Valley 55

Knoch 52, Beaver 48

Lincoln Park 93, Freeport 63

Montour 71, Southmoreland 44

North Catholic 73, Elizabeth Forward 53

South Allegheny 71, Belle Vernon 62

Uniontown 64, Quaker Valley 45

Class 1A first round

Aquinas Academy 84, California 50

Carlynton 55, Jefferson-Morgan 41

Monessen 78, Summit Academy 56

Rochester 78, St. Joseph 28

West Greene 58, Avella 47

Girls scores

Class 5A preliminary round

Penn Hills 59, Thomas Jefferson 43

Class 2A first round

Aliquippa 53, California 18

Clairton 78, Freedom 65 (OT)

Fort Cherry 66, Beth-Center 16

Greensburg C.C. 77, Northgate 10

Rochester 48, Burgettstown 39

Serra Catholic 59, Brentwood 23

South Side 43, Chartiers-Houston 38

Winchester Thurston 51, Washington 38

Steve is a sports writer at the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, but he's currently on strike. Email him at srotstein@unionprogress.com.

Steve Rotstein

Steve is a sports writer at the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, but he's currently on strike. Email him at srotstein@unionprogress.com.