In contrast to the prestige and tradition of championship success cultivated by the boys basketball team at Lincoln Park, the girls team had never won a postseason game in the school’s 18-year existence — until now.

Fresh off a groundbreaking 20-win regular season, the Leopards earned the No. 4 seed for the WPIAL Class 5A tournament, setting up a home playoff matchup in the first round against No. 13 Penn-Trafford. Both teams battled back and forth for four quarters, setting up a frantic finish with the Warriors clinging to a one-point lead in the game’s final seconds. Lincoln Park coach Ryan Kacsur dialed up a set play for senior guard Maddie Syka, but Penn-Trafford double-teamed her to force the ball to Sarah Scott instead.

In hindsight, letting Scott get the ball in her hands with the clock winding down turned out to be a fatal mistake. The 6-foot senior forward dribbled into the lane, turned around and converted a buzzer-beating hook shot for a thrilling 43-42 win, sending the home gym into a frenzy with her second buzzer-beater in less than a month. The only four-year starter in program history, Scott also nailed the game-winner in a 61-60 overtime win at section rival Trinity on Jan. 23.

“There was a lot of pressure,” Kacsur said. “The ball goes in the hoop, and you’re just in complete shock. Everybody is running on the court and there’s a big pile. You take a deep breath and say, you know what? I’ve been doing this for 15 years, and this is my first playoff victory, too.

“I was speechless. My dad is my assistant, and he just grabbed me and hugged me as the girls are hugging on the baseline. Having my kids with me, it was just a great moment.”

Syka scored a game-high 15 points for the Leopards (21-2), while Scott and Bella Ruminer contributed 10 points apiece in the unforgettable victory. Olivia Pepple finished with 13 points for the Warriors (14-9), but Lincoln Park’s feisty defense led by senior J’La Kizart limited Pepple to just one point in the second half.

“I tell everybody, it’s [Class] 5A basketball, and [Class] 5A basketball is brutal,” Kacsur said. “They always say the first one is always the hardest one to get.”

Despite an 18-0 start to the season that saw the Leopards take down several top-notch foes in impressive fashion, they still entered the postseason with plenty to prove. One win won’t answer all the questions or silence all the doubters yet, but it’s certainly a good start. And while things won’t get any easier against No. 5 Armstrong in the quarterfinal round, Lincoln Park can rest easy knowing that game will likely come down to the wire.

After all, who would you rather have on your team in crunch time right now than Sarah Scott?

“For Sarah, who has dedicated herself to this program for four years. … She deserved something like that, for sure,” Kacsur said. “You sort of pinch yourself with these girls. I keep telling them, there’s something special with this group. This might be something you never see at Lincoln Park again.”

Armstrong celebrates its 51-40 win against Latrobe in the first round of the WPIAL Class 5A playoffs on Tuesday, Feb. 20, 2024, at Armstrong High School. (Emily Matthews/Pittsburgh Union Progress)

Other Class 5A girls

• No. 2 McKeesport received all it could handle from No. 15 Hampton (12-11), which proved to be a much more formidable foe than its seed would indicate. But in the end, the Tigers withstood a game-high 24 points from Kent State recruit Meghan Murray and 16 from Kat Milon, holding on for a nail-biting 49-46 home win. Rachael Manfredo tallied a team-leading 14 points for McKeesport (19-3).

• Much like fellow top-four seeds Lincoln Park and McKeesport, No. 3 Trinity had to dig deep to win its first-round matchup at home against No. 14 Woodland Hills, 59-54. Four players reached double figures for the Hillers (18-5), led by Maddy Roberts with 17 points. Ruby Morgan added 12 to go with 11 from Macie Justice and 10 from Sam Horne, while Jhalynn Wilson scored a game-high 20 points for the Wolverines (9-12).

• Things weren’t quite as dramatic at Oakland Catholic, but the top-ranked Eagles still had to battle until the end to hold off a spirited effort from No. 16 Penn Hills in a 55-48 home win. London Creach scored a game-high 17 points for unbeaten Oakland Catholic (23-0), followed by 12 from Raygen Hintemeyer and 11 from Kaylee DeAngelo. Milani Oliver and Hannah Pugliese scored 13 points apiece for the Indians (12-12).

• In one of the most anticipated matchups of the first round, No. 8 North Hills (13-8) made it look easy against No. 9 Plum while coasting to a 69-40 home win. Gia Minton led four players in double figures for the Indians with 17 points, aided by 16 from Gianna Sturdivant, 15 from Olivia Waters and 14 from Delany Amato. Megan Marston finished with a team-high 14 points for the Mustangs (13-10).

• Led by a game-high 22 points from multi-sport standout Emma Paul, No. 5 Armstrong advanced to the quarterfinal round with a 51-40 home win against No. 12 Latrobe (11-12). Sarai Weaver added 11 for the River Hawks (19-4), while Elle Snyder and Carley Berk scored 10 points apiece for the Wildcats.

• Haylie Lamonde poured in a game-high 24 points to help two-time defending WPIAL champion South Fayette cruise to a 55-36 home win against No. 11 Mars (11-11). Juliette Leroux tacked on 14 points for the No. 6 Lions, and Alexis Cashdollar also finished with 14 for the Planets.

Armstrong’s Emma Paul drives past Latrobe’s Belle Blossey on Tuesday, Feb. 20, 2024, at Armstrong High School. Paul scored a game-high 22 points as Armstrong won, 51-40. (Emily Matthews/Pittsburgh Union Progress)

Class 4A girls

• Karlee Buterbaugh led all scorers with 14 points for No. 6 Knoch, helping the Knights pull away for a 45-28 home win against No. 11 Belle Vernon after a low-scoring first quarter. Neah Ewing added 11 points in the win for Knoch (14-9), and Caroline Lee finished with a team-high 12 points for the Leopards (10-13).

Class 2A boys

• Kymon’e Brown scored a game-high 17 points to pace a trio of double-digit scorers for No. 6 Jeannette (15-7), leading the Jayhawks to a 52-47 home victory against No. 11 Sewickley Academy (13-10). Jayce Powell added 13 for Jeannette to go with 10 from Marcus McGowen, while Nolan Donnelly led Sewickley with 16 points in the defeat.

• Isiah Petty led all scorers with 24 points for No. 8 Serra Catholic (16-7), and Pete Burke chipped in 16 for the Eagles in a 58-47 home win against No. 9 Chartiers-Houston. Nate Gregory scored a team-high 21 points for the Buccaneers (16-7).

From left, Armstrong’s Kyla Fitzgerald and Latrobe’s Elle Snyder and Brianna Havrilla go after the ball on Tuesday, Feb. 20, 2024, at Armstrong High School. Armstrong won, 51-40. (Emily Matthews/Pittsburgh Union Progress)

Boys scores

Class 2A first round

Aliquippa 70, Nazareth Prep 57

Bishop Canevin 62, Burgettstown 41

Eden Christian 67, Shenango 56

Fort Cherry 69, Winchester Thurston 48

Greensburg C.C. 57, Frazier 22

Jeannette 52, Sewickley Academy 47

Northgate 66, Clairton 52

Serra Catholic 58, Chartiers-Houston 47

Girls scores

Class 5A first round

Armstrong 51, Latrobe 40

Indiana 43, Moon 34

Lincoln Park 43, Penn-Trafford 42

McKeesport 49, Hampton 46

North Hills 69, Plum 40

Oakland Catholic 55, Penn Hills 48

South Fayette 55, Mars 36

Trinity 59, Woodland Hills 54

Class 4A first round

Central Valley 69, West Mifflin 59

Greensburg Salem 43, Hopewell 20

Knoch 45, Belle Vernon 28

Laurel Highlands 65, Quaker Valley 29

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

Steve Rotstein

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