When Uniontown met North Catholic on Wednesday in a showdown of two of the top three scoring offenses in the WPIAL, the game wasn’t decided by a 3-pointer, transition bucket or thunderous dunk.

No, defense was the storyline in this one, in particular Uniontown’s ability to limit the Trojans to their lowest point total not only of the season, but in three years.

Notorious Grooms and Calvin Winfrey scored 16 points apiece and No. 4 Uniontown advanced to the WPIAL semifinals for the first time since 2014 following a 59-37 win against No. 5 North Catholic in a Class 4A quarterfinal at Norwin.

It was the sixth consecutive win for Uniontown (21-3), which had come up short in its last four trips to the quarterfinals, including when it fell to North Catholic, 73-58, in the same gym a year ago. North Catholic (14-9), last year’s runner-up, was looking to reach the semifinals for the eighth time in nine seasons.

“We’re a different group,” said Winfrey, whose team bounced back to beat North Catholic, 55-54, in last year’s PIAA quarterfinals. “We’ve been watching film all week, studying. We knew what we had to do. We played them two times last year, lost one and won one. We knew they had a good player who could shoot. So we executed well in practice and got ready for the game.”

North Catholic was averaging 74.2 points per game, a point more than Uniontown, and had scored at least 54 points in every game this season. But against the Red Raiders the Trojans were firing blanks, as they finished 12 of 35 from the field (34%) and were limited to 12 or fewer points in each quarter. Standout senior guard Max Hurray hit his season average of 23 points for the Trojans, but his teammates combined for just 14 points and five field goals. The 37 points were the fewest scored by a North Catholic team since a 48-25 loss to Central Catholic on Jan. 23, 2021.

“Defense wins games. If you’re big on defense, that’s what wins,” said Grooms, who scored 13 of his points in the first half when Uniontown jumped to a 27-17 halftime lead.

Uniontown played without 6-foot-6 starting center K’Adrian McLee, who suffered an injury in the Red Raiders’ first-round win and is considered day-to-day. McLee averages 6 points, 9 rebounds and 4 blocks a game.  But not having McLee might have helped Uniontown against North Catholic in the sense that it prompted the Red Raiders to start five guards. They didn’t press and simply played half-court man-to-man throughout.

“Help the gap,” Winfrey said. “Switch everything since our big man was out. We had all guards on the court, so we could switch anything if we wanted. And we’ve been practicing defense all week. We barely did offense.”

Jamire Braxton added nine points and Jeremiah Hager and Kelan Milsom tacked on eight apiece for Uniontown, which will meet No. 1 Lincoln Park in Saturday’s semifinals. Lincoln Park defeated Uniontown, 85-64, in last year’s PIAA semifinals.

North Catholic’s Max Hurray scored a team-high 23 points in his team’s 59-37 loss to Uniontown in a WPIAL Class 4A quarterfinal Wednesday at Norwin High School. (Alexandra Wimley/Pittsburgh Union Progress)

Other Class 4A quarterfinals

• Meleek Thomas pumped in 32 points to lead No. 1 and defending champion Lincoln Park (21-3) to the semifinals for the eighth season in a row following an 81-58 win against No. 8 Knoch (15-9) at North Allegheny. Brandin Cummings scored 12 of his 22 points in the first quarter when Lincoln Park raced to a 26-13 lead. Rhaki Lum chipped in 15 points for the Leopards, winners of 13 straight. Jackson Bauman scored 14 points and Teegan Finucan had 13 for Knoch, which has lost seven of its past 12 games.

• In a rubber match between Section 4 rivals, Rowan Carmichael tallied 36 points and became Avonworth’s all-time leading scorer while propelling the No. 6 Antelopes (17-7) to a 63-56 win over No. 3 Montour (20-4) at Mt. Lebanon. A junior guard, Carmichael now has 1,443 points, eclipsing the record of 1,416 held by 1971 graduate Dan Bonner. Anthony Arlia added 14 points for the Antelopes, who dropped a 65-38 decision to Montour in their last meeting on Feb. 6. Kaleb Platz led Montour with 18 points, while Jake Wolfe had 13 and Ama Sow 10. The Spartans had won six games in a row.

• Liam Mignogna scored 28 points and pulled down 10 rebounds to propel No. 2 Hampton (21-3) to its eighth win in a row, 69-40, against No. 7 South Allegheny (17-7) at Fox Chapel. Peter Kramer added 22 points for Hampton, which reached the semifinals for the first time since 2017 after losing in the quarterfinals the past two seasons. South Allegheny led, 11-10, after one quarter before Hampton outscored the Gladiators, 17-2, in the second quarter to take a 14-point halftime lead. Mike Michalski paced South Allegheny with 16 points.

Jamire Braxton scored nine points in Uniontown’s 59-37 win against North Catholic in a WPIAL Class 4A quarterfinal Wednesday at Norwin High School. (Alexandra Wimley/Pittsburgh Union Progress)

Class 1A quarterfinals

• Shamar Simpson and Kedron Gilmore scored 19 points apiece to lead No. 2 Neighborhood Academy (17-5) to the semifinals for the first time after a 79-56 win against No. 7 Aquinas Academy (15-9) at Norwin. Neighborhood Academy, which beat its Section 3 rival for the third third this season, led by nine points at the half before outscoring Aquinas Academy, 41-27, in the second half. Yale recruit Courtney Wallace added 18 points for the Bulldogs, who have won 11 of their past 12 games. Jake Guillen paced Aquinas Academy with 27 points. The Crusaders were also looking to reach their first semifinal.

• Lucas Stanley poured in a game-high 35 points to lead No. 5 Union (14-10) to the semifinals for the fourth year in a row following a 70-58 win against No. 4 Monessen (18-5) at Peters Township. Braylon Thomas added 17 points for the Scotties, who rallied from a 27-24 halftime deficit to win for the eighth time in nine games. Rodney Johnson led Monessen with 19 points. Monessen’s Lorenzo Gardner, the fifth-leading scorer in the WPIAL in the regular season who scored 64 points in a recent game, finished with 15 points, 10 below his average.

• Xavier Rigby (14 points) led a group of four players scoring in double figures for No. 3 Rochester (17-6), which defeated Section 1 foe and No. 6 Carlynton (8-15) for the third time this season, 46-38, to reach the semifinals for the first time since 2021. Brady Gorman chipped in 11 points and Jayvin Hamer and Jayden Norman 10 apiece for the Rams, who have won 10 of 11. The game was tied at the half, 25-25, before Rochester used a 15-5 scoring edge in the third quarter to pull away. Jake Moldovan led Carlynton with 14 points.

• Nate Brazil scored 15 points and No. 1 Imani Christian (12-11) moved closer to winning its second consecutive title following a 60-26 win against No. 8 West Greene (16-8) at Bethel Park. Imani Christian outscored West Greene, 27-2, in the second quarter to take a 43-9 halftime advantage. The reigning PIAA champions improved to 11-0 against Class 1A competition this season with an average margin of victory of 41 points. West Greene had won five games in a row and 11 of 13.

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

Brad Everett

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