For a school with the word “win” its name, Baldwin has not done very much of it in boys basketball over the years.

The Highlanders entered Friday having not won a playoff game in 21 years, when second-year coach Jeff Ackermann was just beginning his coaching career.

“It was my second year being a head coach. I started at Moon in 2002,” said Ackermann, who won five WPIAL titles in stops at Moon and Pine-Richland. “When I thought about that, 21 years, I thought about how many playoff wins I had over those years. For them to not have one is mind-boggling to me.”

But after losing its past eight playoff openers, the Highlanders are riding high after finally grabbing an elusive win.

Nate Wesling scored a team-high 19 points to lead No. 4-seeded Baldwin to its first postseason win since 2003 courtesy of a 55-49 triumph against No. 5 North Allegheny in a WPIAL Class 6A quarterfinal.

“It’s amazing. It’s unreal,” said Wesling, a junior guard who averages 16 points a game this season. “Our whole team, the energy is just so high right now. We know the job’s not finished, so we’re going to keep moving forward.”

Baldwin (17-6) will try to do that when it faces section rival and No. 1 Mt. Lebanon Tuesday in the semifinals. The Blue Devils defeated Baldwin by scores of 73-50 and 51-46 in the regular season.

Against North Allegheny (11-12), which was trying to advance to its first semifinal since 2015, Baldwin struggled a bit early against the Tigers’ length. The Tigers started 6-foot-11 Ty Iwanonkiw and 6-5 Joey Dopirak, while Baldwin had just one starter, 6-4 Matt Schenk, taller than 6-1. Iwanonkiw scored 11 of his 13 points in the first half when Dopirak tallied 6 of his 9 points.

“In the first half, we mixed some zone in with our man, but the guys said, ‘Let’s scrap the zone,’ so we scrapped the zone in the second half, went all man and really pressured them hard,” Ackermann said. “We were really worried about their size. I told our guys before the game, if we hold [Joey] Dopirak to 10 or less, we’d win the game.”

Baldwin trailed, 28-27, just over two minutes into the third quarter before blitzing North Allegheny with a 13-3 run to take a 40-31 lead after a transition layup by Gabe Barakat with 1:38 left in the quarter.

Anthony Sciote, who scored all of his game-high 20 points in the second half, pulled North Allegheny within 49-46 when he made 1 of 2 free throws with 50 seconds left in the game. But Baldwin was terrific at the free-throw line, and the Highlanders would make six in a row to put the game away before Sciote knocked down a 3-pointer in the closing seconds to provide the game’s final points. The Highlanders were 14 of 16 from the free-throw line in the game, including 8 of 10 in the fourth quarter.

While Wesling was the only Baldwin player to score in double figures, Schenk and Max Marzina chipped in with 8 points apiece.

Baldwin’s win came a year after the Highlanders dropped a 80-75 heartbreaker in overtime to Central Catholic in the quarterfinals. Wesling’s brother, James, poured in 41 points in that loss. Wesling has since graduated, but little brother and his buddies came through in the clutch Friday.

“Each year we open the door a little bit,” Nate Wesling said, “but this year we’re really kicking it down.”

North Allegheny’s 6-foot-11 Ty Iwanonkiw scored 13 points in his team’s 55-49 loss at Baldwin in a WPIAL Class 6A quarterfinal Friday at Baldwin. (Emily Matthews/Pittsburgh Union Progress)

Other Class 6A quarterfinals

• No. 1 Mt. Lebanon (19-4) advanced to the semifinals for the sixth time in seven seasons after a 51-40 win against visiting No. 8 Pine-Richland (7-16). Mt. Lebanon led, 18-13, at the half after holding Pine-Richland to 2 points in the second quarter, and increased its advantage to 35-23 after three quarters. Nate Girod and Brody Barber each scored 12 points and Liam Sheely and Riley Farabaugh added 10 apiece for the Blue Devils, winners of seven of their past eight games. Carson Baer scored 12 points for Pine-Richland, which finished the season with losses in 10 of its final 11 games. The Rams lost to Mt. Lebanon, 54-39, Dec. 8.

• Defending champion and No. 2 Central Catholic (15-8) held No. 7 Canon-McMillan (10-13) to its lowest point total of the season while running to a 53-27 win at Gateway. The Big Macs were limited to single digits in three quarters, and scored just 2 points in the second quarter. Payton Wehner and Vernon Settles led Central Catholic with 9 points apiece. The Vikings led, 25-10, at the half on the way to earning a spot in the semifinals for a third year in a row. Roman Koenemund scored a team-high 8 points for Canon-McMillan, which was trying to reach the semifinals for the first time since 2019.

• Tyler Robbins scored 20 points and Christian Ito added 19 to push No. 3 Upper St. Clair (18-5) into the semifinals for the second year in a row and fourth time in five years courtesy of a come-from-behind 78-71 win against visiting No. 6 Butler (16-7). Upper St. Clair trailed, 35-30, at the half and 58-57 after three quarters before outscoring Butler, 21-13, in the final quarter. Ito scored 15 of his points in the second half for the Panthers, who have won eight of their past nine games. For Butler, Braylon Littlejohn poured in 27 points and Donovan Carney tacked on 18. It’s the third season in a row that Butler has seen its season end in the quarterfinals.

Baldwin coach Jeff Ackermann, who won five WPIAL titles during his time at Moon and Pine-Richland, guided the Highlanders to their first WPIAL playoff win in 21 years Friday night at home. (Emily Matthews/Pittsburgh Union Progress)

Class 2A quarterfinals

• Josh Pratt’s 26 points propelled defending champion and No. 1 Aliquippa (19-5) to the semifinals for the seventh year in a row after a 76-50 win against No. 8 Serra Catholic (16-8) at North Allegheny. Cameron Lindsey chipped in with 17 points and Quentin Goode added 10 for the Quips, who have won 9 of their past 10 games. The Quips led by 14 points after three quarters before holding a 22-10 scoring advantage in the fourth. Owen Dumbroski tallied 20 points and Pete Burke tossed in 10 for Serra, which lost in the quarterfinals for the third year in a row after losing for just the second time in their past 10 outings.

• No. 2 Greensburg Central Catholic (22-2) led by 23 points at the half and raced into the semifinals for the third year in a row after a 69-41 mercy-rule win against No. 10 Eden Christian (12-11) at Fox Chapel. Tyree Turner paced Greensburg with 20 points, Franco Alvarez added 14, and Liam Gallagher had 13. The Centurions have won 13 consecutive games, all but one by double digits. Eden Christian fell in the quarterfinals for the fifth consecutive season. Nathan Garrett scored 17 points for the Warriors, who were attempting to advance to the semifinals for the first time since 2015.

Northgate (18-5), the No. 3 seed, blew a double-digit lead before rebounding to capture a 55-44 triumph against No. 6 Jeannette (15-8) at Mt. Lebanon. Josh Williams scored a team-best 14 points for Northgate, which won for the 10th time in its past 12 games and moved into the semifinals for the second year in a row. The Flames beat Jeannette, 89-65, in the first round a year ago and then advanced to the final for the second time in school history. Northgate held a 15-3 first-quarter lead Friday before Jeannette stormed back to briefly to take the lead in the third quarter. Kymon’e Brown paced Jeannette with 11 points and Markus McGowan had 10.

• Just like it did in the WPIAL football semifinals, No. 4 Fort Cherry (19-5) eliminated No. 5 Bishop Canevin (13-11) from the playoffs, this time by a score of 59-44 at Peters Township. In a battle of section champions, Fort Cherry held a 10-point lead at the half and never looked back. Allan Tarolli scored 16 points for the Rangers, who advanced to the semifinals for the second time in three seasons after winning for the 13th time in 14 games overall. Jackson Maddix led Bishop Canevin with 17 points. The Crusaders had reached the semifinals the previous four seasons.

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