No more Maddie Webber? No more Ava Leroux?

No problem for South Fayette.

Led by a new cast of characters with a few familiar faces sprinkled in, the Lions avenged two regular-season defeats against No. 3-seeded Trinity and clinched a third consecutive berth in the WPIAL Class 5A semifinals with a 53-39 upset victory Friday night at Peters Township High School. With a balanced offensive attack coupled with its trademark tenacious defense, South Fayette controlled the game from start to finish behind a game-high 19 points from sophomore Haylie Lamonde.

“We finally played a full four quarters against them,” said Lions coach Bryan Bennett. “Playing for 32 minutes, which is what this team just hasn’t done consistently all year — we finally put it together tonight.”

Lamonde shared the spotlight with senior point guard Lainey Yater and senior forward Erica Hall, the only two returning starters from South Fayette’s 28-win team that won a WPIAL title and reached the PIAA championship a season ago. Hall tallied 12 points and Yater added 10 while showing off her smooth ballhandling skills and making several key steals and assists.

“It’s the best feeling we can have,” Yater said. “Our defense really stepped up this game. … It’s hard to explain. It’s just so much joy.”

Not many would have expected the two-time defending WPIAL champs to make a run at a three-peat without the services of Webber, the 2022-23 PUP Player of the Year, and Leroux, a 6-4 forward who now is a freshman at Elon. But the Lions battled through a brutal schedule to finish third in their section and earn a No. 6 seed for the WPIAL tournament, playing an unselfish, team-oriented brand of basketball while finding ways to win without having a true star player to lean on.

“I’m just proud of our kids and the way they played with the effort they did,” Bennett said. “I knew they were talented kids. It was just about putting it together and starting to jell. We kind of did that in the last two games of the regular season. It looked like we were a different team.”

South Fayette led, 13-7, after a competitive first quarter, but it wasn’t long before the Lions started to blow the game open. Lamonde buried two 3-pointers sandwiched around a 3 by Alexa Ankrum as part of an 11-0 run, giving South Fayette a comfortable 28-10 lead midway through the second quarter.

The Lions held a 30-16 lead going into the half, and Yater helped extend the advantage with some timely steals and a handful of nifty passes. Her feed to Hall midway through the third made it a 37-20 lead for South Fayette, and another assist to Lamonde just before the end of the quarter made it 41-26 going into the fourth.

Trinity put together a 4-0 run to start the final quarter before the Lions clamped down on defense, refusing to let the Hillers back into the game while maintaining a healthy double-digit cushion the rest of the way.

Now, South Fayette can turn its attention to another revenge game against No. 2 McKeesport Tuesday in the WPIAL semifinals, having lost the previous matchup against the Tigers, 62-44, Jan. 18. The Lions again will be the underdogs in the eyes of many for that one, but don’t expect that to bother them one bit.

And with South Fayette’s championship pedigree and the invaluable big-game experience that comes with it, don’t be surprised if you see these Lions back at “The Pete” next week.

“It wasn’t our best game,” Lamonde said about the loss last month to McKeesport. “Shots weren’t falling. We didn’t have the best mentality. But hopefully that will change next time.”

South Fayette’s Lainey Yater (11) is taking her game to a new level this season as the Lions’ trusted point guard. (Emily Matthews/Pittsburgh Union Progress)

Other Class 5A quarterfinals

• Led by a game-high 25 points from standout senior Emma Paul, No. 5 Armstrong secured its first WPIAL semifinal berth in program history with a lopsided 59-31 verdict against No. 4 Lincoln Park at North Allegheny. Sarai Weaver added 10 points in the mercy-rule win for the River Hawks (20-4), who now have won 15 consecutive games, while Abbi Januzzi led the Leopards with 10 points.

• Top-seeded Oakland Catholic kept its unbeaten season alive and clinched its second consecutive WPIAL semifinal appearance with a 47-28 triumph against No. 8 North Hills at Fox Chapel. Josie Fontana led all scorers with 12 points for the Eagles (24-0) to go with 10 from Mia LeDonne. Olivia Waters finished with a team-leading 11 points for the Indians (14-9).

• Rachael Manfredo led a trio of double-digit scorers with 16 points for No. 2 McKeesport in a 50-41 win over No. 7 Indiana at Highlands. Brooke Evans added 14 points and Maddie Cherepko chipped in with 11 for the Tigers (20-3). The Little Indians (18-6) got a game-high 25 points from Bella Antonacci.

Armstrong’s Emma Paul poured in a game-high 25 points to lead the River Hawks to a 59-31 blowout win against Lincoln Park in the WPIAL Class 5A quarterfinals. (Emily Matthews/Pittsburgh Union Progress)

Class 4A quarterfinals

• Harvard recruit Alayna Rocco and freshman Brady Wehner took turns making it rain from 3-point range for defending WPIAL champion North Catholic in a 65-32 rout over visiting Central Valley (12-11). Rocco knocked down five 3-pointers on her way to a game-high 21 points, and Wehner added 18 points on six 3-pointers for the No. 2 Trojanettes (15-7). Nyah Hayes led the No. 7 Warriors with 15 points, which had a seven-game win streak snapped.

• Aubree Hupp led all scorers with 22 points and Alena Fusetti tacked on 12 for top-seeded Blackhawk (21-2) in a 49-25 home win against No. 8 Greensburg Salem. Kaitlyn Mankins finished with a team-high 12 points for the Golden Lions (16-8), who tallied just one point in the first quarter and only 10 in the first half against the Cougars’ top-ranked defense.

• Michelle Jellison scored a game-high 15 points and Alyssa Terza added 12 for No. 3 Elizabeth Forward (21-2), which cruised past No. 6 Knoch (14-10) and into the WPIAL semifinals while extending its winning streak to 19 games in a row with a 43-31 home win. Adah Fuller scored a team-leading 12 points for the Knights.

Blackhawk’s Aubree Hupp scored a game-high 22 points in a 49-25 win over Greensburg Salem to help send the top-seeded Cougars back to the WPIAL Class 4A semifinals. (Emily Matthews/Pittsburgh Union Progress)


Class 5A quarterfinals

Armstrong 59, Lincoln Park 31

McKeesport 50, Indiana 41

Oakland Catholic 47, North Hills 28

South Fayette 53, Trinity 39

Class 4A quarterfinals

Blackhawk 49, Greensburg Salem 25

Elizabeth Forward 43, Knoch 31

Laurel Highlands 45, Highlands 33

North Catholic 65, Central Valley 32

Class 3A consolation first round

Keystone Oaks 50, South Park 48

Seton LaSalle 60, Our Lady of the Sacred Heart 42

Class 2A consolation first round

Clairton 72, Winchester Thurston 45

Rochester 69, Fort Cherry 39

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