No matter who is on the court for North Allegheny, you can never count the Tigers out when Spencer Stefko is on the sideline.

One of the most decorated coaches in WPIAL history, Stefko helped defending Class 6A champion and No. 3 seed North Allegheny (22-2) clinch a trip to the WPIAL championship game for the eighth time in the past nine seasons with a 43-30 win against No. 2 Peters Township (22-2) in a hard-fought semifinal matchup at Mt. Lebanon High School. The Tigers have won five of the past seven titles in the largest classification.

Pitt’s Petersen Events Center has long served as a second home for Stefko, who will be making his 11th WPIAL championship appearance in the past 12 years. Stefko coached Chartiers Valley to the WPIAL title game in 2013, then won back-to-back titles at Seton LaSalle in 2014-15 before arriving at North Allegheny. He has won seven WPIAL titles and a pair of state titles during that 12-year span, and he recently surpassed 400 wins for his career.

“Peters Township is really good,” Stefko said. “That’s not a smoke-and-mirrors team. That’s a really good team. That makes it feel special.”

Lydia Betz tallied a game-high 21 points for the Tigers, getting to the hoop at will and converting some tough buckets in the lane over the Indians’ twin towers, 6-3 junior forwards Natalie Wetzel and Daniela Radulovich. Rather than bask in her stellar performance, though, the soft-spoken senior deferred the credit to her teammates after the game.

“It’s just all of us,” Betz said. “We’ll just play together and try to win it again.”

Despite giving up the size advantage at virtually every position, North Allegheny put together a stingy defensive performance against the highest-scoring team in Class 6A. The Tigers limited Wetzel to only nine points — well below her season average of 17.3 points per game — along with just six points for talented senior guard Gemma Walker, who averaged 15.7 ppg during the regular season.

“It was just about being fundamentally sound against the actions they like to run, and just being tough,” Stefko said.

After taking a 22-17 lead into halftime, North Allegheny put together a 9-2 run to stretch its advantage to 31-19 midway through the third quarter. Peters Township then responded with a 7-0 run to make it 31-26 early in the fourth, but that was as close as the Indians would come as the Tigers pulled away late in the final quarter for the 43-30 victory.

“They just played bigger than they are, because they’re giant-hearted kids,” Stefko said about his group. “They’re just special.”

North Allegheny coach Spencer Stefko talks to his team during the WPIAL Class 6A semifinal game against Peters Township on Monday, Feb. 26, 2024, at Mt. Lebanon High School. North Allegheny won, 43-30, to advance to its eighth WPIAL championship game in nine seasons. (Emily Matthews/Pittsburgh Union Progress)

Other Class 6A semifinal

No. 5 Chartiers Valley (16-7) gave top-seeded Norwin a stiff test for most of the first three quarters, but the Knights (20-3) flexed their muscles in the fourth on their way to a 63-47 win at Peters Township.

Junior guard Kendall Berger led all scorers with 22 points for Norwin, while Ava Christopher added 14 and Lauren Palangio tacked on 10. With the win, the Knights will play in the WPIAL championship game for the first time since winning back-to-back titles in 2015-16.

Norwin wasted little time storming out to a 10-0 first-quarter lead, holding a 12-5 edge going into the second quarter. A quick 7-0 run by the Colts tied the score at 12-12, but the Knights regained control of the game with a 12-3 run going into the half.

After stretching its lead to 13 with seven unanswered points to start the third, Norwin withstood one more rally by Chartiers Valley before Berger helped close the show by pouring in 10 points in the final quarter. Emma Reynolds and Lilah Turnball finished with 14 points apiece for the Colts along with 13 from Ella Cupka.

Peters Township’s Gemma Walker looks toward the basket against North Allegheny in the WPIAL Class 6A semifinals on Monday, Feb. 26, 2024, at Mt. Lebanon High School. North Allegheny won, 43-30, to earn its second consecutive trip to the WPIAL title game. (Emily Matthews/Pittsburgh Union Progress)

Class 1A semifinals

Winner of 16 of its past 17 games, No. 3 St. Joseph avenged an early-season overtime defeat against No. 2 Aquinas Academy (16-7), earning its first trip to the WPIAL championship game with a 65-56 triumph at Fox Chapel.

After falling just short in the WPIAL semifinals each of the previous two seasons, the Spartans (21-3) took down the Crusaders thanks to a sensational 32-point performance by senior Julie Spinelli. The 5-11 guard also contributed seven rebounds and five steals, while junior Gia Richter added 18 points in the win. Tess Duer finished with 16 points for Aquinas to go with 15 from Ellie Junker.

Things won’t get any easier in Saturday’s WPIAL title game against top-seeded and defending WPIAL and PIAA champion Union (18-5), which dismantled Riverview (16-7) in a 56-13 blowout at North Allegheny. The Scotties held the Raiders scoreless for the entire second quarter on their way to building a 27-point halftime lead.

Senior forward Kelly Cleaver scored a game-high 15 points for Union, followed by 12 points apiece from Bella Cameron and Kylie Fruehstorfer.

North Allegheny’s Kellie McConnell celebrates with her teammates after a 43-30 win against Peters Township in the WPIAL Class 6A semifinals on Monday, Feb. 26, 2024, at Mt. Lebanon High School. (Emily Matthews/Pittsburgh Union Progress)


Class 6A semifinals

North Allegheny 43, Peters Township 30

Norwin 63, Chartiers Valley 47

Class 1A semifinals

St. Joseph 65, Aquinas Academy 56

Union 56, Riverview 13

Class 5A consolation first round

Lincoln Park 76, North Hills 57

Trinity 56, Indiana 39

Class 4A consolation first round

Highlands 62, Greensburg Salem 36

Knoch 60, Central Valley 40

Class 1A consolation first round

Bishop Canevin 46, Eden Christian 34

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