Thirty-seven WPIAL girls teams will take aim at making it to the championships in Hershey when the PIAA tournament tips off Friday.

And while it’s difficult to predict which teams, if any, get there, history suggests that the WPIAL will be represented in one specific classification.

When it comes to reaching PIAA championship games, Class 5A has been the class of the WPIAL. Since the PIAA moved to six classifications for the 2016-17 season, a WPIAL team has advanced to the Class 5A final each season (the 2020 tournament was canceled due to the pandemic). Trinity made it in 2017, Mars in 2018, Chartiers Valley in 2019, 2021 and 2022, and South Fayette last season. Class 5A teams have also accounted for two of the six PIAA titles the WPIAL has won in that time, with Mars winning in 2018 and Chartiers Valley in 2019.

Seven Class 5A teams from the WPIAL are in the running this season — South Fayette, Armstrong, McKeesport, Oakland Catholic, Trinity, Lincoln Park and Indiana — and while there’s no powerhouse team, there’s a lot of talent and depth.

“There are several teams from the WPIAL that can make a run at it,” South Fayette coach Bryan Bennett said. “We were fortunate to get hot at the right time. If another team gets hot, they can make a run.”

South Fayette (18-8) captured a WPIAL three-peat last week when, as the No. 6 seed, the Lions defeated Armstrong, 70-63, in the final. Sophomore Juliette “JuJu” Leroux scored a game-high 17 points for the Lions, who followed up their last two WPIAL titles by losing in the second round in 2022 and reaching the final for the first time last season.

“We’ve kind of known all year that we have a talented group of kids,” said Bennett, who returned two starters (seniors Lainey Yater and Erica Hall) from last season’s team. “Early on in the season we proved that we could beat anybody. It was just a consistency issue with us. We didn’t play for 32 minutes. But as the season has progressed, something just clicked. The kids have a lot of confidence and have worked extremely hard, and it’s paid off.”

For most of the season, it appeared as though Oakland Catholic (24-2) would have a great shot of reaching the final for the first time since 2012. The Eagles started 24-0, but in that 24th win they suffered a gigantic loss when junior standout London Creach was lost for the season with a torn ACL in her left knee. The injury shook up the WPIAL Class 5A tournament in a big way. In two games without Creach, the Eagles are 0-2. They fell to Armstrong, 49-40, four days later in the WPIAL semifinals before losing to McKeesport, 43-41, in the third-place consolation game.

“They’re fighting the best they can,” said Oakland Catholic coach Eddie Benton, who starts a pair of freshmen (Kaylee DeAngelo and Mia LeDonne). “When you lose London Creach, a Division I player, off your roster, that’s tough. Imagine Armstrong losing Emma Paul or North Catholic losing Alayna Rocco. It’s hard to come back from that.”

Rachael Manfredo is one of five senior starters on a McKeesport team that enters the PIAA tournament as the WPIAL’s No. 3 team in Class 5A. (Emily Matthews/Pittsburgh Union Progress)

McKeesport (21-4) hopes to make a long PIAA run for the third season in a row. The Tigers reached the semifinals in 2022 and the quarterfinals last season. A veteran Tigers team that starts five seniors finally got over the hump and beat Oakland Catholic last week. The Eagles had been 6-0 against the Tigers since the beginning of last season.

“It’s been a lot of fun. I really like the girls, and it’s been a cool experience,” said McKeesport coach Matt Miller, the school’s football coach who took over as girls basketball coach following Amy Gumbert’s resignation in January. “I just tell them to keep doing what they’re doing. We’re going to have to knock down some shots, but I think they’ve been playing well and they’ve worked hard every day.”

Armstrong (21-5) is appearing in the PIAA tournament for the first time, and with the way Paul has been playing, the River Hawks might have a shot against anybody. A 5-foot-5 senior guard, Paul scored 22, 25, 28 and 36 points in Armstrong’s four WPIAL playoff games and is averaging 22.3 points per game on the season.

Lincoln Park (22-4) is another team making its PIAA tournament debut. Since starting the season 18-0, the Leopards are 4-4, which includes a 28-point defeat to Armstrong in the WPIAL quarterfinals. Senior guard Maddie Syka is averaging a team-best 17.9 points a game to go along with 8.1 rebounds. 

Trinity (20-6) has won nine of its past 10 games, the only loss being to South Fayette in the WPIAL quarterfinals. Senior guard Ruby Morgan is one of the WPIAL’s top 3-point shooters.

Indiana (19-7) beat North Hills in the WPIAL seventh-place consolation to earn the district’s final bid into the PIAA tournament. The Little Indians are making their first appearance in the PIAA tournament since 2020 and are led by senior guard Bella Antonacci.

Kelly Cleaver scored 25 points in Union’s 50-43 win against St. Joseph in the WPIAL Class 1A championship. (Emily Matthews/Pittsburgh Union Progress)

A Union repeat?

One year after winning its first PIAA title, Class 1A Union (19-5) could make more history by adding its name to the list of WPIAL schools to repeat as PIAA champion. Only eight times have WPIAL schools won two or more titles consecutively, the most recent being Blackhawk and Vincentian, both of whom won back-to-back titles in 2014 and 2015.

Senior forward Kelly Cleaver and junior guard Kylie Fruehstorfer were starters on last season’s Union team and have been excellent again this season while helping the Scotties go 10-0 against Class 1A foes. Cleaver poured in 25 points to help Union repeat as WPIAL champion following a 50-43 win against St. Joseph in the final.

“It’s hard to defend our team because if you try to take Kelly away from us and open up the outside, we feel that we can knock shots down,” Union coach Rob Nogay said. “And if you try to take the perimeter away from us, then we’re going to pound it inside on you.”

Clairton’s Iyanna Wade leads the state in scoring with 40.5 points per game. (Emily Matthews/Pittsburgh Union Progress)

Players to watch

How will Clairton star junior guard Iyanna Wade do in her first PIAA tournament? The two-time WPIAL scoring champion leads the state in scoring with 40.5 points per game and hopes to lead Class 2A Clairton to its first PIAA win since 2005. Wade scored a WPIAL-record 65 points in a game earlier this season.

Four seniors from the WPIAL who have committed to Division I schools will play in the tournament. They include Rocco (Harvard), North Allegheny’s Kellie McConnell (Duquesne), Peters Township’s Gemma Walker (Saint Francis) and Seton LaSalle’s Mallory Daly (Buffalo).

Keep an eye on a pair of sophomores from the WPIAL who are fresh off leading their teams to WPIAL championship wins. Shady Side Academy guard Maggie Spell scored 31 points to help the Bulldogs dethrone Avonworth as Class 3A champions, while Greensburg Central Catholic guard Erica Gribble poured in 28 points to lead the Centurions past Serra Catholic for the Class 2A championship.

Among the other standouts on the bottom half of the bracket are Erie Cathedral Prep senior guard Jayden McBride and Kennedy Catholic junior center Layke Fields. McBride is a Georgetown recruit.

Statewide, Archbishop Wood’s Brooke Wilson is a player to watch. A senior guard and Army recruit, Wilson was named MVP of the Philadelphia Catholic League and led the Class 6A Patriots to the PCL title game at the Palestra, where they lost to Class 5A Archbishop Wood, 54-52, in double overtime.

Defending champions

Archbishop Carroll (6A), Archbishop Wood (5A), Lansdale Catholic (4A), Dunmore (3A), Kennedy Catholic (2A) and Union (1A) are the defending champions. All but Lansdale Catholic are back in the tournament this season. It beat Blackhawk for the title a season ago. Archbishop Wood is a three-time defending champion and has won eight titles overall, all since 2010. The Vikings defeated South Fayette, 61-54, in last season’s championship.

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