Fort Cherry is coming off the best football season in school history, finishing 15-1 overall and winning its first WPIAL title while reaching its first state championship game.

Now, the Rangers’ best basketball season in 63 years just got even better.

Attempting to reach the state finals in both football and basketball in the same year for the first time, Fort Cherry moved one step closer toward that goal Saturday afternoon with a 70-60 triumph against upstart Jeannette in the PIAA Class 2A quarterfinal at Peters Township. The Jayhawks (18-9) had advanced to the quarterfinal round with a shocking upset over WPIAL finalist Greensburg Central Catholic, but their magic ran out against the Rangers (23-6), who received a game-high 25 points from Derek Errett along with 20 points and 13 rebounds from Shane Cornali.

“Last game, [Cornali] had 15 rebounds. He’s quite the athlete,” said Fort Cherry coach Eugene Briggs. “He can shoot it and get to the rim. He’s strong on defense and gets to the boards. And Derek takes charge of things on offense.”

Following a 20-win regular season and a trip to the WPIAL championship game in 2022, the Rangers posted another 20-win regular season last year before falling to Clairton in a stunning first-round playoff upset. This time around, Fort Cherry finished 17-5 in the regular season, but with a team full of veteran leaders and multi-sport standouts who know what it takes to win big games on big stages, the Rangers came back with a vengeance for the 2024 postseason.

Fort Cherry’s Matt Sieg, pictured during a PIAA second-round win against Serra Catholic, is trying to help his team reach its first PIAA championship game since 1961 after leading the Rangers to their first WPIAL football title in the fall. (Emily Matthews/Pittsburgh Union Progress)

Now, in order to clinch its first PIAA championship appearance since winning the Class B title in 1961, Fort Cherry must go through a team that is looking to advance to the state championship game in both football and basketball for the third year in a row — back-to-back WPIAL champion Aliquippa. The Quips are 2-1 in the PIAA football championship over the past three seasons, but 0-2 in the PIAA basketball championship.

“They really do believe,” Briggs said. “We’re very well aware that the task ahead is pretty tough. … You’ve got to beat a good one to get there.”

After seeing Aliquippa up close in a 55-36 WPIAL semifinal defeat on Feb. 27, Briggs knows his team is up against a bona fide juggernaut. Few will be expecting the Rangers to come out on top or even make things competitive against the Quips, but anything is possible come playoff time.

“It would be nice if Aliquippa wasn’t in the way,” Briggs said. “I don’t think we’re foolish enough to compare ourselves with Aliquippa, because that just goes beyond a few years. That goes on decades.

“It isn’t so much being in a class with them — it’s just developing a tradition the last couple of years of expecting to win games, whereas before, you pretty much just hoped to win. Now you have the thought that you’re supposed to win, and that makes a difference.”

Fort Cherry’s Shane Cornali, pictured during a PIAA second-round win against Serra Catholic, scored 20 points in a 70-60 win against Jeannette in the PIAA Class 2A quarterfinals on Saturday, March 16, 2024. (Emily Matthews/Pittsburgh Union Progress)

Other Class 2A

• Sophomore guard Josh Pratt continued his breakout campaign for WPIAL champion Aliquippa (24-5), racking up a game-high 25 points for the Quips in a 68-44 victory against District 9 champion Redbank Valley (25-4) at Slippery Rock University. Aliquippa is now one win away from advancing to its third consecutive PIAA championship game, with an all-WPIAL semifinal against Fort Cherry representing its final obstacle. Like the Rangers, the Quips also reached the state championship game in football, defeating Dallas in the PIAA Class 4A title game, 60-14. Aliquippa is attempting to win state titles in both football and basketball in the same season for the first time.

Class 6A

• After digging itself into a sizable hole in the first half against District 3 fifth-place finisher Central York (24-3), WPIAL champion Upper St. Clair attempted to mount a second-half comeback but couldn’t quite close the gap in a 71-60 defeat at Altoona. The Panthers (22-6) had four players reach double figures, led by a 16-point effort from 6-10 junior forward Tyler Robbins. Sophomore guard Peja Strobl followed closely behind with 14, while senior guard Brett Meinert finished with 12 and senior guard Christian Ito chipped in 10.

Class 3A

• After winning back-to-back WPIAL titles, returning PIAA runner-up Deer Lakes fell two wins shy of a return trip to the state finals after a 83-66 quarterfinal defeat against District 10 champion Franklin (23-5) at Sharon. Cole Buckley led five players in double figures for Franklin with 24 points, followed by 17 from Damon Curry, 16 from Jalen Wood and 10 from Will Findlon and Damarco Payne. Four players reached double digits for the Lancers, led by 16 points apiece from Collin Rodgers and Billy Schaeffer. Nathaniel Moore finished with 13 and Aiden Fletcher added 10 for Deer Lakes (23-5).

• Playing in the PIAA quarterfinals for only the second time in school history, Mohawk saw its storybook season come to an end in a 70-50 loss against District 10 champion Girard (26-2) at Slippery Rock University. Drew Wrona scored a team-leading 15 points for the Warriors (19-9), while sophomore standout Bobby Fadden finished with just eight points after his 28-point performance in a memorable second-round win over Ellwood City on Wednesday. Four players finished in double figures for Girard, with Geremia Dell’Omo tallying a game-high 21 points to go with 17 from Nate Edwards, 13 from Ryan Carr and 11 from Kenny Godoy.

Aliquippa’s Josh Pratt, pictured during a WPIAL championship win against Greensburg Central Catholic, scored a game-high 25 points to lead the Quips to a PIAA class 2A quarterfinal win against District 9 champion Redbank Valley. (Emily Matthews/Pittsburgh Union Progress)


Class 6A

Central York 71, Upper St. Clair 60

Class 3A

Franklin 83, Deer Lakes 66

Girard 70, Mohawk 50

Class 2A

Aliquippa 68, Redbank Valley 44

Fort Cherry 70, Jeannette 60

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