To be the man, you’ve got to beat the man.

Fort Cherry (23-6), which will play in its first PIAA semifinal since 1961, is well aware of that as it prepares to meet Aliquippa (24-5) with a berth in the state championship on the line. The Quips have won each of the past two WPIAL Class 2A titles and are now attempting to reach the PIAA final for a third year in a row.

Yes, Aliquippa has been “the man” when it comes to WPIAL Class 2A teams, and its man-to-man defense is a big reason why. The Quips used that suffocating defense to roll past Fort Cherry in the WPIAL semifinals, and the Rangers will need to figure out a way to crack it when the teams face off in a PIAA semifinal at 5:30 p.m. Tuesday at Pine-Richland. 

“Their defense is as good as you can imagine on the high school level,” Fort Cherry coach Eugene Briggs said. “They’ve got the athleticism and they know what they’re doing, too. A lot of times you get some helter-skelter man-to-man with no help, but they time up their traps well and cover for guys. They’re very good.”

The stingiest in the WPIAL, actually. Of the 133 teams in the league, none have given up fewer points per game than Aliquippa (42.3). The Quips are surrendering only 39.3 points a game in three PIAA games and have given up more than 50 points just once in winning 20 of their past 21 games.

As usual, the Quips don’t do anything fancy defensively. Just straight up man-to-man. And how about this for consistency? The Quips also gave up 42.3 points a game last season.

“It’s always something that has worked for us,” Aliquippa coach Nick Lackovich said.

Lackovich said Aliquippa has not played any zone this season, but that it’s always there if they need to go to it, something they did at times a season ago. Senior guard Quentin Goode has been the team’s top defender, Lackovich said. Lackovich often has Goode defend the opponent’s top guard.

Junior guard Shane Cornali scored 20 points and grabbed 13 rebounds in Fort Cherry’s win against Jeannette in the PIAA Class 2A quarterfinals. (Emily Matthews/Pittsburgh Union Progress)

Aliquippa limited Fort Cherry to its second-lowest scoring output of the season when the Quips coasted to a 55-36 win in the WPIAL semifinals. The Rangers managed to score only eight points in three of the four quarters and committed 20 turnovers in the game. Sophomore Josh Pratt scored 26 points and senior Cameron Lindsey 12 for Aliquippa, while senior guard Derek Errett paced Fort Cherry with 14 points.

Briggs said Aliquippa was a step faster than Fort Cherry in that game. If that’s the case again, what will the Rangers be able to do to try to level the playing field?

“You’ve got to be strong with the ball,” he said. “You have to realize that the passes you usually make you can’t make because they have the ability to jump passing lanes so quickly. As a receiver you have to step to the ball, create contact and hope to get a call.”

Errett (18 ppg) is Fort Cherry’s top scorer, and junior guard Shane Cornali averages 16 a game. Errett scored 25 points and Cornali added 20 points and 13 rebounds in a 70-60 win against Jeannette in the quarterfinals.

Fort Cherry has reached the final just once. After beating Cochranton in a Class B semifinal in 1961, the Rangers defeated St. Clair in the title game at Pitt Field House. 

Aliquippa can become the first WPIAL team since Sto-Rox (2002-04) to reach the PIAA final three consecutive seasons. Another trip to the final would also mean that the Quips will have made it to both the PIAA football and basketball championships three consecutive school years.

“They’re a good, solid team and well coached,” Lackovich said of Fort Cherry. “We can’t allow them to get comfortable. They’re a good outside shooting team, so we’ve got to do our best to make things difficult on them.”

Cooper Rankin will try to lead Franklin Regional past Moon in a PIAA Class 5A semifinal Monday after his Panthers lost to Moon in the WPIAL championship. (Emily Matthews/Pittsburgh Union Progress)

Class 5A semifinal

It will be a rematch of the WPIAL championship when Moon (26-3) meets Franklin Regional (26-3) at 7 p.m. Monday at Peters Township. Moon beat Franklin Regional, 53-48, in the WPIAL final March 1.

Franklin Regional held a 10-point lead early in the third quarter of the previous matchup before Moon stormed back. Michael Santicola, a 6-5 junior guard-forward, came through in the clutch by making two 3-pointers about a minute apart midway through the fourth quarter to turn a tie score into a six-point Moon lead. Santicola led the Tigers with 14 points, while 6-4 senior guard-forward Aiden Reesman added 13 points and 6-5 senior guard Elijah Guillory 11.

Guillory is a dynamic player and Youngstown State recruit who leads Moon in scoring with 20 points per game. Reesman scored a career-high 26 points in a 67-51 quarterfinal win against Bethel Park. It was the 14th win in a row for the Tigers, whose only losses were to Class 4A semifinalists Lincoln Park and Hampton and to Class 5A Penn Hills. The Tigers last reached the title game in 2019 when they went on to beat Archbishop Wood for their second title.

Franklin Regional is in the semifinals for just the second time. The Panthers edged Butler in two overtimes in the 1997 Class 4A semifinals before losing to Plymouth-Whitemarsh in the final. The Panthers have won 15 of their past 16 games, the only blemish being the loss to Moon. All three of the Panthers’ PIAA wins have come by double digits, the latest being a 63-51 triumph against Shaler in the quarterfinals. Senior guard Cooper Rankin scored 21 points and senior guard-forward Cam Rowell chipped in 16. Rankin tallied 16 and Rowell 15 in the WPIAL final.

Lincoln Park star Meleek Thomas was outstanding offensively and defensively while helping Lincoln Park defeat Hampton for the WPIAL Class 4A championship. (Alexandra Wimley/Pittsburgh Union Progress)

Class 4A semifinal

Apparently one WPIAL championship rematch wasn’t enough, because we’ve got two Monday. Defending champion Lincoln Park (26-3) will tangle with Hampton (25-4) 2½ weeks after beating the Talbots, 66-51, in the WPIAL final. The rematch will take place at 7:30 p.m. Monday at North Allegheny.

Lincoln Park’s Meleek Thomas starred in the first meeting, as the 6-4 junior guard and five-star recruit finished with game highs of 21 points, 10 rebounds and 5 steals, all while locking down Hampton star Peter Kramer, who finished with six points on 3-of-17 shooting. Kramer, a 6-5 guard and Lehigh recruit, averages 23 points per game. Senior guard and Pitt recruit Brandin Cummings added 16 points for Lincoln Park, while Hampton got 20 points and nine rebounds from 6-9 senior forward Liam Mignogna and 16 points from senior guard Alex Nyilas.

Hampton is aiming for just its second win in the PIAA semifinals. The Talbots beat Sto-Rox in the 1984 Class 3A semifinals prior to losing to Allentown Central Catholic in the championship. They then suffered semifinal losses in 2009, 2010 and 2012. Hampton has won 12 of its past 13 games, but each of the past two victories have been close calls. Kramer made two free throws in the final seconds to help the Talbots edge Johnstown, 50-48, in the second round. He then scored a game-high 22 points in a 60-54 win against Eastern York, a game that was tied going into the fourth quarter.

Meanwhile, this is familiar territory for Lincoln Park, which is playing in the semifinals for the third time in four seasons. Winners of 18 straight, the Leopards will now try to reach the final for a seventh time. They claimed titles in 2014 and 2019 before winning a third a season ago. Led by Thomas and Cummings, the Leopards boast the No. 1 scoring offense in the WPIAL (79.1 ppg). Both Thomas and Cummings pump in about 23 points a game. Cummings had 23 and Thomas 22 in an 89-74 win against North Catholic in the quarterfinals.

Imani Christian’s Nate Brazil averages a team-best 18.7 points per game and has connected on 58 3-pointers. (Emily Matthews/Pittsburgh Union Progress)

Class 1A semifinal

After eliminating the WPIAL runner-up and third-place finisher its past two games, Bishop Carroll (18-10) will try to do the same to WPIAL champion and defending PIAA champion Imani Christian (17-10) when the teams square off at 7 p.m. Monday at Hempfield.

Bishop Carroll, the District 6 champion, topped WPIAL runner-up Neighborhood Academy, 71-70, in overtime in the second round before defeating Union, 80-73, in the quarterfinals. Winners of eight straight, the Huskies are playing in the semifinals for the first time since 2018. They are 0-4 all time in PIAA semifinal games.

The Huskies feature a pair of big scorers in 5-11 senior guard Luke Repko (21.1 ppg) and 5-10 sophomore guard Jace Casses (18.9 ppg). Repko poured in 32 points in the win against Neighborhood Academy. This is a team that relies heavily on perimeter shooting. Three players have made more than 50 3s (Casses has 70 and Repko and senior guard Parker Alexander have 53 apiece), and the Huskies have converted an average of more than seven a game.

Imani Christian will still come in as the heavy favorite. The Saints improved to 34-0 against Class 1A competition since the start of last season following a 70-60 win against Farrell in the quarterfinals. Senior guard Nate Brazil scored a team-high 27 points for the Saints and leads the team on the season with 18.7 points per game. Brazil has converted 58 3-pointers and has made at least two in each of the team’s six postseason games.

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