Beaver Falls' Elijah Cottrill and the defending Class AA champion Tigers will look to defend their title.
By Ryan Riordan Tri-State Sports & News Service
Team to beat
Burrell: The Bucs were just 10-11 last season in Class AAA, but drop down a level this season and return nine lettermen and all five starters, including senior forward Matt Hess (12 ppg, 7 rpg). The team also adds star running back Cole Bush, who played basketball his sophomore season but sat out last season to concentrate on football.
West Shamokin: The Wolves return senior all-section guard Anthony Rocco (18.5 ppg) and forward Damon Craig (10 ppg) from last season's playoff team.
Ford City: The Sabers lost all-section performer Josh Shanty (20.1 ppg), so they will need returning starting guards Dave Lattanzio and Jesse Sequeira to carry more of the scoring load in coach Greg Hutcherson's second season.
Deer Lakes: The Lancers move down a classification and return leading scorer Tim Jaczesko (14 ppg).
Apollo-Ridge: The Vikings were just 2-10 in section play last season, but return a solid backcourt in sophomore Tre Tipton and senior Josh Reynolds.
Summit Academy: The Knights move over from Section 2-AA, which they won last season with an 11-1 league mark. However, they will be without 6-foot-8 center Elijah Minnie (16.4 ppg, 12 rpg), an all-section selection last season whose transfer to Lincoln Park was denied by the WPIAL and PIAA.
Team to beat
Beaver Falls: The Tigers won the WPIAL title and finished as the state runner-up last season, but lost all-state performer Sheldon Jeter. Still, the Tigers will be one of the WPIAL favorites again this season behind its strong starting backcourt of senior Drew Cox and junior Elijah Cottrill.
Aliquippa: Senior point guard Xavier Coleman (9.6 ppg) and junior guard Dravon Henry, one of the top football players in the state, will look to make up for the loss of all-section guard Davion Hall.
Riverside: The Panthers return all five starters and should have the best frontcourt in the section, led by seniors Tyler Falk (15.1 ppg, 7.0 rpg) and Gig Jewell (11.4 ppg, 8 rpg).
Neshannock: All-section junior guard Ernie Burkes (20.6 ppg) will lead the Lancers.
Shenango: The Wildcats finished second in the section last season, but have to replace their top three players -- Jordan O'Hara, Jeff Williams and Brett Chieze.
Mohawk: Senior guard Lucas Grim (10 ppg) is one of three returning starters for the Warriors.
New Brighton: Senior Jaelin Yellock returns to run the point for the Lions, who won six games last season.
Laurel: Junior guard Josh Dando will lead the Spartans, who went winless in section play last season.
Team to beat
Jeannette: The Jayhawks return six players that started at some point on last season's 17-win team, including their starting backcourt of sophomore point guard Julian Batts (10.1 ppg), senior Duke Brown (13.7 ppg) and senior Orlando Morgan (16.9 ppg). Jeanette, did, however lose leading scorer Demetrious Cox (17.6 ppg).
Greensburg Central Catholic: The Centurions will have to replace a senior class -- led by P.J. McLaughlin -- that won 67 games the past three seasons and finished as the state runner-up in 2011. Returning starting guards Zach Herman and Brian Graytok form a solid backcourt.
Serra Catholic: The Eagles move up a classification after winning 16 games last season in Class A and will be led by junior guard Max Kaminsky (12.2 ppg) and 6-foot-10 sophomore center George Prota.
Riverview: Senior guard Sam Gonsowski will try to lead the Raiders to the playoffs for the third season in a row, but the team will have to find a way to replace the scoring of all-section guard Cory Bickert (24 ppg).
Shady Side Academy: The Indians will try to make the playoffs for the 10th straight year in Gene Deal's first season as head coach.
Springdale: Senior forward Charley Guy will try to lead the Dynamos back to the playoffs after missing out last season.
South Allegheny: Tony DiCenzo takes over as head coach of the lowest-scoring team in Class AA last season (33.4 ppg).
Team to beat
Seton-LaSalle: After losing in the WPIAL Class AA Round of 16 last season, the Rebels are a sleeper pick this season as they return one of the top point guards in the league in junior Dale Clancy (12 ppg, 6 apg), an all-section performer last season, and junior forwards Malik White and Levi Masua.
Washington: The Little Prexies drop down a classification and return senior guards Josh Wise (20.2 ppg) and Jaylin Kelly (9 ppg) from last season's WPIAL Class AAA playoff qualifier.
Brentwood: After winning seven games in 2010-2011, the Spartans won 13 games and returned to the playoffs last season behind the play of guard Jason Pilarski (20.2 ppg), who returns.
Bishop Canevin: Senior guard Jake Seligman (14 ppg) is the top returner.
Burgettstown: Senior forward Josh Mack is the top returner for the Blue Devils, who missed the playoffs last season for the first time since 2002.
Chartiers-Houston: Senior Shayne Murphy is the top returning scorer from a 15-win team last season.
Fort Cherry: Senior guard Jeremy Lucas will try to lead the Rangers to the playoffs for the third season in a row.
Team to beat
California: The Trojans just sneaked into the playoffs last season, but return an experienced senior backcourt in all-section selection Brian Fisher (17 ppg) and guard Tanner Huffman (16 ppg). The team will also benefit from realignment as it no longer is in the same section as Jeannette and Greensburg Central Catholic.
Brownsville: Junior guard Cole Novotney (12 ppg) and his teammates will have to make up for the loss of all-section guard C.J. Gaddis.
Charleroi: The Cougars won seven games last season, but return starting guards Jim Diaz and Matt Indorante and forward Eric Johnson.
Frazier: The Commodores must replace their top three scorers, including all-section forward Robert Gohdura (19 ppg, 10 rpg), from last season's 15-win team.
Bentworth: The Bearcats won 18 games and the Section 3-A title last season, but move up a classification and must replace all-section players Gannon Walls-Mitchell and Eric Schoedel.
Jefferson-Morgan: Senior guard Travis Taylor (13.9 ppg) is one of three starters who return from last season's squad that won eight games in Class A.
Beth-Center: The Bulldogs have gone winless in section play two seasons in a row, but return a double-digit scorer in senior guard Josh Miller.
West Greene: The Pioneers have won a total of three games in the past three seasons in Class A.
Team to beat
Quaker Valley: The Quakers lost their top four scorers, including all-section forward Sam Peduto, from last season's 24-win team that advanced to the PIAA semifinals. Senior Burke Moser (9 ppg) is the team's leading returning scorer.
Sto-Rox: Junior guard Lenny Williams, who also is the school's star quarterback, will do more for the 2012 WPIAL semifinalists since two all-section players, Dontez Ford and Marzett Geter, graduated and a third all-section performer, LeMonte Harrison, transferred to Montour for his senior year.
Northgate: The Flames must replace three double-digit scorers, including all-section forward Jon Girvin, from last season's WPIAL quarterfinalist.
South Side Beaver: Luke Collett and Jon Magusiak are the lone returning starters from last season's playoff team.
Avonworth; Antelopes coach Dan Bradley, who led Sto-Rox to a WPIAL Class A runner-up finish in football this season, will have to find a way to replace double-digit scorers Brian Vales and Matt Kujawinski.
Freedom: Senior guard Nick Schwab is the leading returning scorer for a Bulldogs team that won just one game last season.
Carlynton: Alumnus Mike Kozy takes over as head coach of the Cougars, who won one game last season.