WPIAL playoffs preview: North Allegheny girls a clear favorite

Girls Class AAAA

The seeds: North Allegheny first, Mt. Lebanon second, Fox Chapel third, Bethel Park fourth.

Leading scorers: Monica Burns, Hempfield (20.1); Maria Palarino, Penn-Trafford (18.6); Alayna Gribble, Norwin (17.6); Krista Pietropola, Plum (17.3); Erin Mathias, Fox Chapel (16.4).

The winner will be: North Allegheny. The Tigers have been nothing short of dominant the past two months, as they have won their past 19 games and not lost since Dec. 7 (a two-point defeat to Mt. Lebanon). At 59.2 points per game, they are the second-highest scoring team in the class, a level of success that should continue into the playoffs.

Sleeper: Norwin. After a 6-5 start, the Knights have emerged as one of the hottest teams in the WPIAL, winning their final 10 games. All but two of those victories came by at least 30 points.

The scoop: Bethel Park is the defending WPIAL champion. This season, the Black Hawks are 16-5, but they have lost four of their past five games. ... Despite losing its past two games, Penn-Trafford is the No. 2-ranked team in the class and before that drought, it had won 12 consecutive games. ... Few teams have been as hard to figure out as Shaler, which has gone 6-6 after a 9-0 start. ... Led by the 6-foot-3 Erin Mathias -- a Duke recruit -- down low, Fox Chapel has limited opponents to 36.4 points per game.

Girls Class AAA

The seeds: Blackhawk first, Elizabeth Forward second, South Park third, Hopewell fourth.

Leading scorers: Seairra Barrett, Central Valley (24.3); Kaitlyn Slagus, Belle Vernon (22.9); Chassidy Omogrosso, Blackhawk (21.7;) Kiana Law, Central Valley (20.0); Karly Mellinger, Greensburg Salem (18.7); Amirah Moore, Moon (18.5); Alexa Szelong, Mount Pleasant (18.3); Allison McGrath, South Park, (17.2).

The winner will be: Blackhawk. The Cougars didn't quite match their undefeated regular season of last year, but they finished 19-2 and did so in dominant fashion, winning by an average of 25.7 points. Chassidy Omogrosso, a Duquesne recruit and Fab Five member last season, is as skilled as any guard in the area.

Sleeper: Central Valley. It's difficult to have too much confidence in a team that has lost three of its past five games, but it's equally as tough to count out a team with the one-two scoring punch of Seairra Barrett and Kiana Law.

The scoop: South Park, the No. 2-ranked team, is the defending WPIAL and PIAA champion. Like Central Valley, the Eagles have a dynamic offensive tandem in Allison McGrath and Halie Torris, which should cause matchup problems for opposing teams. ... A year removed from losing do-everything star and Post-Gazette female athlete of the year Shatori Walker-Kimbrough, Hopewell has had an impressive season, going 18-3 in hyper-competitive section 2.

Girls Class AA

The seeds: Seton-LaSalle first, Burrell second, Greensburg Central Catholic third, Neshannock fourth.

Leading scorers: Sammie Weiss, McGuffey (23.4); Lexi Posset, Beaver (22.1); Monique Redman, Jeannette (20.9); Conor Richardson, Carlynton, (20.9); Carolyn Appleby, Greensburg Central Catholic (20.3); Madison McHale, Neshannock (20.4); Rachel Bellhy, Fort Cherry (19.5); Mia Woytovich, Charleroi, (19.0).

The winner will be: Seton-LaSalle. Simply put, nobody in the class can match the sheer amount of talent the Rebels possess. Two of the top 150 players in ESPN's 2014 recruiting rankings -- No. 59 Naje Gibson and No. 84 Yacine Diop -- share the same frontcourt.

Sleeper: McGuffey. For one, the Highlanders have one of the top scorers in the area in Sammie Weiss. As nice as it is to have balance, it's even nicer to have a go-to scorer once the playoffs start.

The scoop: No. 2 Burrell is the lone undefeated team in the girls tournament. The Buccaneers never have reached the WPIAL championship game. ... Defending WPIAL and PIAA champion Bishop Canevin has won six of its past seven games, but it doesn't look like a huge threat to Seton-LaSalle. ... Led by Carolyn Appleby, Greensburg Central Catholic has won 13 of its past 14 games.

Girls Class A

The seeds: Vincentian first, Serra Catholic second, Cardinal Wuerl North Catholic third, St. Joseph fourth.

Leading scorers: Mallory Heinle, St. Joseph (23.7); Brenna Wise, Vincentian (18.6); Sam Breen, Cardinal Wuerl North Catholic (17.5); Kylie Huffman, California (16.3); Madison Raber, West Greene, (15.2).

The winner will be: Vincentian. The two-time defending WPIAL champion has done nothing to force others to rethink their status as front-runner in the class. Led by the scoring of Brenna Wise, they have outscored opponents by an average of 24.7 points per game.

Sleeper: Cardinal Wuerl North Catholic. As the No. 3 seed in the class, the Trojans aren't a sleeper in the traditional sense of the word. North Catholic beat Vincentian, 53-51, a week ago.

The scoop: No. 2 Serra Catholic is the defending WPIAL runner-up. The Eagles have defeated teams by an average of 34.8 points per game this season. ... The two top teams from Section 1 -- Quigley Catholic and Sewickley Academy ---- are worth keeping an eye on solely because of how they can play defense. The Spartans have held teams to 36 points per game; the Panthers have allowed just 25.1 points per game, the best mark in the WPIAL.

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