ALTOONA — Teams from the Western Pennsylvania Interscholastic Athletic League won three of the four PIAA girls basketball championships this year, and southwestern Pennsylvania is turning out to be just as dominant when it comes to postseason honors.
Pittsburgh-area programs produced seven of the eight major award winners on this season's Sports Writers Pennsylvania High School Girls Basketball All-State Team, including all four players of the year.
The teams and award winners were selected through a poll of statewide media.
State College junior Kyla Irwin was named to the Class AAAA second team.
Fox Chapel's Erin Mathias was voted player of the year in Class AAAA in a tight race with Cardinal O'Hara's Aminah "Mia" Farmer and Spring-Ford's Sammy Stipa, while Blackhawk junior Chassidy Omogrosso received the honor in Class AAA over fellow underclassmen Kalista Walters of Bethlehem Catholic and Alexis Lewis of Holy Redeemer. Seton-LaSalle's Naje Gibson and Vincentian's Brenna Wise had a much more comfortable margin of victory in Class AA and Class A, respectively.
Cumberland Valley's Bill Wolf (Class AAAA), Blackhawk's Steve Lodovico (Class AAA), Seton LaSalle's Spencer Stefko (Class AA) and Vincentian's Ron Moncrief (Class A) were chosen as the respective coaches of the year in runaway votes. All four guided their teams to state titles.
Although Class AA is the second smallest in the state, a case could be made that the two best teams in the commonwealth were the PIAA finalists in that classification. Competing against Class AAAA and AAA powers in the Philadelphia Catholic League, Neumann-Goretti went unbeaten until it ran into Seton-LaSalle in the state championship game. Seton-LaSalle defeated Class AAA champion Blackhawk and Class A champ Vincentian head-to-head and three of its four losses came to out-of-state opponents.
Those two teams were heavily represented on the all-state team, garnering three selections apiece. Gibson, who is making her fourth straight appearance on the Class AA team, is joined by high school teammate and fellow Pitt recruit Cassidy Walsh this time as she makes the first team for the third year in a row. Yacine Diop, who pulled down 23 rebounds in the Lady Rebels' 58-50 state championship game victory, made the second team.
Neumann-Goretti placed junior guards Ciana Cryor and Sianna Martin on the first team and senior forward Ella Awojobo on the second.
Six of the seven Class AA first-team picks are juniors. The group is rounded out by Pepperdine recruit Sydney Bordonaro of WPIAL runner-up and PIAA semifinalist Burrell and two elite scorers: McGuffey guard Sammie Weiss averaged 23.4 points per game, while Salisbury Township forward Meagan Eripret, who has committed to Lehigh, scored at a 22.5 clip.
The quality was so strong in the classification that 2013 first-teamer Becky Evans of Pine Grove was pushed to the second team despite netting 21.6 points per game. Cranberry's Emily Merryman, who averaged 26.7 points, also made the second team.
Mathias and Stipa both are repeat selections to the Class AAAA first team. A Duke recruit, Mathias led Fox Chapel to the second round of the state tournament and recently was named Gatorade Player of the Year for the state. Stipa is a three-team all-state selection who powered Spring-Ford to state final appearances as a junior and a senior.
Mount St. Joseph's Alex Louin, a Villanova signee, moves from the second team last year up to the first team, while Farmer, the Philadelphia Catholic League MVP who is on her way to George Washington, takes two steps up from the 2013 Class AAAA third team. Three underclassmen join them to round out the first team: Central Bucks West junior Nicole Munger, Cumberland Valley sophomore Kelly Jekot and Pocono Mountain West junior Jackie Benitez. Munger already has committed to Michigan.
Joining Irwin on the Class AAAA second team are Cumberland Valley’s Maddie Torresin, as she helped the Eagles to the state championship, Bayard Rustin's Adashia Franklyn, Dover's Alayah Hall, Mechanicsburg's Cecily Carl and Penn-Trafford's Maria Palarino. Hall made the third team last year.
Returning members Avery Marz of Wilson (West Lawn) and Darby Lee of Altoona highlight the third team.
Omogrosso spearheaded Blackhawk's run to 28-2 season by averaging 21.6 points per game. Her offensive potential typifies an explosive Class AAA first team. Lewis poured in 27.0 points, while Walters already has more than 1,600 points in her career and scored 42 to help beat Allentown Central Catholic in the District 11 championship game, and West Perry's Megan Smith tallied more than 24 points per outing in the playoffs. Nikki Arbanas, who powered District 10 champion Hickory to a 27-1 record, just missed averaging 20 points per game.
Tricia Byrne of PIAA quarterfinalist Scranton Prep and Alyssa Monaghan of Bonner-Prendergast complete the Class AAA first team — Monaghan was on the second team last year and Byrne the third. This year's second team includes all-state returnees Cami Boehner of Gettysburg, Carly Richardson of Palmyra and Angelina Starr of Franklin.
This is the third time for Wise, a junior, to make the Class A team and is her second time on the first team. Wise collected 59 points and 21 rebounds in the PIAA semifinals and championship game.
Wise is the only Class A first-team returnee, but the other five members were on the all-state team last year, too. Fairfield recruit Macey Hollenshead of Southern Fulton and Meghan Trenholm of St. John Neumann move up from the second team. St. John's recruit Tamesha "Sox" Alexander of Independent Schools state champion Shipley, along with Old Forge's Lauren Carey and Bucktail's Maria Morgan were 2013 third team honorees.