Ten District 9 Boys Basketball Teams Set to Chase State Titles Beginning Friday

CLARION, Pa. (EYT/D9) — Ten boys basketball teams representing District 9 will compete in the first round of the PIAA playoffs beginning Friday.

(Pictured above, Clarion-Limestone’s Jase Ferguson goes up for a shot/photo by Diane Lutz)

Here’s a look at each of those 10 boys’ matchups this weekend:


WHO: Neighborhood Academy (20-5) vs. Elk County Catholic (25-2) at St. Marys High School.
TIP-OFF: 7 p.m. Friday
THE SKINNY: Elk County, the D9 champs, will welcome Neighborhood Academy, a private school in Pittsburgh, to town. … Neighborhood has a unique requirement for its 140 students: they must play at least one sport. … The basketball team is young, with just two seniors. … The Bulldogs average 63.4 points per game, led by three players in double figures. John Wilkins leads the team at 18.4 ppg, followed by Courtney Wallace (17.8) and Shamar Simpson (14.4). … In contrast, ECC is giving up a paltry 31 points per game. The Crusaders held Union to just 35 points — nine in the second half and two over the final 12 minutes — to win the D9 championship game.

WHO: Turkeyfoot Valley (17-9) at Union (18-6)
TIP-OFF: 7 p.m. Friday
THE SKINNY: Turkeyfoot Valley is led by sophomore Bryce Nicholson, who is averaging 15.7 points per game. Senior Chris Kozlowski chips in 13.9 points per night and is also averaging a gaudy 12.2 rebounds per game for the Rams. … Union had Elk County Catholic on the ropes in the D9 title game, leading 18-8 after the first quarter, but a poor second half doomed the Golden Knights. … Senior guard Payton Johnson leads Union at 16.3 ppg. … Zander Laughlin averages 12 ppg and Skyler Roxbury, a Westminster football recruit, 10.1 ppg.

WHO: Clarion (17-9) vs. Imani Christian Academy (18-6) at North Allegheny High School
TIP-OFF: 7:30 p.m. Friday
THE SKINNY: Imani Christian, the District 7 champs, started the season 1-4 before going on an epic run by winning 17 of the next 19, including toppling Union-New Castle in the WPIAL championship game. … The Saints are balanced with four players averaging in double figures. Sophomore Dame Givner leads the way at 15.8 ppg, followed by sophomore Alier Maluk (15.3), junior Virgil Hall (12.2) and sophomore RJ Sledge (11.1). … Imani has two more players putting up nine points a night each. … Clarion is led by junior point guard Devon Lauer, who scored at a 16.8 ppg clip. Gabe Simko is second on the team at 11.8 ppg and Dawson Smail is at 11.1. Simko is also averaging 5.2 rebounds per game.

WHO: Cameron County (17-8) at Portage Area (25-2)
TIP-OFF: 7 p.m. Friday
THE SKINNY: The District 6 champion Mustangs also get it done with balance. … Senior Andrew Miko leads the way at 14.6 points and 8.9 rebounds per contest. Senior Mason Kargo is averaging 13.9 ppg and 6.1 assists, senior Luke Scarton is at 13.3 ppg and sophomore Trae Kargo is at 10.3 ppg. … Camdyn Allison leads the way for the Raiders at 12.3 ppg.


WHO: Bishop Canevin (20-6) at Clarion-Limestone (25-2)
TIP-OFF: 2 p.m. Saturday
THE SKINNY: Bishop Canevin is led by senior guard Shea Champine, who is averaging nearly 30 points per game. Champine was little more than a reserve for the first three years of his career with the Crusaders before having a breakout campaign this season. His great uncle, Hosea Champine, was drafted by the Phoenix Suns in 1979 after a standout collegiate career at Duquesne and Robert Morris. … Bishop Canevin had won three straight WPIAL titles before being upset in the second round by Northgate this season. … C-L is led by senior Jordan Hesdon, who is averaging 14.2 points per game and was named the KSAC MVP.

WHO: Greensburg Central Catholic (18-6) at Otto-Eldred
TIP-OFF: 4:30 p.m. Saturday
THE SKINNY: The Centurions, the District 7 runner-ups, are paced by junior guard Tyree Turner, who is averaging nearly 22 points per game. … Otto-Eldred, which fell to Clarion-Limestone in the D9 title game, is led by Landon Francis, who is averaging 14.8 ppg. … Manning Splain is averaging 12.8 ppg and Ray’Shene Thomas 12.3 ppg for the Terrors.

WHO: Karns City (22-5) at Aliquippa (20-6)
TIP-OFF: 2 p.m. Saturday
THE SKINNY: The Quips won their 13th WPIAL title by beating Northgate, 52-40. … Aliquippa also become just the 19th school to win both a WPIAL football and basketball title in the same season. … The Quips are led by Cameron Lindsey, who scored 19 points in the title game. … Karns City is led by guard Taite Beighley and forward Micah Rupp, who both were named first-team all-KSAC. Beighley is putting up 14.6 points, 4.6 assists, and 2.3 steals per night. Rupp is dangerous on both ends of the floor, averaging 11.1 ppg, 8.3 boards, 2.3 assists, 2.5 steals, and 3.3 blocks.


WHO: Seton LaSalle (14-11) at Brookville (22-2)
TIP-OFF: 5 p.m. Saturday
THE SKINNY: Connor Spratt is one of the leading scorers in the WPIAL and leads the Rebels at 27.3 points per game. … Seton LaSalle began the season 2-8 before going on a roll that culminated with a first-round WPIAL playoff win over Wash High and a near-upset of No. 1 seed Steel Valley. … Brookville beat Perry, 46-19, and then knocked off Bedford, 50-39, to reach the PIAA bracket.


WHO: Laurel Highlands (22-3) at Clearfield (17-6)
TIP-OFF: 7 p.m. Friday
THE SKINNY: The Mustangs are led by the two-headed monster of seniors Keondre Deshields and Rodney Gallagher. Deshields averages 22.2 ppg while Gallagher is scoring 21.8 points each night. … Clearfield won another D9 title thanks to Cole Miller, who poured on 25 in a win over St. Marys. The Bison have won nine straight D9 titles.


WHO: DuBois (11-13) at Penn Hills (21-3)
TIP-OFF: 7 p.m. Friday
THE SKINNY: The WPIAL champion Indians are led by Daemar Kelly, who is averaging 17.4 points per game. … Noah Barren is pitching in 16 ppg for Penn Hills, which beat No. 1 seed Peters Township, 67-51, for the crown.

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