Breaking down the PIAA girls basketball playoffs

| Thursday, March 7, 2013, 12:01 a.m.

Class AAAA

WPIAL/City League: Bethel Park (23-2), Chartiers Valley (18-7), Gateway (20-5), Mt. Lebanon (22-3), Penn-Trafford (19-5) and Allderdice (12-13).

Around the state: Spring-Ford (25-2) used a 27-0 run to defend its title in District 1 (suburban Philadelphia) and extend a 19-game winning streak.

Cardinal O'Hara (21-5), the District 12 winner from the Philadelphia Catholic League, has a frontcourt with two Division I recruits: 6-foot-1 senior Shanice Johnson (Delaware) and 6-3 senior Lisa Mintzer (La Salle).

• Wilson West Lawn (23-2) won its first Section 3 title since 2008, led by 5-6 junior Avery Marz's 19 points.

• Philadelphia's Archbishop Carroll (19-6) has two D-I recruits to defend its 2012 PIAA title: 6-foot forward Sarah Curran (Drexel) and 5-5 guard Kristie Costantino (Stony Brook).

• Mount St. Joseph (26-3) lost twice to Spring-Ford, including 51-30 in the District 1 final. The team's only other loss was to Cumberland Valley, which awaits a rematch in the PIAA first round.

Don't overlook: Hollidaysburg (22-2), which rejoined Class AAAA this season, won the District 6 title behind 6-foot senior Morgan Griffith (15 ppg), a Shippensburg recruit.

Notable: The state's two largest cities have owned this bracket. A WPIAL team has reached the final in each of the past five seasons (Mt. Lebanon, 2008-11; Oakland Catholic, 2012). District 12, Philadelphia's Catholic and public schools, has reached the past four (O'Hara, 2009; Ryan, 2010; Carroll, 2011-12). ... Cardinal O'Hara beat Philadelphia Central, 60-10, in the District 12 title game. ... North Penn (22-4) has American recruit Lauren Crisler, a 6-2 forward.

Finals prediction: Cardinal O'Hara over Wilson West Lawn

Class AAA

WPIAL/Heritage: South Park (23-2), Elizabeth Forward (22-3), Hopewell (21-4), Blackhawk (24-1), Hampton (18-6), Central Valley (18-5) and Ligonier Valley (16-7).

Around the state: Prep Charter (17-2), a PIAA semifinalist in 2012, won Philadelphia's public school league for the third straight season.

• Palmyra (25-0), a first-time District 3 champion, hopes to avoid a repeat of last season's first-round exit.

• Archbishop Wood (17-9), the three-time defending PIAA champion, enters with consecutive losses in the Philadelphia Catholic League final (31-25 to Cardinal O'Hara) and the District 12 final (48-41 to Prep Charter).

• Franklin (24-1), the District 10 champion, was undefeated except for a Jan. 5 loss to WPIAL Class AA champion Bishop Canevin.

• Erie's Villa Maria Academy (19-4), a newcomer to Class AAA, and Malvern's Villa Maria Academy (22-3), the District 1 champ, could create a confusing title game matchup.

Don't overlook: Lancaster Catholic (25-1) was PIAA runner-up a season ago, but it enters states as the fifth seed from District 3 after a loss (59-53 to lower-seeded Susquehannock) in the district quarterfinals.

Notable: Blackhawk and South Park both reached the quarterfinals in 2012, and Hopewell made the second round. ... Chartiers Valley, a returning semifinalist, has moved to Class AAAA. ... Erie Villa Maria's Karlee McBride, a 5-10 senior averaging 13.1 points, is an Indiana recruit. ... Franklin made a free throw with no time left to beat Villa Maria, 48-47, in the District 10 final. ... Lancaster Catholic's Porscha Speller (17 ppg) and Hopewell's Shatori Walker-Kimbrough were first-team all-state last season.

Finals prediction: Prep Charter over Blackhawk

Class AA

WPIAL/Heritage: Bishop Canevin (22-4), Seton-La Salle (24-2), Burrell (22-3), Jeannette (17-7), Mohawk (17-7), Greensburg Central Catholic (17-7), McGuffey (20-3) and Blairsville (24-1).

Around the state: York Catholic (25-2), the PIAA runner-up in 2012, enters states for the eighth consecutive season as the District 3 champion.

• Dunmore (20-6), the state runner-up in 2011, won its seventh District 2 title in the past eight years.

• North East (22-3) capitalized on Villa Maria's rise to Class AAA and claimed the District 10 title with Mercyhurst recruit Alex Artise (5-9 junior, 17 ppg).

• Mount Carmel (22-4) won its third straight District 4 title, led by 5-9 senior Christina Perles (17 ppg).

• Notre Dame Green Pond (20-5) won the District 11 title with a victory over No. 1 seed Pine Grove (22-4), the district's two-time defending champion.

Don't overlook: Neumann-Goretti (13-11) barely has a .500 record, but the Saints of District 12 do own a 46-45 victory over Class AAAA contender Cardinal O'Hara.

Notable: Seton-La Salle is defending PIAA champion; the Rebels beat York Catholic, 71-47, in last season's final. ... The last girls team to win consecutive Class AA titles was Erie's Villa Maria, which won in 2009, 2010 and 2011. ... Bishop Canevin, the WPIAL champion, reached the PIAA second round last year ... Blairsville, which has won 24 in a row, earned its first District 6 title with a 71-61 victory over Bellwood-Antis. ... York Catholic, the 2008 state champion, won the District 3 title with a 57-26 victory over Delone Catholic.

Finals prediction: Seton-La Salle over York Catholic

Class A

WPIAL: Vincentian Academy (25-1), Serra Catholic (23-3), Quigley Catholic (18-6), North Catholic (15-10) and Winchester Thurston (13-9)

Around the state: Steelton-Highspire (23-4) could defend its PIAA title with Hampton recruit Malia Tate-DeFreitas (5-10, senior), a 3,000-point scorer who had at least 30 in all three District 3 playoff victories.

• Tri-Valley (23-3), the District 11 champion, features 6-5 senior Tara Nahodil (18.8 ppg), a Seton Hall recruit.

• Old Forge (24-0), which reached last year's quarterfinals, won the District 2 girls title for the first time in the history of the Scranton-area school.

• Kennedy Catholic (22-2) won its third straight District 10 title with 5-11 senior Alex Ricketts (17 ppg), an Akron recruit.

• Bishop Guilfoyle (24-2) extended its District 6 title streak to seven with a 61-36 victory over Portage.

Don't overlook: Conemaugh Valley (21-4) was third entering the District 5 playoffs before upsetting higher-seeded Berlin-Brothersvalley (22-4) and Southern Fulton (23-3) to win the district title.

Notable: Tate-DeFreitas has 3,272 career points, third in PIAA history behind Monessen's Gina Naccarato (3,364 in 1992-96) and Mt. Carmel's Maria Fantanarosa (3,823 in 1981-1985). ... Steelton-Highspire outscored its District 3 quarterfinal opponent Veritas Academy, 112-26. ... Vincentian Academy holds a 70-53 victory (Jan. 26) over Kennedy Catholic, a likely quarterfinal opponent. ... North Catholic was runner-up a season ago, losing to Steelton-Highspire, 66-59, in the PIAA championship game. North Catholic had beaten Vincentian, 71-58, in the semifinals.

Finals prediction: Steelton-Highspire over Vincentian

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