A quartet of Tri-County Area teams are set to begin the PIAA Class 2A playoffs this weekend, with two girls teams beginning play on Friday, while the two boys teams get their state playoff journeys underway Saturday.
On the girls side, District 9 champion Redbank Valley will represent the area along with Clarion, which garnered the third seed out of the district.
Then, in the boys bracket, Ridgway and Clarion will both represent the area as the D-9 champion and runner-up, respectively.
Here is a closer look at the four games:
Redbank Valley vs.
Coming off its first District 9 title since 1998, Redbank Valley will begin the PIAA playoffs against Cochranton, the fourth-place finisher out of District 10, in the opening round Friday at Clarion University’s Tippin Gymnasium at 5 p.m.
After entering the D-9 playoffs on a three-game losing streak, the Lady Bulldogs won their three playoff games by an average of 10.3 points per game, claiming the title with a 48-37 victory over Keystone.
Cochranton (16-10) enters the state playoffs on a two-game losing streak, as it suffered a 60-58 loss to Maplewood in the D-10 semifinals before being defeated 53-51 by Cambridge Springs in the third-place game.
Tara Hinderliter leads Redbank Valley (19-7) as District 9’s leading scorer with just over 21 points per game, while Alivia Huffman, Lauren Smith and Madison Foringer are all keys offensively for the Lady Bulldogs.
On the other end, the Lady Cardinals rely on a balanced offense led by junior Lexie Moore (12.1 ppg) and senior Jaiden Martinec (11.9 ppg), while Cathryn Miller (8.6 ppg) and Riley Harvey (8.2 ppg) also contribute on the offensive end.
Harvey also leads Cochranton on the boards, as the junior averages 8.3 rebounds per contest.
The Lady Cardinals are returning to the PIAA playoffs for the first time since 2016, while Redbank is returning to states for the first time since 2015.
The winner will move on to Tuesday’s second round for a matchup with either WPIAL (District 7) runner-up Laurel or Bellwood Antis, the third-place finisher out of District 6.
After bouncing back from a semifinal loss to upset top-seeded Ridgway and garner a PIAA playoff berth, Clarion will begin the state tournament against District 4 champion Mount Carmel at Shamokin Area High School on Friday at 5 p.m.
The matchup is a rematch of a first-round meeting in last year’s state tourney, one in which Mount Carmel came out of with a 47-34 win.
Clarion is in search of its first PIAA victory since 2014 when it made a run to the state quarterfinals as the D-9 champion in Class A in the four-class system.
Kaitlyn Constantino, who kept the Lady Cats’ season alive with a dominant performance in the D-9 third-place game, enters the game as the district’s second-leading scorer.
The senior is averaging close to 21 points per game, including scoring 21 in the win over the Lady Elkers, while KK Girvin and Jordan Best are also keys to Clarion’s (15-10) offensive approach.
For the Lady Red Tornadoes, 6-foot-2 junior Dani Rae Renno is a catalyst on both ends of the court, as she led the team with 16 points and 12 rebounds to help lead Mount Carmel (20-5) to its fifth straight D-4 title with a 51-35 win over South Williamsport.
The winner moves on to the second round and will take on the winner of an opening-round contest between District 6 champion Bishop Guilfoyle and District 5 runner-up Windber.
The back-to-back District 9 champion Elkers will get their PIAA playoff journey underway Saturday with a matchup against WPIAL (District 7) fourth-place finisher Shenango at Clarion University at 4:30 p.m.
Ridgway (19-7) is one year removed from a run to the PIAA Class 2A quarterfinals where it saw its season come to an end with a 68-54 defeat at the hands of Our Lady of Sacred Heart (OLSH).
The Elkers enter on a three-game winning streak, including a 41-32 win over Clarion in Saturday’s D-9 title game at Tippin Gymnasium, where they will return for their PIAA opener.
Shenango (19-6) enters Saturday’s game coming off a 65-58 loss in the WPIAL semifinals to Sto-Rox, which eventually lost to OLSH in the district title game.
The Wildcats led their semifinal matchup by 13 points at the half before eventually suffering the seven-point defeat, as Shenango had won eight of its last nine games before the loss to Sto-Rox.
Matt Dush and Zack Zameroski lead Ridgway in scoring as Dush is averaging just over 14 points per game, while Zameroski adds 13 points per contest.
Other contributors on the offensive end for the D-9 champions are Dan Park and Domenic Allegretto.
Shenango is paced offensively by Colin McQuiston, who led the team with 25 points in the semifinal loss, while Reis Watkins and Ryan Lenhard each accounted for 11 points last time out for the Wildcats.
Ridgway enters the game having allowed just over 36 points per game, the second best average in District 9 behind only Elk County Catholic, as it enters PIAA play having won 11 of its last 13 games.
Saturday’s winner will advance to the second round and take on either D-10 runner-up Farrell or Coudersport, the third-place finishers out of D-9, on Wednesday.
The District 9 runner-up Bobcats will open the PIAA tournament Saturday at Keystone High School at 2 p.m. against WPIAL (District 7) third-place finisher Winchester Thurston.
Winchester Thurston (12-12) is coming off a 73-19 loss to Our Lady of Sacred Heart (OLSH), the eventual WPIAL champions, in the semifinal round.
The Bears made an unexpected run into the semifinals, winning their first ever WPIAL playoff games to earn their first PIAA berth in program history.
On the other side, Clarion (16-9) enters the game on the heels of a 41-32 loss to Ridgway in the District 9 title game.
The Bobcats are led offensively by Cal German, who is the third-leading scorer in D-9 with just over 21 points per game, while Nick Frederick is the only other player averaging in double figures for Clarion with just over 10 points per contest.
Hunter Craddock, Skylar Rhoades and Josh Craig also chip in on the offensive end for Clarion, which saw a 13-game winning streak snapped with the loss to the Elkers in the title game.
Winchester Thurston finished fourth in the WPIAL playoffs despite entering as the 12th seed out of 13 teams, as it upset Laurel and Springdale before falling in the semifinals to OLSH to earn a PIAA spot.
The winner will move onto the second round on Wednesday and will face the winner of an opening round matchup between D-6 champion Bishop Guilfoyle, the state runner-up in 2019, and WPIAL sixth-place finisher Brentwood.