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There Are Many Intriguing Storylines as PIAA Basketball Tournament Begins on Friday, Saturday for 19 District 9 Teams

CLARION, Pa. (EYT/D9) — It’s been that thing lurking in the gym.

That specter. That elephant. That silent behemoth.

For the members of the Elk County Catholic girls basketball team, it’s always just kind of been there this season. 

The expectation of a possible state championship.

It’s been difficult for the Crusaders not to acknowledge it, not to think about it, not to let it color everything they’ve done to this point on the basketball court.

Now, though, they can say it, what they’ve wanted to say for months. Yes, ECC is going for that title and the Crusaders believe they have a legitimate shot.

“It’s been our goal since the beginning,” said Elk County Catholic senior point guard Sami Straub. 

“We’ve had four goals, right?” she added, looking to her senior teammates. “And we’ve been looking for the state championship. And we’re just going to keep working hard, keep the foot on the gas and keep playing the way we’ve been playing.”

That first step toward that fourth and final goal begins on Friday against Monessen, the fifth-place team out of District 7, at St. Marys High School at 5:30 p.m.

The ECC boys, the D9 champ in Class A, will also play Monessen after the girls game.

The Crusaders will try to complete a trifecta. The girls cross country and volleyball teams won state championships in the fall.

“I think it was important for us to stay focused on each one of those goals before we start to look ahead,” said ECC girls basketball coach Ken Pistner. “We’ve heard a lot about the state championships and we couldn’t have put ourselves in that position without taking each one of those goals. And now that we’ve accomplished the district title, now we can start looking forward to the next step. This group, I know, is not finished.”

ECC is one of five D9 schools to have both its boys and girls basketball teams still alive in the state playoffs. Redbank Valley had two district champs heading into the PIAA tourney. Karns City, Moniteau and Clarion are also doubling up on the state tourney fun.

In all, 19 teams (10 boys and nine girls) will begin what they hope is a march toward PIAA glory.

There are some intriguing first-round matchups.

One will happen in New Bethlehem on Friday night when the Redbank Valley girls basketball team, fresh of a third straight district title, will host Clairton, the seventh-place team out of the always-strong WPIAL, at 7 p.m.

What makes this showdown interesting is Clairton junior Iyanna Wade, who leads the nation in scoring at 40.5 points per game for the 19-6 Bears.

The 5-foot-4 point guard scored 52 points in a playoff win over Freedom on Feb. 16.

Wade set a WPIAL single-game record with 65 points against Steel Valley on Jan. 25.

Clairton coach Cartlon Wade is Iyanna’s father.

Redbank Valley certainly knows who she is.

“I feel like every basketball player follows players from different schools, no matter where it is,” said Bulldog junior point guard Mylee Harmon. “We’ve definitely heard of her. We’re ready. This week we’re going to prepare. She’s their main scorer, so if we can shut her down, we win.”

Another will happen the next day, also in New Bethlehem, as the Bulldog boys begin what they hope will be a fine sendoff for longtime coach Emmanuel Marshall.

Redbank will host Northgate at 1 p.m.

Marshall announced this would be his last season on the bench. He was seriously injured in an automobile accident in early February 2023.

“Us seniors have had him for all four years,” said Bulldog senior Owen Clouse. “We weren’t able to finish it off (the District 9 title) two years ago, so to be able to get him that championship feels great.”

Clouse and his twin brother, Mason, have a long history with Marshall.

“He was our coach when we were in second grade,” Owen said. “Anything beyond this point is icing on the cake. To win one of these (state) games would be something special. To get far would be something special. It’d be great if we did that.”

Following are the first-round matchups:

(all games Friday)

7-5 Monessen (20-5) vs. 9-1 Elk County Catholic (24-2) at St. Marys, 7 p.m.
5-3 Southern Fulton (14-11) at 9-2 Clarion (17-9), 7 p.m.
9-3 Cameron County (22-5) at Williamsburg (17-8), 6 p.m.
9-4 Johnsonburg (19-8) at 6-1 Bishop Carroll (15-10), 7 p.m.
9-5 Union (13-11) vs. 7-1 Imani Christian Academy, at Norwin High School, 7:30 p.m.

(all games Saturday)

7-4 Northgate (18-7) at 9-1 Redbank Valley (22-3), 1 p.m.
7-3 Fort Cherry (20-6) at 9-2 Karns City (20-7), 1 p.m.
9-3 Otto-Eldred (25-2) at 7-1 Aliquippa (21-5), 2 p.m.


7-3 Mohawk (17-8) at 9-1 Moniteau (13-11), 6 p.m.


7-4 Avonworth (17-9) at 9-1 Punxsutawney (14-10), 7 p.m.

(all games Saturday unless noted)

7-5 Monessen (19-6) at 9-1 Elk County Catholic (25-2), Friday at St. Marys, 5:30 p.m.
5-2 Northern Bedford (16-9) at 9-2 Ridgway (20-6), 2 p.m.
9-3 DuBois Central Catholic (14-11) vs. 10-1 Jamestown (7-15), at Mercer Area High School, 1 p.m.
9-4 Clarion (14-12) at 5-1 Berlin (21-5) at Pitt-Johnstown, 4 p.m.
9-5 Port Allegany (19-7) at Union New Castle (19-5), 1 p.m.

(all games Friday)

7-6 Clairton (19-6) at 9-1 Redbank Valley (20-5), 7 p.m.
10-3 West Middlesex (19-5) at 9-2 Moniteau (18-6), 7 p.m.


7-6 Seton LaSalle (15-10) at 9-1 Karns City (18-8), 7 p.m.


7-5 Highlands (18-7) at St. Marys (21-5), 4 p.m.