Bishop Canevin edges West Shamokin to earn PIAA title-game berth
There was no denying there was a different feeling in the gymnasium Tuesday night at North Allegheny for Bishop Canevin sophomore guard Shamyjha Price.
West Shamokin came for a fight. The Crusaders found out quickly there would be no coasting against the Wolves in a PIAA Class 3A girls basketball semifinal.
The District 6 champion Wolves were going to push Bishop Canevin like it hadn't been during the postseason. No one came closer than 21 points against the Crusaders.
With 6 minutes, 51 seconds remaining West Shamokin led by one. Facing a raucous Wolves' crowd, Bishop Canevin responded with a 9-0 run and survived with a 43-39 win.
“We went out there nervous,” Price said. “After halftime, we got it together and had to clear our minds and play our game.”
Launching full-bore into a shot by Olivia Fusaro allowed Price to block a shot that sparked the run and helped the Crusaders earn a spot in the state final.
Following a pass, it ended up with a layup by teammate Sarah Green, who put the Crusaders ahead 33-31.
“We kept working hard on defense to get our offense going,” said Crusaders guard Brionna Allen, who finished with a team-high 15 points. “We all pulled together and got it done.”
Finishing games hadn't been an issue for Bishop Canevin (23-5) during the postseason. The WPIAL champion Crusaders had won their previous six playoff games by an average of 25.3 points.
When asked if the contest would help him team, Bishop Canevin coach Tim Joyce laughed and wasn't entirely sure he could handle another close one.
The Crusaders, who won the Class AA state title in their only appearance in 2013, will take on District 12 champion Neumann-Goretti (23-5), a winner over York Catholic. Bishop Canevin beat York Catholic, 45-38, in the 2013 final.
“I don't know if my heart can take that,” Joyce said. “I would have rather won like we have been winning, but hey, we're going so we'll take it.”
Early on, it appeared West Shamokin, which had a 15-game winning streak snapped, may struggle against Bishop Canevin's defense. The Crusaders jumped to a 5-0 lead and led by seven points twice in the second quarter.
Bishop Canevin did have big lulls on offense. To open the second quarter, the Crusaders had five straight misses from the field. Price was 1 of 7 from the field in the first half, but recovered to finish with 12 points.
“I knew I wasn't on in the beginning,” Price said. “I knew we had to go out there and play our game, get steals and get to the help.”
Wolves coach Frank Nagy knew his team would work back into the game.
“We didn't go into this game even thinking we would lose by 25,” Nagy said. “We didn't go into the game thinking that was an option. We didn't go into the game even thinking losing was an option, that's why they are so devastated. This group of girls expects to win every single game and compete with every single team regardless of who it is. Regardless of record or reputation, they expect to compete.”
Shelby Clowser, who scored all 13 of her points in the second half, gave West Shamokin its first lead. Her trey with 6:54 left in the third quarter put the Wolves ahead 21-20. In the fourth quarter, a Clowser jumper gave West Shamokin its final lead, 31-30.
Bishop Canevin scored the next nine points to give it enough cushion to escape with a win.
The Crusaders picked up a new skill just in time for their biggest game of the season.
“I think it prepared us for a lot,” Allen said. “We need to practice hard the next two days, and we'll be ready.”
Josh Rizzo is a freelance writer.