Slagus sisters lead the way for BVA
Belle Vernon Area senior Jessica Slagus was not going to let her career, or that of her classmates Natalie “Nan” Bashada and Jillian Niro, end.
And Slagus' younger sister, sophomore Kaitlyn, was not ready to walk off the court with her sister for the last time.
The sisters physically dominated Greensburg Salem (16-7) from the opening tip Wednesday night as BVA (16-6) is headed to the WPIAL Class AAA quarterfinals for the first time since 1998 after a 60-41 win at Hempfield.
“I'm speechless and it means so much,” said second-year BVA coach Lisa Fairman. “I truly love this team and their work ethic and their hard work and they deserve this because they have earned it.
“It really means the world to me because it means the world to them.”
The win, BVA's second playoff win in as many seasons under Fairman, gives the Lady Leps a quarterfinal matchup with top-seeded and undefeated Blackhawk (23-0).
Jessica Slagus finished with game highs of 21 points and 21 rebounds, while Kaitlyn finished with 18 points and 11 rebounds.
“A huge factor for us is that Kaitlyn is playing with confidence and now not only do teams have to worry about Jess but they sure as heck have to worry about Kaitlyn as well.
“They work so well together and now teams can't double team Jess, and it showed tonight.”
While the Lady Leps took no mercy in controlling the boards, they played an all-around game on both ends of the court.
“This was our best defensive game all season,” Fairman said, “and I think we have a really great group of girls that have worked hard from the beginning of the season and I couldn't be happier to see them enjoy this.”
BVA came out sluggish to start the game with five turnovers in the opening 2:45 and fell behind 6-2.
But a Phaedra DeWitt three-pointer that resembled a ping pong ball by bouncing around before finally dropping and a trey by sophomore Bria Rathway kept the Lady Leps in the game.
What was behind the slow start?
“It was a little bit of getting the butterflies out and our girls had each others' back the entire game and I told them to stay focused because we had four quarters to play,” Fairman said.
“Bria came in and hit that three and Nan added one in the second quarter and it opened up the inside,” Fairman said.
Down 11-8, BVA went on an 8-0 run to end the first quarter to take a 16-11 lead into the second quarter. The Lady Leps never let go of the momentum as they outscored Greensburg Salem 15-6 to take a commanding 31-17 lead into halftime.
When sophomore Tiernie Singleton hit a jumper to make the score 27-17 with less than two minutes to play in the first half, the BVA lead never dipped under double digits the rest of the way.
The loss avenges a 63-53 defeat at Greensburg Salem Dec. 17.
In the first matchup, Jayne and Claire Oberdorf combined for 45 points, but Wednesday they only collectively tallied 21.
Greensburg Salem senior Jayne Oberdorf came in averaging 17.2 points per game, but was held to a single three-pointer until BVA had built a 21-point lead late in the game.
After the game, the Slagus sisters shared their feelings on the game.
“I know that Nan, Jill and I did not want this to be our last game and we knew that there could be no tomorrow,” Jessica Slagus said. “But credit goes to coach because she had us ready.
“I did not want this to be my last game and I love them. This is my second family and everyone played well, especially our guards.”
Did Kaitlyn Slagus give it much thought that it could have been the last time she played with her sister?
“It was extra motivation and (it was a little emotional in the locker room before the game),” Kaitlyn Slagus said. “Coach kept our guards composed early and they hit key shots.”
GAME NOTES: DeWitt finished with a game-high seven assists … Angela Balya added 11 points for Greensburg Salem … BVA had 16 turnovers while Greensburg Salem had 10 … More than a half dozen schools were at the game to see Jessica Slagus, who added four blocks … Fairman now has as many playoff wins (two) as every other head coach in the history of the Lady Leps program combined.
Bill Hughes is a freelance writer.
Bill Hughes is a freelance writer.