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Bishop Canevin girls stun No. 1 Seton-La Salle to win WPIAL Class AA title

| Friday, March 1, 2013, 7:18 p.m.
Bishop Canevin's Johnie Olkosky celebrates after beating Seton-La Salle in the WPIAL Class AA girls championship at A.J. Palumbo Center, March 1, 2013. Chaz Palla | Tribune-Review
Bishop Canevin’s Carly Forse (20) and Celina DiPietro celebrate after beating Seton-La Salle in the WPIAL Class AA girls championship Friday at Palumbo Center. (Chaz Palla | Tribune-Review)
Bishop Canevin's Erin Waskowiak scores past Seton-La Salle's Naje Gibson during the WPIAL girls Class AA championship last weekend at Palumbo Center. (Chaz Palla | Tribune-Review)
Bishop Canevin's (from left) Johnie Olkosky, Erin Waskowiak, Carly Forse and Celina DiPietro celebrate after beating Seton-La Salle in the WPIAL Class AA girls championship at A.J. Palumbo Center, March 1, 2013. Chaz Palla | Tribune-Review

Johnie Olkosky isn't quite 6-foot-9 like Bishop Canevin's roster mistakenly says, but her stature Friday night certainly loomed large.

Olkosky's shooting toppled a true giant.

The 5-9 junior made seven 3-pointers and scored 26 points in Friday's 56-47 victory over Seton-La Salle in the WPIAL Class AA championship game, a winning effort that shocked the two-time defending champion.

No. 2 seed Bishop Canevin (22-4) had lost eight in a row to No. 1 Seton-La Salle (24-2), its section rival, including last season's WPIAL title game at Palumbo Center. But this time the Crusaders built a 16-point second-half lead and held off a last-minute rally by the Rebels.

“I knew we could win,” Olkosky said. “Losing to them so many times just wasn't working for me anymore.”

Seton-La Salle had won twice earlier this season, 66-35 on Jan. 14 and 66-58 on Feb. 7. The Rebels beat Bishop Canevin three times last season and three times the season before. But maybe that familiarity, facing a team nine times in three seasons, actually helped narrow the gap.

“We were pretty prepared for everything they did,” Canevin coach Tim Joyce said. “When you're as good as they are there's no reason to change what you're doing. We were just better prepared for it.”

Canevin learned from the losses, Joyce said, and worked to limit Seton's transition baskets.

“The first time we played them we beat them by 30,” Seton-La Salle coach John Ashaolu said. “The second time ... we only beat them by eight. Maybe that's true.”

Canevin's Carley Forse had 14 points and Celina DiPietro had 10. Naje Gibson and Angela Heintz had 16 points each for Seton-La Salle, which hadn't lost to a WPIAL opponent since Dec. 2010, a streak of 66 consecutive victories. The Rebels, No. 1 in state rankings, are defending PIAA champions.

Another victory in Hershey in a couple weeks would ease this loss, Ashaolu said.

“I'd rather be known as the best in the state,” he said. “That's always been our goal.”

Regardless, this loss was surprising. Seton-La Salle had beaten semifinal opponent Jeannette by 35 points. The Rebels' only loss this season was at an out-of-state tournament.

“They've been so dominant for so many years, so that makes it better,” Joyce said. “It's great beating them.”

Three 3-pointers by Olkosky helped Canevin take an 18-6 lead with 50 seconds left in the first quarter. The quick start was important for the Crusaders and for Olkosky, who said she'd been struggling all week with her outside shot.

“After the second one fell I knew I was going to keep making them,” she said.

Olkosky made three in the first, one in the second and three more in the third. Several were well behind the 3-point line, beyond the reach of Seton's defense.

Olkosky made consecutive 3-pointers to start the third quarter, part of a 17-7 run that stretch a 28-22 halftime lead to 16 points. With 1:52 left in the third, Canevin led, 45-29.

“Johnie's a great shooter; we knew that was possible,” said Joyce, who made 3-point shooting part of a game plan to combat Seton-La Salle's size. “... They're so big inside that we knew we had to hit threes.”

Seton rallied in the fourth, cutting the lead to five with a 14-2 run sparked by Heintz. Canevin also helped sustain the run by making just 2 of 9 free throws in the final 2:15.

A Heintz basket with 1:20 left Seton trailing, 52-47. But falling short were a jumper by Gibson with 1 minute left and a 3-pointer by Heintz with 26 seconds that could have pulled the Rebels closer.

A free throw by Forse with 26 seconds left and a game-clinching breakaway layup by her with 10 seconds remaining secured Canevin the first victory over its rival since Feb. 15, 2010.

“This was crazy; the best feeling ever,” Olkosky said. “We knew we could do it.”

Chris Harlan is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach him at charlan@tribweb.com or via Twitter @CHarlan_Trib.

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