Bishop Canevin girls basketball defeats rival Seton-La Salle for first WPIAL title
Odds were not in the favor of Bishop Canevin in the WPIAL Class AA girls basketball game.
The Crusaders had to face Seton-La Salle, their Section-4AA rival that had defeated them twice this season by scores of 66-35 and 68-58 and topped them eight times in a row dating to the 2010-11 season — including eliminating them from the past two WPIAL playoffs.
But the Lady Crusaders knew it was their game when they took the court of Palumbo Center last week.
“Carly (Forse) and I had a dream last night that we won,” senior Celina DiPietro said. “We have been working for this all year. It is just great.”
Dreams became reality as Bishop Canevin defeated Seton-La Salle, 56-47, for the first time since 2010 to capture its first WPIAL girls basketball title.
The Crusaders took an early 4-2 lead when Forse put a shot up in the paint, and they never looked back. Bishop Canevin controlled the tempo of the first quarter, building the lead to 10 after a Forse free throw and Johnie Olkosky 3-pointer.
The junior was the key player of the game for Bishop Canevin. Olkosky scored 12 points in the first half, all off of 3-pointers.
“(Olkosky) is a great shooter,” Bishop Canevin coach Tim Joyce said. “That was part of the game plan. We knew they were so big inside. We knew we had to hit threes. We wanted to spread the floor and dribble-penetrate so they would start doubling the ball, and we would have open threes for (Olkosky) or (DiPietro).
“As soon as she made the first one, we knew she was on.”
Bishop Canevin's defense was also fierce and limited Seton-La Salle to a single field goal in the first quarter.
The Rebels mounted several rallies in the second quarter and cut the deficit to four with 40 seconds to go in the first half, but DiPietro hit a jumper at the buzzer to give her squad a 28-22 lead.
“The message (at halftime) was pretty much slow it down and keep it up on defense,” Erin Waskowiak said. “I was confident in the team. I knew we had it.”
Slowing it down may have been the message, but Bishop Canevin did anything but. Olkosky hit two 3-pointers in the first two minutes of play to build the Lady Crusaders' lead back to 12.
The deficit seemed to affect the Rebels as their usually staunch defense was shredded.
Forse was able to score in the paint, and Waskowiak found a wide-open Gina Vallecorsa for an easy layup to extend the lead to 45-29 — its largest of the game.
An Olkosky 3-pointer with 16 seconds left in the third gave Bishop Canevin a 48-33 lead heading into the fourth.
Angela Heitz's basket with 1:17 in regulation pulled Seton-La Salle to within five.
But Bishop Canevin kept the Rebels at bay despite going two of six on foul shots during the final minute of action.
A late Seton-La Salle turnover led to Forse putting up a layup as an exclamation point on the win, and the Bishop Canevin faithful was sent into jubilation.
“All through the game, the three (seniors) kept saying, ‘This is our game, this is our game,' ” Forse said. “We knew we would win.”
Olkosky led the team with 26 points, and her seven 3-pointers tied the WPIAL title game record.
“That is how it has been in the playoffs,” Joyce said. “In our first game, (Waskowiak) had 31 points. (DiPietro) had 26 in the second, and (Forse) had 23 in the third. With (Olkosky) getting 26, it has kind of been that way.”
Forse added 14, and DiPietro added 10.
Joyce said while the win was big because it came over a rival, it was even bigger defeating one of the most dominant teams in the state.
“It is just not about the rivalry,” Joyce said. “They have been so good for so many years that it makes the win better. We have been solid for a number of years.
“We have just been trying to get over the hump. It has been fun doing it.”
The Rebels' 47 points were their lowest since March 22, 2011.
Joyce said his squad came into the game with its typical game plan. He said he was confident as long as they were making the most of their possessions.
“When you are as good as they are, why change anything?” Joyce said. “We were prepared for whatever they would do. The difference between tonight and the other game is that we made shots.
“We didn't give them transition baskets. and we didn't turn the ball over.”
Bishop Canevin will continue on to the PIAA Class AA tournament. The Crusaders will face Westmont Hilltop in the first round.
The Hilltoppers enter the game with a 21-5 mark after they defeated Bald Eagle Area, 59-43, in the District 6 consolation game last week.
Senior Erin Rodgers leads Westmont Hilltop in scoring with nearly 17 points per game. She also leads the team in assists and steals, averaging four each.
Senior guard Paige Lamberson is also a scoring threat, averaging 12 points.
Other top players for the Hilltoppers include senior forward Racher Roper (6.9 ppg), junior forward Alyssa Miller (6.7 ppg) and junior forward Taylor Hoover (2.9 ppg and 4.8 rebounds per game).
The Hilltoppers average 55.5 points.
Tipoff in the first round battle is set for 6 p.m. tomorrow, Friday, at North Hills.
Nathan Smith is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at email@example.com or 412-388-5813.