Bishop Canevin wins PIAA girls basketball title
HERSHEY — Bishop Canevin's Carly Forse was leaving Giant Center with a gold medal around her neck when York Catholic's coach spotted her heading toward an exit.
“Enjoy that, because I'm going to lose sleep over you,” he shouted with a laugh, adding that teammate Celina DiPietro also would haunt his team.
So, too, might the entire fourth quarter.
Force and DiPietro each scored 18 points, and Bishop Canevin's defense seemed unbeatable during the final eight minutes of Friday afternoon's 45-38 victory over York Catholic in the PIAA Class AA girls championship in Hershey.
Bishop Canevin trailed, 33-28, after the third quarter, but didn't allow York Catholic to score a fourth-quarter basket until a harmless 3-pointer fell with five seconds left. By then, Canevin had built a 17-2 run that secured the school's first PIAA basketball title.
York's nightmare-worthy finish fulfilled Canevin's unlikely dream.
State championships have been rare for the small private school in the city's Oakwood neighborhood, but this has been a banner year.
“They won an old Catholic League title in '69 … and girls softball in (1999) was the school's only other state title,” Canevin coach Tim Joyce said. “So, this means a lot.”
York Catholic (29-3), the District 3 champion, was playing its seventh PIAA championship in the past eight seasons. The Irish was runner-up to Seton-La Salle a season ago.
This was the first state championship trip for Canevin (27-4), which won its first WPIAL title just three weeks ago. An eight-game losing streak to rival Seton-La Salle had blocked its playoff path in recent years. But after beating Seton twice during this postseason, Canevin's confidence soared.
“We just realized this was our year,” Forse said, “and realized we could actually win the state championship.”
An outstanding fourth quarter made it happen.
DiPietro had nine points in the fourth, including one of her four 3-pointers and a go-ahead basket with 5:23 left that gave Canevin a 35-33 lead it never lost. Forse, Erin Waskowiak and Gina Vallecorsa combined for the other eight points during decisive run.
“The difference between this (Canevin) team and most teams you face is that there is no weak kid on the floor,” York Catholic coach Kevin Bankos said.
The Crusaders pushed the pace in the fourth, believing they had allowed their opponent to dictate the first three. The score was tied at 9 after the first quarter and at halftime, at 21.
“We wanted to play faster,” Joyce said, “but we couldn't get it going in the first three quarters. The fourth quarter was kind of the tempo we wanted to play. The kids were tentative against their press, but once we started attacking it, we started getting some layups. ”
“We looked at each other and said let's pick it up,” said Waskowiak, a Duquesne recruit who had six assists.
During the run, York Catholic had five turnovers and missed nine consecutive shots. Morgan Klunk scored 18 points for the Irish, but added just three free throws in the fourth while guarded by DiPietro. Canevin also used aggressive traps to get the ball away from Klunk.
Canevin's defense has been its strength; none of its previous four PIAA opponents reached the 40-point mark, a number York Catholic also failed to meet.
“We all just started to look at each other and said we need to step it up,” Force said. “It's for the state championship and it's our senior year. It's our game.”
Canevin was down six in the third quarter before Johnie Olkosky delivered a momentum-changing shot. Trailing, 29-23, with 1:55 left in the third, Olkosky sank a deep 3-pointer from just in front of Canevin's bench. The junior was the star of the WPIAL championship when she made seven 3-pointers. But this basket, her only points Saturday, laid foundation for the fourth-quarter rally.
“I had a little doubt when we were down,” Joyce said, “but she hit that three and kind of brought us back to life. ... It was like everybody started coming alive.”