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Mt. Pleasant girls learn lesson against No. 1 Blackhawk

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By Justin Criado
Sunday, Feb. 23, 2014, 10:18 p.m.

After a thrilling come-from-behind victory over Belle Vernon in the WPIAL Class AAA first round, Scott Giacobbi and his Mt. Pleasant squad knew drawing top-seeded Blackhawk would be the toughest test yet.

“We saw this an opportunity,” Giacobbi said. “We tried to take advantage of that.”

Try as they did, the Vikings came up short and were knocked out of the WPIAL playoffs with a 69-48 quarterfinal loss Saturday afternoon at North Allegheny.

“We tried to show some heart there and continue to get in the game,” Giacobbi said. “Quite honestly you're here to compete in a contest and you don't ever want to quit no matter what it says up on the board.”

Because the top six WPIAL finishers qualify for the state playoffs, Mt. Pleasant will advance to the PIAA Tournament if Blackhawk reaches the WPIAL finals.

“If they go out and execute like they can, we should stand a pretty good shot of following them into the state playoffs,” Giacobbi said.

Blackhawk (21-2) jumped out to an early lead, starting the game on a 7-0 run before taking a 38-21 lead into half. Do-it-all junior Chassidy Omogrosso led Blackhawk with 29 points, including five 3-pointers as the Cougars controlled the court for most of the game.

“I think our energy from the first quarter was great,” Blackhawk coach Steve Lodovico said. “We tried to use our speed to get the ball up and down the floor.”

Giacobbi's first priority was to limit Blackhawk's offensive penetration, which is the basis of the Cougars' offensive attack.

“What we wanted to do to the greatest extent possible was slow their penetrations,” Giacobbi said. “They make everything happen from that penetration, whether it's on the glass or kicked to one of their good shooters. We were spotty with that effort.”

Starting the second half like the first, Blackhawk built a 29-point lead midway through the third quarter. Courtney Vannoy added 15 points and seven rebounds for the Cougars, while Halle Denman chipped in with 10 points.

Despite the deficit, Mt. Pleasant (15-9) fought until the final buzzer, holding Blackhawk to seven points in the final frame. Junior Alexa Szelong led the Vikings with 18 points, including three 3-pointers.

“We played four quarters,” Szelong said. “Even though we were down by how many, nobody gave up.”

For a program that hasn't missed the postseason in nearly a decade, a playoff game against a powerhouse like Blackhawk will serve as a lesson for a team that returns three starters out of Section 3-AAA.

“We're going to learn from the mistakes we made today,” Szelong said.

Justin Criado is a freelance writer.

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