No. 1 Blackhawk uses late run to edge West Mifflin in WPIAL semifinals
Blackhawk coach Steve Lodovico said before the season even started that this year his team was on a mission to finish.
The Cougars (22-2) are now just one step away from completing that mission after a 68-57 win in their WPIAL Class AAA semifinal game against No. 12 West Mifflin (18-6) Wednesday at West Allegheny.
Top-seeded Blackhawk will face No. 3 South Park in Saturday's WPIAL championship at Duquesne University's A.J. Palumbo Center, start time yet to be determined. South Park defeated Elizabeth Forward, 44-40, in its semifinal game.
The start was far from perfect, but junior guard Chassidy Omogrosso finished with 31 points — 13 in the fourth quarter — and junior forward Courtney Vannoy added 17 to lead Blackhawk to the finish it has been looking for all year.
“We faced adversity and all we talked about was ‘finish, finish,' ” said Omogrosso in the midst of her celebrating teammates. “These past few years after falling short in these games, I wanted this one so bad.”
It was at this same venue that Elizabeth Forward eliminated the top-seeded Cougars a year ago in the semifinals. Blackhawk wasn't about to forget about that game.
“For me, that feeling after that game has been stuck since a year ago,” Omogrosso said. “I didn't want to leave this place again with that feeling.”
When Blackhawk senior captain Halle Denman picked up her fourth foul early in the third quarter, West Mifflin used an 11-3 run to build a 42-30 lead.
But Blackhawk answered in a big way, rattling off a 20-3 run to take a 50-44 lead, capped by two 3-pointers from junior guard Bridgette Shaffer, who finished with 12 points.
“I'm so proud of them. They came together and they pulled it through,” Denman said. “It's amazing because I know that they have my back and I know that they would win that for me, but I want to win (the WPIAL championship) together.”
The lead was Blackhawk's first since they led 7-6 in the first quarter.
West Mifflin led 31-27 at halftime. Thanks to a 7-0 run spurred by Omogrosso to end the half, Blackhawk had confidence.
“Even when we were down at halftime, we said ‘we're going finish this,' ” Lodovico said. “We knew we were going to win the game. We just had to play better defense.”
West Mifflin dominated Blackhawk in the paint for most of the game. Forwards Taylor Thomas and Deilona Devaughn had 18 and 10 points, respectively, nearly all of which came underneath the basket.
The game was impacted by foul trouble for both teams. Denman scored just two points and fouled out early in the fourth quarter. Thomas and senior guard Ciara Patterson — West Mifflin's leading scorer on the season — both fouled out in the fourth quarter as well.
Patterson finished with just eight points, half of her season average.
Blackhawk came out in the second half clearly energized, making plays that don't necessarily show up on the stat sheet.
“I think we started coming up with loose balls and rebounds,” Lodovico said. “They were killing us on the boards and loose balls. We said before the game we have to rebound and take Patterson out of the game.”
When it was all finished, shouts of ‘We're going to Palumbo!' could be heard ringing from the Blackhawk locker room.
But the girls aren't finished yet. South Park, the team that eliminated Blackhawk in last season's PIAA tournament, is next.
“We'll prepare for them in the next couple of days,” Omogrosso said. “They're a good team, and we just have to play our game.”
Gary Horvath is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach him at email@example.com.