No. 1 Blackhawk downs South Park for 6th WPIAL championship
Halle Denman is a girl of few words, both on and off the court, so she let her play do the talking Saturday.
The Blackhawk senior guard scored a game-high 21 points to lead the top-seeded Cougars (23-2) to their sixth WPIAL title in the Class AAA final, a 62-55 win over No. 3 South Park at Palumbo Center.
After being part of the last Blackhawk championship as a freshman, Denman was eager to go out with another gold medal around her neck, she said.
“She played amazing, tremendous for her senior year,” said Blackhawk junior guard Chassidy Omogrosso, who scored 17 points. “I wanted her to get to Palumbo so bad, and I know how bad she wanted it.”
Denman played just six minutes because of foul trouble in Blackhawk's semifinal win over West Mifflin on Wednesday.
She was determined to be a major factor Saturday against defending state champion South Park (21-5).
“She was getting therapy on her ankle this morning, and I asked her, ‘Are you going to have a good one tonight?' ” Blackhawk coach Steve Lodovico said. “She said, ‘I have to. I played terrible the last two games.'
“I'm just proud for Halle. She's that extension of you on the floor. She doesn't say much, but she's a warrior.”
When the teams met last year in the PIAA semifinals, South Park turned a 14-point first half deficit into a 63-59 win. This time the Eagles didn't lead.
Trailing by 14 in the fourth quarter, South Park's Halie Torris and Allison McGrath combined for 11 straight points to cut the deficit to 51-48.
Denman then hit two free throws to halt the run. South Park pulled within 53-52, but Blackhawk made 9 of 10 free throws — five from Denman — down the stretch to hold off the Eagles.
After being eliminated in the WPIAL semifinals each of her first two seasons, Omogrosso, a Duquesne recruit, had endured all the disappointment she could handle.
“I didn't want to relive that feeling from last year at all. It was the worst feeling,” Omogrosso said. “And now to be able to say it's the best feeling, and to win a WPIAL championship, is amazing.”
Blackhawk raced out to a 38-21 lead in the third quarter behind six 3-pointers, four from junior guard Bridgette Shaffer.
“We knew (they could shoot 3s),” South Park coach Reggie Wells said. “But sometimes if you give them a little gap, they take advantage of it, and they did.”
The guard trio of Denman, Omogrosso and Shaffer combined for 43 of Blackhawk's first 45 points before Danielle Levato scored six straight spanning the third and fourth quarters. Her six points — including a tip-in off a rebound at the third-quarter buzzer — proved to be important.
“Levato was huge,” Lodovico said. “This was the best game she played, just that energy, those rebounds.”
With 23 seconds left, McGrath, a sophomore, hit a 3-pointer to pull within 59-55, but it wouldn't matter.
McGrath led South Park with 19 points, and Torris added 15.
“I hate to say this, but I'm not too disappointed,” Wells said. “I understand where we came from earlier in the season to get to this point. ... In the state playoffs, I think we've got a good shot to make a good run at it.”
Shaffer finished with 14 points for Blackhawk.
Both teams move on to the PIAA playoffs, with the first round starting Saturday. South Park will play WPIAL sixth-place finisher Trinity (17-7). Blackhawk will face the third-place finisher from District 10.
Gary Horvath is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach him at email@example.com.