Blackhawk girls hang on to defeat Hickory

| Saturday, March 15, 2014, 9:51 p.m.

Undefeated Hickory was looking to upset a WPIAL powerhouse for the second time in 48 hours in Saturday afternoon's PIAA Class AAA quarterfinal.

Instead, WPIAL champion Blackhawk held on to defeat the Hornets, 48-45, at Butler.

After defeating defending PIAA champion South Park on Thursday night with a buzzer-beater, a missed 3-point attempt just before time expired Saturday ended the season for the Hornets (27-1).

Blackhawk (26-2 ) advances to the semifinals Tuesday against Palmyra at a time and site to be determined. Palmyra eliminated Elizabeth Forward on Saturday.

“These were two great teams going right down to the wire,” Cougars coach Steve Lodovico said. “We saw Hickory on tape, and we knew they were legit.”

The Hickory loss also means that all District 10 boys and girls teams are eliminated before the semifinals for the first time since 1983.

A subplot to the game was the collision between two future Division I guards: Blackhawk junior Chassidy Omogrosso, who has verbally committed to Duquesne, and Youngstown State recruit Nikki Arbanas.

Omogrosso had 22 points, including 13 of 13 at the free-throw line. Arbanas had 17 and was 8 of 8 from the line.

The Cougars, who had won every WPIAL and PIAA playoff game thus far by at least 12 points, never led Hickory by more than four.

A pair of free throws by Hornets junior Megan Chess with 20.2 seconds left sliced the Blackhawk lead to 46-45. Arbanas then committed her fifth personal when she fouled Omogrosso.

Omogrosso made both free throws with 15.5 seconds to go, and Hickory called timeout with 7.6 seconds left.

Without Arbanas, who hit the late 3-pointer that beat South Park, junior Brandi Beader, who hit a key 3 to open the second half, got the shot. Her attempt was off the mark, and Omogrosso rebounded as time ran out.

“Brandi had the look that we were looking for. It was by design,” said Hornets coach Jeannette Whitehead. “Unfortunately, the ball didn't fall.”

In a key momentum-shifter, Hickory led 13-6 with five seconds left in the first quarter.

Omogrosso was set to take a shot from halfcourt, but she was fouled by Jasmine Shepherd. The officials ruled Omogrosso was in the act of shooting.

Omogrosso hit all three foul shots. Blackhawk had the first two baskets of the second quarter, tying the score at 13-13.

“I think free-throw shooting is all mental,” Omogrosso said. “I practice with my dad every night. Free throws win games, and I know I have to make them.”

Courtney Vannoy contributed 10 points and 11 rebounds for Blackhawk.

George Guido is a freelance writer.

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