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Trib Cup: Bishop Canevin girls adapt well to style change

| Thursday, Dec. 20, 2012, 10:10 p.m.
Bishop Canevin junior guard Johnie Olkosky fights for a basket against Steel Valley on Monday. Randy Jarosz | For the Tribune-Review

Coming off a WPIAL semifinalist campaign at the start of last season, the Bishop Canevin girls basketball team lost its first two games.

Since, the Crusaders are 23-2 in regular-season games.

Bishop Canevin is rolling, off to a 5-0 start and ranked No. 2 in WPIAL Class AA.

Continued strong performance by the Crusaders will only help the school's third-place position in the Trib Total Media/WPXI High School Sports Award Class AA standings.

“Last year after those first couple games, we kind of changed the way we were doing things and tried to get a better fit for our personnel,” coach Tim Joyce said. “We sort of changed our style of play, it worked out well, and it's carried over into this year.”

And why not? This season's Crusaders are largely the same as last season's group that advanced to the WPIAL championship game and PIAA second round. Four starters returned, including Duquesne University recruit Erin Waskowiak, a senior guard.

Waskowiak was 11th in the WPIAL in scoring at 20.4 points per game last season. She's at 15.6 per game this season, leading four Bishop Canevin players who are averaging double figures.

“Just her overall game has improved,” Joyce said. “She's gone from basically being just a scorer into a much more complete player as far as making other people better.

“Her scoring numbers are maybe down a little, but everyone else's has risen. I don't think teams can focus on her the way they used to. Plus, her inside game has really improved in the last year. Now she can take smaller players inside and post them up.”

That's important on a team that starts four guards. Only Carly Forse is a true post player among Bishop Canevin's starters. Like Waskowiak, Forse is a four-year starter. Through five games this season, Forse is averaging 12.2 points and 12 rebounds per game.

Senior guard Celina DiPietro and junior guard Johnie Olkosky also entered the season with starting experience, and each is averaging at least 10 points per game.

Gina Vallecorsa, a freshman, has stepped in as the fifth starter and taken over the bulk of the point guard duties.

Junior guards Caroline DeFrank and Alaina McGuire also see significant minutes off the bench.

All have embraced Bishop Canevin's new style, adopted just more than a calendar year ago.

“We used to be much more of an up-tempo team than we are now,” Joyce said. “We kind of play a little slower pace now and focus a lot more on our defensive aspects.

“It's just a better fit. You kind of have to adjust your style to your personnel, and this team is more suited for this type of play.”

It's shown through two weeks of the regular season. Whereas last season, Bishop Canevin opened up with losses to Class AAAA power Oakland Catholic and Class A power North Catholic, this season the Crusaders beat those two teams the first two games of the season.

About the only parochial school powerhouse left to beat is one that has been a thorn in Bishop Canevin's side: section rival Seton-La Salle. The Crusaders are 49-12 since the start of the 2010-11 season; the nearby Rebels have handed them six of those 12 losses. That includes knocking Bishop Canevin out of the WPIAL playoffs each of the past two seasons.

“It's always been a rivalry; I always compare it to North Carolina and Duke,” Joyce said. “These kids grew up playing against each other, and it's always been a game you measure yourself with.”

The teams' regular-season meetings are Jan. 14 and Feb. 7.

Chris Adamski is a freelance writer.

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