Chartiers-Houston girls capture 1st WPIAL championship
Top-seeded Chartiers-Houston walked into Pitt's Petersen Events Center still looking for the respect that a No. 1 seed deserves and left with gold medals.
Ignited by a fast start and physical defensive play, Chartiers-Houston knocked off a five-time defending WPIAL Class A girls champion in No. 2 Vincentian Academy, 47-35, in the WPIAL Class 2A championship game Thursday evening.
“Vincentian, everybody likes to talk about their history and their tradition, but I'd like to think that we're starting one here,” Chartiers-Houston coach Laura Montecalvo said. “(Vincentian Academy) really (does) have a lot more experience in playing in championship games, and we just kind of wanted to take advantage of what we do well which is run on them and make them play at a fast pace right from the beginning.”
The WPIAL championship is the first for Chartiers-Houston (23-2), which will move on to face the District 9 third-place team in the PIAA tournament. Vincentian (20-5) will square off against the District 10 third-place team. Both teams will begin PIAA play March 10 at a time and site to be determined.
“I felt like we really focused on having a quick start and wanted to get them back on their heels,” Montecalvo said.
Chartiers-Houston junior Jules Vulcano opened the game with a 3-pointer. In a game Chartiers-Houston never trailed, the Bucs sailed out to 7-0 run before Royals coach Ron Moncrief called a timeout to settle his players.
“Give them credit, they came out to a fast start and it seemed like it was an uphill battle for us,” Moncrief said. “I really don't have an answer for why we came out slow.”
If coming out slow wasn't bad enough, things got worse for the Royals as leading scorer Caroline Elliott, who averages 15.1 points, took a hard fall onto the hardwood making a play for a loose ball along the Royals baseline. She came up dripping blood from a cut on her chin.
“I was very upset about not being able to go in,” Elliott said. “I was really looking forward to playing, and sitting out for that long kind of affected me. I tried to come back in to the best of my ability.”
Elliott returned midway through the second quarter but managed only three points.
Chartiers-Houston went right to work and continued to pound away inside with junior Alexa Williamson. Williamson scored eight first-quarter points, and the 6-foot-1 forward was a force in the paint. The Royals had no answer for Williamson's presence.
“The Williamson kid is one of the best post players we've played all year,” Moncrief said. “We knew coming in they were a very physical and defensive team. Unfortunately, we didn't have a lot of second-chance shots today. We played some tall teams before but probably not that physical.”
Willamson finished with a game-high 22 points, and teammate Keaira Walker added 11 for the Bucs.
Trailing 25-17 to start the second half, the Royals were able to bring the score to 29-22 in large part because of fouls by the Bucs on the defensive end. But the Royals couldn't compete with the Bucs length and strength inside. After a quiet third quarter, Williamson took over in the fourth to put the game away by scoring eight of Chartiers-Houston's 12 points.
Junior guard Marina Eyster nailed a 3-pointer and Elliott added a tough basket down low to draw the Royals to within nine points at 41-32 with just under two minutes remaining. Williamson added another basket and Walker added a coast-to-coast layup to extend the Bucs' lead in the final minute.
“I'm just really proud of the kids,” Montecalvo said. “I always tell the kids to enjoy the win for 24 hours, and for this one it's no different. I think the PIAA is the start of a new season and still part of the mountain to climb.”
William Whalen is a freelance writer.