Oakland Catholic girls secure berth in title game
Oakland Catholic guard Erica Prosser could sense her team's chance of playing in another WPIAL title game was slipping away.
After trailing for almost the entire game, Bethel Park got into an offensive groove late in the third quarter and mounted a four-point lead early in the fourth.
At the same time, Oakland Catholic went into a funk, going more than six minutes without a field goal.
Most of Oakland Catholic's players looked frustrated and on the verge of panic.
Prosser knew she had to score, and she had to do it quickly.
That's exactly what she did.
Prosser tallied nine of her game-high 21 points and grabbed three steals in the final quarter, carrying Oakland Catholic to a 46-40 win in a WPIAL Class AAAA semifinal Wednesday at Chartiers Valley High School.
"I just tried to motivate the team," Prosser said. "A lot of our players haven't played in a playoff game like this; they haven't dealt with the pressure.
"I'm a senior captain. I guess it's my job (to make big plays)."
Oakland Catholic (21-6) will face New Castle (26-1) in the championship game Saturday at Palumbo Center. It will mark the ninth consecutive year that the Eagles have played in the WPIAL title game.
"We're ecstatic," Oakland Catholic coach Rich Irr said of making it back to the championship game. "It's something to be proud of, but each team had its own individual identity."
Irr was definitely proud of Prosser.
Early on, Prosser, a Lehigh recruit, almost single-handedly knocked Bethel Park (23-4) out of the game. She hit two deep 3-pointers in the first quarter and scored 10 of Oakland Catholic's first 12 points.
The Eagles eventually led by as many as 11 points in the first half and carried a 19-13 advantage into the break.
But the third quarter was all Bethel Park.
The Black Hawks outscored Oakland Catholic, 15-7, and made 7 of 10 shots from the floor in the third quarter. They also finished the period on an 11-0 run.
Bethel Park led, 30-26, with slightly more than seven minutes remaining. But Prosser took over from there.
With 6:52 left, Prosser swished a 3-pointer, ending the Eagles' long scoring drought. And she followed that up by driving the left side of the lane through three defenders, making a layup and drawing a foul. The subsequent free throw tied the game.
"We didn't panic," Irr said. "They made some plays, and we had to answer. Erica's 3 was huge for us."
With five minutes left, Prosser made another free throw, sparking a 10-1 Oakland Catholic run that basically put the game away.
Bethel Park's offense, which was running so smoothly in the third quarter, struggled against Oakland Catholic's trapping zone defense in the fourth quarter. The Black Hawks turned the ball over eight times in the final period. They only had six in the first three quarters.
"They had been playing a lot of man, and when they switched to zone, I think that confused us a little bit," Bethel Park coach Jonna Burke said. "We made a lot of mistakes down the stretch."
Bethel Park received several strong performances, however, especially from senior Samantha Loadman and junior Bridget Bielich, who finished with 14 and 10 points, respectively.
Senior Amanda Sedlack, an Akron recruit, added 10 points for Oakland Catholic.