The tired, old cliche is defense wins championships. In the case of the Mt. Lebanon girls, defense at least got the Blue Devils to the championship game.
Mt. Lebanon came up with a tremendous defensive effort last night and defeated West Lawn Wilson, 46-34, in a PIAA Class AAAA semifinal at Shippensburg University.
The win put Mt. Lebanon (28-3) into the title game Friday night at Penn State's Bryce Jordan Center against Central Dauphin, which defeated Allentown Allen, 60-37, in the other semifinal last night.
Mt. Lebanon will play in a PIAA title game for only the second time in school history. The other time was in 1978 when the Blue Devils lost to Allentown Central Catholic.
For Mt. Lebanon coach Dori Oldaker, it will be her third championship game. She won two PIAA titles as Blackhawk's coach.
Last night, Mt. Lebanon held Wilson (29-4) to 20 points in the first three quarters. The total of 34 points Wilson scored was the lowest in a Class AAAA semifinal since Downingtown beat Cheltenham, 44-33, in 1997.
"We've been playing this way all year," said Oldaker, whose team has allowed an average of only 35.3 points in three PIAA games.
"We apply ourselves to play strong team defense. This is the way I coach. Defense is a priority."
Mt. Lebanon's offense was led by Emily Miller and Jackie Babe, who scored 18 and 14 points. They combined for 22 points in the second half when Mt. Lebanon outscored Wilson, 30-19.
Mt. Lebanon's offense struggled in the early going as Wilson led, 6-4, after the first quarter. Mt. Lebanon came back to grab a 16-15 halftime lead.
Mt. Lebanon's offense came alive in the second half. Babe scored five points in a 7-0 run and the Blue Devils jumped ahead, 29-20.
Wilson sliced the deficit to 36-30 with 2:46 remaining, but Miller scored off a rebound and Babe made two free throws to put Mt. Lebanon ahead, 40-30, with 2:24 left. Mt. Lebanon was 9 of 11 from the free-throw line in the fourth quarter.
Amanda Sawlsville led Wilson with nine points.
"I'm so proud of the girls," Oldaker said. "When we lost to Peters Township [in the WPIAL playoffs], we could've packed our bags and turned in the uniforms, but we kept looking at the bigger picture."