With little more than a week remaining in the 2012-13 WPIAL girls basketball regular season, there is one team in Class AAA that has distinguished itself and made a definitive case as for why it, more than any of the other 34 teams in the class, is the best -- Blackhawk.
With coach Steve Lodovico at the helm, the Cougars have risen to the top of the Post-Gazette's Class AAA rankings, doing so in rugged Class AAA Section 2, perhaps the toughest and most competitive section in the WPIAL. Trailing closely behind Blackhawk are Hopewell and Central Valley, both of which the Cougars have defeated this season. In fact, they have managed to twice defeat Shatori Walker-Kimbrough and Hopewell, which lost just two regular-season games last season.
A RISING STAR
Almost any discussion of Blackhawk and its success this season begins with guard Chassidy Omogrosso. Only a sophomore, she is the Cougars' leading scorer and is among the top 10 scorers in the WPIAL. Omogrosso recently made news when she committed to play college basketball at Pitt last week, noting that "it was the perfect fit for me." Lodovico echoed those sentiments. "She's always liked it, it's always been a place that she wanted to go," he said. "The lure of playing in the ACC is a big thing for any kid. She felt comfortable with the staff and program and also with the academics." Lodovico said that his star guard hopes to get into dentistry.
PICK YOUR POISON
While Omogrosso leads the team in scoring and is the team's top offensive threat, Blackhawk has one of the most balanced scoring attacks in the WPIAL. All five of the team's primary starters -- Omogrosso, guards Halle Denman and Bridgette Shaffer, and forwards Courtney Vannoy and Alexis Graham -- average double figures in scoring. It's something that gives Blackhawk a decided schematic advantage. "It's harder for a team to take one player or two players away," Lodovico said. "All five of our girls can hit the game-winning shot and lead us in scoring. It's a great luxury to have."
WISE BEYOND THEIR YEARS
A cursory look at the Blackhawk roster might prompt some to wonder why the team has experienced the kind of success that it has. Of the Cougars' 12 players, seven are freshmen or sophomores, with only two seniors on the roster. What the players may lack in age, however, they more than make up for in experience. "People look at us and think we're young, but all of these girls started last year," Lodovico said. "The biggest hurdle for us is depth. Basically everyone coming off the bench for us is a freshman."
LEARNING FROM THE BEST
Lodovico, in his eighth season as the head coach, has deep roots at Blackhawk, having played there for the legendary John Miller, one of the most successful basketball coaches in WPIAL history. Even as a player, Lodovico was able to learn a lot from Miller about coaching, including things that he uses with his team today. "His philosophy was to make his team the hardest-working team," he said. "We try to take pride in that. I don't know if anyone can work as hard as he did in his career, but we try to match it as best as we can." Miller is the father of former Pitt standout and current Arizona coach Sean Miller.
First Published February 1, 2013 5:00 AM