In the eyes of Ron Moncrief, coach of the Vincentian Academy girls basketball team, the Vincentian/North Catholic rivalry did not really get started until the Royals upset the Trojanettes in the 2010 WPIAL championship game.
Up until that point North Catholic was 11-0 against Vincentian since moving from Class AAA to Class A after the 2005-06 season.
The memorable matchups between the two schools ever since that 2010 WPIAL final have only made the rivalry that much more intense and arguably the top girls basketball rivalry in the WPIAL.
Vincentian Academy 50, North Catholic 33
Vincentian Academy takes on North Catholic in Thursday night action. (Video by Matt Freed; 2/7/2013)
The rivalry resumes tonight when Vincentian (20-0, 11-0) plays host to North Catholic (13-7, 10-1) in a Class A showdown. The game will be played at 7:30 p.m. at Marshall Middle School. Vincentian's gym seats only about 200 fans, so more people will be able to see this game.
The teams have been paired in the same section since the 2007-08 season. North Catholic has won three outright section titles since then, Vincentian one. Last season the teams shared the section title, both finishing 11-1. The programs have accounted for the past four WPIAL Class A titles with North Catholic winning in 2009 and '11 and Vincentian winning in '10 and '12.
The teams have basically dominated everyone in WPIAL Class A except each other.
Seventh-year coach Moncrief remembers how tough it has been going up against North Catholic and coach Molly Rottmann since her team moved down to Class A.
North Catholic won the first 11 meetings, including matchups in the WPIAL quarterfinals, semifinals and PIAA quarterfinals.
North Catholic won the two regular-season meetings against Vincentian during the 2009-10 season but fell to the Royals, 57-31, in the WPIAL Class A final. The rivalry has blossomed ever since that meeting at the Palumbo Center.
Vincentian swept the season series two years ago, winning both games by only a combined seven points.
Last season the teams split in the regular season and playoffs. The regular-season meetings were determined by a combined eight points. Vincentian beat North Catholic, 54-50, in the WPIAL championship game, but the Trojanettes knocked off the Royals, 71-58, in the PIAA semifinals.
Their game this season only added more fuel to the fire. North Catholic's Lauren Wolosik hit a go-ahead shot with fewer than 10 seconds left to give North Catholic a one-point lead but Vincentian's Brenna Wise went coast-to-coast and scored on a layup at the buzzer to give Vincentian a 65-64 win.
"It was really a phenomenal game," Rottmann said. "It was a great high school basketball game, great atmosphere."
As memorable and intense as the North Catholic/Vincentian rivalry has been, it has never featured two elite scorers such as Wolosik and Wise. Wolosik is averaging 27.6 points per game to rank fourth in the WPIAL just ahead of Wise, who is averaging 23.2 points per game, fifth best in the WPIAL.
In the first meeting between the teams, Wise scored 21, Wolosik finished with 32. Last week Wolosik scored a school-record 44 points against Eden Christian. She also had 13 steals and 10 rebounds.
"I think very highly of [Wolosik]," Vincentian coach Moncrief said. "She is a very good player and the thing about her is that she makes her teammates better as well. Since this rivalry started, this is the perfect-case scenario, two top players going head to head."
Both teams and coaches are well aware that tonight's meeting likely won't be the last time the teams see each other this season.
"Last couple of years we see each other a minimum of three times if not four," Rottmann said. "This rivalry is more of a marathon than a sprint."