If the Bishop Canevin High School girls basketball team were in a different classification -- or even a different section -- than Seton-LaSalle, perhaps it would be the Crusaders riding a wave of section and possibly WPIAL titles.
But Bishop Canevin is in the same section as one of Pennsylvania's premier girls basketball programs.
Bishop Canevin coach Tim Joyce does not even begin to wonder about the "what ifs" and he and his team enjoy the challenge the Rebels present them as well as the rest of the teams in WPIAL Class AA.
Bishop Canevin has finished second in Class AA Section 5 the past three seasons behind Seton-LaSalle. It reached the WPIAL semifinals in 2011 and the WPIAL championship game last season.
Both times its WPIAL playoff run ended at the hands of the Rebels.
Bishop Canevin has lost seven in a row to Seton-LaSalle, dating back to its last win against the Rebels on Feb. 15, 2010 when the current seniors were freshmen.
"No we don't worry about that," Joyce said of playing in a section with Seton-LaSalle. "I am old enough to go back to the old Catholic League when these two schools played. I compare it to Duke and North Carolina as far as a rivalry. They have a pretty good winning streak going against us. We want to try to break it."
The Crusaders will have a chance to do so tonight at Seton-LaSalle in the regular-season finale.
Bishop Canevin is 17-3 overall and 10-1 in Section 4. It has one of the most impressive regular-season resumes of anyone in the WPIAL. It opened the season by winning the Oakland Catholic tournament title, defeating two perennial powers, the host team and North Catholic.
In out-of-section play it also defeated South Fayette, Franklin of District 10 and Damascus High School from Maryland. Even in a few losses, the Crusaders had nothing to be ashamed of, losing to Class AAAA Gateway, 51-50, on the road and losing, 42-35, to District 10 power Villa Maria Academy on the road.
"We play as difficult a schedule as anyone," Joyce said. "We went up to Franklin, one of the top Triple-A teams in the state and won. Villa Maria is a power and we very easily could have won that game if we didn't shoot 10 of 22 from the foul line.
Although Canevin might have a better record without having to play Seton-LaSalle two to three times a season, it might not be as good of a team. Playing a team such as the Rebels consistently could make any team better.
"When it comes time for seeding, people realize that we didn't win a section [title], but we are still a good team," Joyce said.
The Crusaders have the talent to make another run back to the A.J. Palumbo Center to play for a WPIAL championship. They have four returning starters from last season, including senior guard Erin Waskowiak, a Duquesne University recruit. A four-year starter, Waskowiak leads the team in scoring, averaging around 15 points per game.
"Erin's scoring is down this season but I think her overall game has improved," Joyce said. "She has gotten better defensively. Offensively, she is mostly a slasher, she gets to the basket."
Another four-year starter is senior forward Carly Force. Senior guard Celina DiPietro and junior guard Johnie Olkosky also start. Freshman Gina Vallecorsa is the team's starting point guard.
"We knew about [Vallecorsa]," Joyce said. "This isn't a surprise at all."
The Crusaders have multiple scoring options. In a recent victory against Chartiers-Houston, Waskowiak led the team with 17 points, Forse had 15 and Vallecorsa added 11. Against Damascus, DiPietro led all scorers with 21, Waskowiak added 16 and Forse had 15.
"Carly [Forse] has improved offensively," Joyce said. "She has worked a lot on her inside game and she is just a strong kid."
Waskowiak, Forse and DiPietro are team captains. Junior Caroline DeFrank is the first guard off the bench and junior Alaina McGuire is the first forward off the bench.
Canevin's defense is holding teams to an average of 30.7 points per game, best in the section and fourth best in Class AA.
That defense will go a long way in determining if Bishop Canevin can snap its losing streak to Seton-LaSalle and make a run at another WPIAL championship game.
First Published February 7, 2013 5:00 AM