When coach Phyllis Jones packed up the gear after her Westinghouse High School Bulldogs fell to Chartiers Valley, 64-31, in the first round of the PIAA Class AAA girls basketball playoffs a year ago, she had just three seniors on her 11-player squad that had just completed a 19-6 season, including a 12-2 regular season and a runner-up finish in the City League playoffs.
Players scheduled to return included starters Kayla Key and Melaija Henderson, both guards who had just completed their sophomore seasons as Bulldogs.
Whatever plans Jones had formed about her team had to be altered when Key transferred to WPIAL Class A power Vincentian Academy and Henderson enrolled at Propel Andrew Street School in Munhall.
So the wide smile the coach wore was understandable as her Bulldogs forced 49 turnovers and built a lead of as much as 20 points before capturing their first City League championship in four years with a 54-42 victory against Allderdice last Saturday afternoon at Obama Academy. It was the 26th year in a row a Westinghouse girls team had appeared in a City League championship game.
"That's why this means so much," Jones said. "These girls worked very hard to get where we belong after we lost [Key and Henderson]. Both of them were starters."
Saturday's victory was made all the sweeter as it came on the heels of the Westinghouse boys team's 61-52 victory against Perry in the City League championship game.
The Westinghouse girls could not dwell long on their victory. The Bulldogs moved right into the PIAA Class AAA playoffs with a play-in game Wednesday night against Johnstown at Central Cambria High.
"I was a little concerned [about the quick entry into the PIAA playoffs]," Jones said. "But it is basketball season, and you got to do what you got to do."
Against Allderdice, both Jasmine Myers and Brittany Jackson, a pair of 5-foot-7 juniors, had double doubles for the Bulldogs. Myers, a guard, led all scorers with 23 points and secured 10 rebounds. Jackson, a forward, had 18 points and a game-high 12 rebounds.
Even more crucial than their 41 points was the team's defensive scrappiness that forced 13 Allderdice turnovers and helped the Bulldogs outscore the Dragons, 11-2, over the last 5:29 of the first quarter to take a 15-6 lead.
"That was our key," Myers said of Westinghouse's offensive burst and the withering defense that eventually forced 49 Allderdice turnovers.
"We wanted to come out, get it going and win the game," she said. "I didn't expect [the 12-point victory], but I'm happy that we did it."
In the regular season, Westinghouse won both games by scores of 62-59 and 58-53.
Myers said a big factor was boxing out Allderdice's two-pronged scoring tandem of Sierra Fordham and Sydnee Abernathy, who both averaged more than 20 points a game this season. Both players reached double figures on Saturday as Fordham led the Dragons with 16 points, while Abernathy added 13. But it was quite a bit shy from the usual games the two had enjoyed all year.
"We boxed them out [from getting rebounds], and we got into the paint, took it to them and took a couple of shots," Myers said of the Bulldogs' inside game. "We did it."
Although Jones lost both starting guards from the 2012 season, Westinghouse picked up starting guard Lashae Stinson, starting forward Tiffany Stine and reserve forward Jasmine Pennybaker from Peabody High when that school closed two years ago. The former Peabody building now houses Obama Academy.
Stinson was one of three players in double figures for the Bulldogs. She scored 11 points and had two rebounds. Stine pulled down three second-half rebounds. Pennybaker played some quality minutes off the bench.
"We're very appreciative [that the three players came to Westinghouse]," Jones said.
Allderdice awaits next opponent
About the only consolation Allderdice coach Dave Walchesky could glean from Saturday's 54-42 loss to Westinghouse is that his Dragons still have at least one more game to play.
That's because the Dragons (12-13) will meet the WPIAL Class AAAA girls runner-up on March 8, at a time and site to be determined. The WPIAL Class AAAA girls championship game will be played Saturday at the A.J. Palumbo Center.
The memory of the loss was still fresh in Walchesky's mind as he thought about the Bulldogs' press that forced 49 turnovers and pushed the Dragons into a deep hole they couldn't escape.
"I'd like to say their defense was a big part of it," the coach said. "But we were a big part [of our problems]. We didn't react well to light pressure, and that wasn't something I thought we would do, That was uncharacteristic of us."
First Published February 28, 2013 5:00 AM