One would have thought after a long string of losses to its arch-rival, Bishop Canevin would unveil a bold, new strategy when it played two-time defending champion Seton-LaSalle for the WPIAL Class AA championship last Friday.
As it turns out, there was no dramatic change at all, just an altered element that is as blunt and simplistic as it comes in basketball.
"We made shots," said Bishop Canevin coach Tim Joyce.
And won a WPIAL championship.
Bishop Canevin (22-4) put a frustrating, eight-game losing streak to Seton-LaSalle (24-2) in its rearview mirror, as the Crusaders defeated the Rebels, 56-47, to earn their first WPIAL title.
The Crusaders shot 51 percent (20 of 39) from the field and made 50 percent (8 of 16) of its 3-point attempts. Seton-LaSalle had given up more points only twice this season.
Bishop Canevin junior Johnie Olkosky was the unlikely star, tying a WPIAL girls championship game record with seven 3-pointers and scoring a game-high 26 points.
Seniors Erin Waskowiak, Carly Forse and Celina DiPietro usually find their names at the top of the scoring leaders list, but Joyce said he wasn't surprised that a different player stepped up.
"That's the kind of team we've been," Joyce said. "You can just look at our scoring throughout the playoffs. Our first-round game, Erin Waskowiak led us with 31; second game, Celina DiPietro has 26; third game, Carly Forse has 23; and today, Johnie had 26. It's kind of been that way."
Bishop Canevin plays District 6 third-place finisher Westmont Hilltop (21-5) in a PIAA first- round game Friday at North Hills.
What's next for Seton?
Seton-LaSalle had goals of repeating as WPIAL and PIAA champions this season. After falling just short of reaching the first one, the Rebels will try to attain the second.
Seton-LaSalle will open up PIAA tournament play Friday with a first-round game against District 9 runner-up Kane (21-6) at North Allegheny.
"[The players are] upset because they're used to winning the WPIAL and the state," said Rebels coach John Ashaolu. "So they're upset, but they know that we're probably going to play [Bishop Canevin] again and they know our big goal is to be state champs. We still have that in mind."
Bethel Park wins first
Bishop Canevin wasn't the only South Xtra area girls team to win its first WPIAL championship last weekend.
Bethel Park did the same when it defeated Chartiers Valley for the third time this season, 48-34, in the Class AAAA championship game.
As has been the case in the playoffs and for most of the season, Bethel Park relied on its defense to grab the win. The Black Hawks limited Chartiers Valley to 26 percent (11 of 42) shooting, including 22 percent (4-18) from 3-point range. Chartiers Valley had only 16 points through three quarters. Mariah Wells led the Colts with 17 points in their semifinal win against Mt. Lebanon, but was held to 2-of-11 shooting and six points in the championship.
Bethel Park allowed only 31.7 points per game in the WPIAL playoffs. On the season, the Black Hawks surrender 36.8 points a game, which is second best in Class AAAA.
"I know our MO all season is we better play good defense because sometimes the ball just isn't going in," said Bethel Park coach Jonna Burke. "Offense wasn't our strength all season, but our defense was."
Bethel Park and Chartiers Valley begin the PIAA playoffs Friday. Bethel Park (23-3) plays Mt. Lebanon (22-3) at Baldwin, and Chartiers Valley (19-7) plays Allderdice (12-13) at Carrick.
Clairton, CV boys lose
Chartiers Valley led at halftime in its WPIAL championship game, while Clairton was tied at the half in its.
But neither team fared as well in the second half, forcing both to take home runner-up trophies.
Chartiers Valley let a nine-point lead at the intermission slip away in a 47-40 loss to Montour in Class AAA. Clairton was outscored by eight points in the third quarter in its 86-74 loss against Vincentian in Class A.
In PIAA first-round action Friday, Chartiers Valley (22-4) will square off against District 10 third-place team Erie Strong Vincent (14-11) at Baldwin, and Clairton (16-7) will take on District 10 runner-up Cochranton (15-9) at Plum.