West Xtra: Bishop Canevin completes magical run to a state title


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There's a first time for everything.

Bishop Canevin had been playing girls basketball for more than three decades and had boasted some excellent teams during that time.

But last Friday, the program experienced a first.

The Crusaders became PIAA basketball champions.

Bishop Canevin earned the PIAA Class AA championship with a come-from-behind 45-38 win against York Catholic at Giant Center in Hershey.

"It means a lot," Bishop Canevin coach Tim Joyce said. "It's the first basketball state title in the PIAA, boys or girls, we have ever won."

Bishop Canevin (27-4) had two weeks earlier picked up its first WPIAL title by defeating two-time defending champion and arch-rival Seton-LaSalle. The Crusaders knocked off the Rebels -- the defending PIAA champions -- again in the state semifinals.

What distinguished Bishop Canevin from most of the others in Class AA was its balance and the knack for different players rising to the occasion in different games. Against York Catholic, seniors Carly Forse and Celina DiPietro led the Crusaders with 18 points each. Those two, along with senior Erin Waskowiak and junior Johnie Olkosky, were consistent contributors in the scoring column all season long.

"That's what their efforts have been," Joyce said. "Through the playoffs, I don't think we had the same leading scorer two games in a row. Whether it's [Forse and DiPietro], or Erin or Johnie Olkosky, everybody has kind of stepped up and had their moment."

Freshman guard Gina Vallecorsa, the team's fifth starter, didn't have a significant scoring role, but helped out with her passing and defense. Junior guard Alaina McGuire was the first player off the bench, and Joyce singled her out as providing a defensive spark in the PIAA final.

York Catholic coach Kevin Bankos said he knew coming into the game that the Crusaders would have no liabilities on the floor.

"The difference in this team and most teams you typically face is there's no letdown. There's no weak kid on the floor," Bankos said.

There was certainly no letdown against York Catholic. The game was close throughout, but York Catholic took its biggest lead, 29-23, with 2:32 left in the third quarter, and ended the quarter ahead, 33-28.

At that point, Waskowiak said her and a few teammates looked at one another and said it was time to pick up their play and intensity ... and win the game.

"We weren't playing like we were capable of," Waskowiak said. "When it came to the fourth quarter, we all of a sudden just woke up and started playing."

Bishop Canevin played the fourth quarter with an energy you often see championship teams exhibit. The Crusaders began the quarter with an offensive flurry, scoring the first 13 points to take a 41-33 lead.

DiPietro had seven of those points. Bishop Canevin outscored York Catholic, 17-5, in the final quarter. York Catholic made only two free throws and a 3-pointer with five seconds left.

"Our defense really stepped it up and then we put the ball in the basket when we needed to," Forse said.

The Crusaders held all five of their PIAA playoff opponents to fewer than 40 points and gave up just 33.1 points per game this season. Only four teams in the WPIAL had a lower average.

Standing outside his team's locker room after the game, Joyce said he was most happy for his Waskowiak, Forse and DiPietro.

"I'm happy for the kids. I'm just here. I was especially happy for those three seniors," said Joyce who won his 200th career game earlier this season.

Waskowiak's altered role played a significant factor in the Crusaders playing so well the final two months of the season. Waskowiak, a four-year starter and Duquesne University recruit, had previously been a top-notch scorer as a shooting guard and averaged 20.4 points per game as a junior.

But Waskowiak played a lot of point guard this season. Her scoring average went down, but her ability to create more offensively might have made this team better.

The Crusaders played championship basketball this season, and Joyce shared a couple of reasons why.

"There was just a different attitude and just a quiet confidence," he said.



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