South Park is one of three WPIAL girls basketball teams headed to Hershey this week to play for a PIAA championship, and one of two WPIAL first-timers.
Yet the Eagles should have no problem finding a gym to practice in.
Their head coach Reggie Wells is going home.
A 1975 Milton Hershey High School graduate and 2012 Milton Hershey Spartan Hall of Fame inductee, he has guided his team to its first PIAA championship game and it will be played in the town he went to high school.
WPIAL Class AAA champion South Park (27-2) will play District 11 champion Bethlehem Catholic (28-2) at 6 p.m. Saturday at the Giant Center in Hershey.
"I went back last year to be inducted into the hall of fame," Wells said. "They keep trying to get me to come back, they could have just asked me, this was the hard way."
It certainly was not easy for the Eagles.
They had to go through Hopewell in the WPIAL and PIAA playoffs and Tuesday night against a 27-1 Blackhawk team, South Park found itself down 14 midway through the third quarter.
"They kept their poise and stayed the course," Wells said. "We never started wavering. We started taking what was there and our defense tightened up and they believed. At no time did they panic."
South Park fought back behind a 16-0 run fueled by senior guard Shelby Lindsay and junior forward Halie Torris, who combined to score 39 points and led the Eagles to a 63-59 win against Blackhawk.
As coach of the South Park boys team, Wells guided teams to the 1998 and 1999 PIAA semifinals but both times the Eagles were denied a trip to the state championship game.
"I am happier for the kids, they put in a lot of work," Wells said. "They put in long hours with me, just to see their faces, I am happier for them to make this trip."
Bethlehem Catholic has 6-foot sophomore forward Kalista Walters, who is averaging 19 points per game and is already only 20 points shy of 1,000 for her career. This is Bethlehem Catholic's second PIAA championship game. In 1999 Bethlehem Catholic lost to North Catholic in the PIAA Class AAA final.
PIAA Class AA
Bishop Canevin is the second WPIAL team making its PIAA championship debut this week. The WPIAL champion Crusaders knocked off defending PIAA champion Seton-LaSalle for the second time in 19 days to advance to the PIAA Class AA final at noon Friday at the Giant Center in Hershey. The Crusaders (26-4) will face District 3 champion York Catholic (29-2).
While Bishop Canevin has never been to a PIAA final, York Catholic has only missed one since 2006. The Fighting Irish will be playing in their seventh PIAA final in the past eight seasons although they have not won a PIAA title since 2008, losing in their past three appearances. Last year it lost to Seton-LaSalle in the PIAA final, 71-47.
Bishop Canevin was swept by Seton-LaSalle in the regular season, losing by as much as 31 in one contest. But the Crusaders pulled an upset in the WPIAL final with a 56-47 win and Tuesday night showed that what happened at Palumbo Center was no fluke.
Behind 17 points from senior Carly Forse and 10 points each from freshman Gina Vallecorsa and senior Celina DiPietro, Bishop Canevin knocked the Rebels off, 41-36.
"These kids have earned it," Bishop Canevin coach Tim Joyce said. "They are just a great group of kids, I cannot say enough about them."
PIAA Class A
The Vincentian girls basketball team is striving to be the best in the state in Class A and to reach Hershey this Saturday it had to beat one of the best.
Tuesday night the Royals knocked off District 6 champion Bishop Guilfoyle, 45-40, to advance to their first PIAA championship game since 2002. Bishop Guilfoyle had played in four of the past six PIAA championships, winning three of them. And it had won six of its past seven PIAA playoff games against WPIAL opponents including in 2010 against Vincentian in the PIAA semifinals.
Now Vincentian (29-1) prepares for the PIAA Class A final at noon Saturday against District 11 champion Tri-Valley (27-3) at the Giant Center in Hershey.
"That's how you want to get here," Vincentian coach Ron Moncrief said. "To be the best, you have to beat the best."
Bishop Guilfoyle started five seniors against the Royals. Vincentian is led by sophomore guard/forward Brenna Wise who is averaging 22 points per game. Vincentian watched a 12-point fourth-quarter lead dissipate against Bishop Guilfoyle but it closed the game on a 6-0 run to win, 45-40. Wise finished with 16 points and 14 rebounds in the PIAA semifinal game, it was her second consecutive double-double. Senior guard Abbey Bartoszewicz also had a double-double, finishing with 14 points and 10 rebounds.
Things will not get easier for Vincentian. Tri-Valley blasted Southern Fulton, 82-45, in the PIAA semifinals. Tri-Valley has reached at least the PIAA quarterfinals the previous three years. This season Tri-Valley defeated defending PIAA Class A champion Steelton-Highspire in the PIAA quarterfinals. Tri-Valley is led by 6-5 senior center Tara Nahodil, a Seton Hall University recruit.
Naholdil, who averages 18 points per game, had 25 points, 17 rebounds and 6 blocked shots against Steelton-Highspire. Juli Weber, a 5-7 senior guard, has a 14.5 scoring average.
First Published March 22, 2013 4:00 AM