2014 WPIAL Girls Championships: Class AAAA final has unlikely pair

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When Penn-Trafford and Hempfield depart their respective schools en route to the WPIAL championship game Saturday, they might want to make sure their buses are equipped with GPS.

After all, neither one has ever been there before.

It will be a matchup of first-timers when the two schools square off in the Class AAAA championship at Duquesne University's Palumbo Center at 9 p.m.

Neither team was expected to make it to the final. A glance at the seedings says that much. Penn-Trafford (19-6) is the No. 7 seed. Hempfield (17-8) is No. 12. Not often does one team seeded that low make it to the WPIAL championship, but two is very rare.

Prior to this season, Penn-Trafford had never made it to the semifinals. Hempfield's last trip came in 2003.

"It means everything [to make the WPIAL final for the first time]," Penn-Trafford coach John Giannikas said. "I'm just happy for these kids. The community and the kids deserve it."

It hasn't been easy for either. The two combined to defeat the top five seeds in the tournament. Hempfield beat No. 5 Upper St. Clair, No. 4 Bethel Park and No. 1 North Allegheny. Penn-Trafford defeated No. 10 Plum, No. 2 Mt. Lebanon and No. 3 Fox Chapel.

This is also a showdown of Section 1 rivals, a big deal considering the section has not fared well in the WPIAL playoffs over the years. A Section 1 team had never made it to the title game.

"I think [Section 1] has shut a couple people up in the WPIAL, quite frankly," Hempfield coach Aaron Epps said. "We've gotten bad seeds and had to travel to other teams' backyards. I've always said I don't blame the WPIAL because we haven't done anything in the playoffs. It was up to us to prove that we belong. I think we've proven Section 1 can play a little basketball, too."

The teams played a pair of thrillers in the regular season, with Penn-Trafford winning by 1 and 4 points.

Two of the top guards in Class AAAA will be on display. Hempfield's Monica Burns averages 20 points per game. Penn-Trafford's Maria Palarino averages 18 per game.

Class AAA

Blackhawk gets a chance to extract some payback on defending champion South Park, which beat the Cougars in the 2012 WPIAL semifinals and 2013 PIAA semifinals.

The two will square off at 3 p.m. Saturday.

Blackhawk (22-2), the No. 1 seed, is making its seventh championship game appearance. The Cougars have won five titles, the last in 2011. They feature the WPIAL's No. 1 scoring offense (69.1 points per game) and are led by junior point guard Chassidy Omogrosso, a Duquesne recruit.

No. 3 South Park (21-4), which has won 15 games in a row, is in the title game for the third year in a row and fifth overall. The Eagles have won three titles. They boast an outstanding scoring tandem in forwards Halie Torris and Allison McGrath.

"They have two really good players. They're experienced. It's going to be a great game," Blackhawk coach Steve Lodovico said.

Class AA

No surprise here, as No. 1 Seton-LaSalle (21-4) will take on No. 2 Burrell (25-0) at 5 p.m. Friday. These have been the Post-Gazette's top two teams since the preseason.

Seton-LaSalle is playing in the championship game for the sixth consecutive year and seeking its third title in the past four. Burrell is in the final for the first time.

Burrell is the only undefeated girls team in the WPIAL. The Bucs have an excellent duo in Sydney Bordonaro and Natalie Myers. Bordonaro, a junior guard, is a Pepperdine recruit.

While Burrell has an outstanding defense that yields only 33.7 points per game, Seton-LaSalle will counter with a balanced, explosive offense that pours in 62.2 points per game. The Rebels have a trio of Pitt recruits -- Yacine Diop, Naje Gibson, both seniors, and Cassidy Walsh, a junior.

Class A

Vincentian (21-3) will try to become the first team to win three consecutive WPIAL titles since Oakland Catholic won four in a row from 1999-2002. In its path at 11 a.m. Saturday will be Serra Catholic, a team which the Royals defeated, 53-46, in last year's championship game.

Vincentian is making its ninth trip to the championship game. The Royals have won six titles. Serra is seeking its fifth title in 11 appearances.

Serra owns the No. 1 scoring offense (65.2) and defense (30.7) in Class A. Megan Sieg led the Eagles in scoring their last two games.

Vincentian is led by perhaps the best player in Class A -- junior forward Brenna Wise -- who had 18 points and 20 rebounds in last season's championship game.


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