PIAA Class AAAA Girls' Basketball Championship: Mt. Lebanon earns three-peat, beats Archbishop Carroll, 47-46
Mt. Lebanon's Madison Cable jumps onto teammate Kelly Johnson and Liz Tommasi after defeating Archbishop Carroll in the PIAA Class AAAA girls basketball championship at the Bryce Jordan Center in University Park, Pa. Friday.
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UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. -- Third time is just as charming.
The Mt. Lebanon girls basketball team won its third consecutive PIAA Class AAAA championships with a 47-46 victory Friday night against Archbishop Carroll at Bryce Jordan Center, becoming the seventh girls team to win three titles in a row.
"They get better as they go," Mt. Lebanon senior Madison Cable said. "I love every single one of them, don't get me wrong, but this one's just different."
That is because it was a bit more difficult.
The Blue Devils graduated nine seniors from their roster a year ago and lost more games this season than the past two combined.
Mt. Lebanon coach Dori Oldaker preached to her team all season that the Blue Devils could not be content with past successes. She wouldn't let players wear PIAA or WPIAL championship apparel at practice this season.
"I said 'This is a new season. We haven't won anything yet this season,' " Oldaker said. "So if they wore a state title shirt or a WPIAL shirt, they had to turn it inside out."
Mt. Lebanon did not win the WPIAL championship this year -- as it had done the two previous seasons -- and did not coast through the PIAA championship game, either.
While the Blue Devils won their past two PIAA championships by healthy margins -- 9 and 27 points -- they struggled Friday to put away the Patriots.
Mt. Lebanon never led by more than nine points, and Carroll had a chance to win the game at the buzzer after Blue Devils senior guard Anna Kestler missed two free throws with 26.7 seconds remaining and Mt. Lebanon clinging to a one-point lead.
"Kestler normally hits those free throws," Oldaker said.
Carroll guard Jen Carney's layup attempt sailed over the basket with three seconds remaining, Mt. Lebanon junior guard Kelly Johnson grabbed the rebound, and the Blue Devils bench stormed onto the court.
"We designed it in the huddle, and it worked exactly the way we thought it would," Carroll coach Chuck Creighton said of his team's final offensive possession.
"We got a good look, but ... it's unfortunate."
The PIAA title is Oldaker's fifth. She won two as a coach at Blackhawk.
Johnson led the Blue Devils with 13 points and four steals while Cable, Mt. Lebanon's star, battled foul trouble and a subpar shooting game. Johnson's solid performance is one Oldaker has always expected from this tough and passionate guard.
"I get yelled at by far the most in practice," Johnson said. "Every second it's 'Johnson this, Johnson that,' screaming. I definitely get it the most, but it's because she expects a lot out of me. I appreciate that and I respect the fact that she yells at me a lot."
Oldaker said she demands a lot out of Johnson because she has so much potential. She anticipates Johnson one day playing college basketball.
"When I yell at her, I'm loving her at the same minute, too," Oldaker said. "It's tough love."
Said Johnson, with a PIAA gold medal around her neck: "It's so worth it. It's always been worth it."
Cable, a Notre Dame recruit, scored nine points and was 2 of 9 from the field in her final high school game.
"I missed a lot of shots, nothing was falling, I was getting called for charges. But it didn't matter," she said. "We won. I could care less."
Oldaker said that team-first mentality is typical of her star player.
"That's how she is," Oldaker said. "She's all about our team."
Mt. Lebanon played the entire second quarter without a senior on the court. Cable and Kestler each picked up two fouls in the first quarter and sat on the bench until halftime. And after Johnson picked up her second foul with 3:45 remaining in the first half, the Blue Devils had two freshmen and one sophomore on the court.
"We have faith in everyone that goes out there," Cable said. "We play them in practice for situations like that -- like 'Oh, if they're in foul trouble.' We're like 'No, that won't happen.' But it did. They stepped up and did their jobs."
The underclassmen lineup turned an 11-11 tie after the first quarter into a 26-22 halftime advantage for the Blue Devils.
Mt. Lebanon did not trail Carroll, in Radnor, near Philadelphia, after the 3:19 mark of the second quarter.
Before Mt. Lebanon became the seventh girls team to win three consecutive PIAA championships, Villa Maria Academy became the sixth.
Villa Maria, of Erie, used a strong defensive effort to win its third consecutive PIAA title, beating Dunmore, 62-39.
Villa Maria junior guard Abbey Steudler scored 17 points to lead all scorers.
First Published March 26, 2011 12:00 am