WPIAL Girls Playoffs: A Tale of Two Chassidys
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Not long ago, two girls who needed to use nearly every bit of their pint-sized bodies to shoot the ball went head-to-head in their first year of playing organized basketball.
At the time they were just Chassidy and Cassidy, natural athletes and fourth graders, but their competiveness was already making them stand out when their travel teams -- Chassidy for Blackhawk, and Cassidy for Baldwin -- began playing against one another.
"Those were actually some of the most competitive games," Cassidy recalled. "She and I went at it a lot."
Little did anyone know then that the tiny newcomers would one day grow up to be two of the best point guards in the WPIAL.
Blackhawk's Chassidy Omogrosso and Seton-LaSalle's Cassidy Walsh are among the top talents in Western Pennsylvania, and the similarities between the two are remarkable.
Both are sophomores but have already done something which is rare in high school basketball -- they've committed to Division I colleges as 10th-graders: Omogrosso to Pitt and Walsh to Duquesne.
Neither is focused on personal achievements, and it's obvious in the leadership they have shown quarterbacking two of the premier teams in the state.
Blackhawk (23-0) is the only undefeated team in the WPIAL and the No. 1 seed in the Class AAA playoffs. Seton-LaSalle (22-1) is the No. 1 seed in Class AA and the defending WPIAL and PIAA champions.
Seton-LaSalle began the playoffs with a win against Washington on Tuesday, but Walsh did not play. She has missed the past six games with a stress fracture in her left leg, but said she could return soon. Seton-LaSalle plays Greensburg Central Catholic in tonight's quarterfinals.
Omogrosso scored 31 points to help Blackhawk defeat West Mifflin, 82-61, Wednesday. Blackhawk plays Belle Vernon Saturday.
Omogrosso and Walsh's paths have been similar, but their games differ greatly. Omogrosso is a "scorer." She's among the top point producers in the WPIAL (22.3 per game) and has already scored more than 1,000 points in her career, a rarity for a sophomore.
"I think we started to see [how special she was] last year, with the things she was doing as a freshman and just the smarts of her," Blackhawk coach Steve Lodovico said. "We were looking for her to come in and take over for [2011 graduate] Alexa Heyward. I told her I didn't want a drop-off, and she didn't disappoint."
Walsh is a "pure" point guard, one with a pass-first mentality whose primary focus is setting up her teammates. She averages 11 points per game, but typically plays only a few minutes into the second half because her team is usually way ahead of their opponent. She is a 90 percent free-throw shooter and also a terrific defender.
"Cassidy is more a floor general setting up the offense," Seton-LaSalle first-year coach John Ashaolu said. "She can score, as well as run the offense. She finds a good balance between the two. It's good to have a point guard to count on to score and get her teammates involved."
Like Omogrosso, Walsh was thrown into the mix her freshman season. Walsh was the starting point guard on Seton-LaSalle's undefeated team a year ago.
"It's definitely been an honor to play on such great teams and actually have such an impact," Walsh said. "I know the position and know I have to be a leader."
Omogrosso, who said she started playing in first grade, is great at getting to the basket, but it's her silky-smooth jump shot that might stand out most about her game. She tries to takes between 700 to 800 shots at every practice, and the repetition has paid off. Omogrosso has made more than 60 3-pointers this season and is shooting 85 percent from the free-throw line.
"It's just practice. I work on my shot every day just to get better," Omogrosso said.
In addition to being outstanding players, Omogrosso and Walsh are also good friends, texting each other frequently.
They have not played against each other since middle school, when Omogrosso and Blackhawk went against Walsh's team, St. Gabriel's in Whitehall. They were teammates just once, on the Drill 4 Skill AAU team the summer before their freshman year. They were coached by legendary former Blackhawk boys coach John Miller.
Lodovico played for Miller and was also in the crowd at one of the fourth-grade games years ago when Omogrosso began to flash her talent.
"I was impressed then," Lodovico said. "I said, 'Who is this girl?' I remember leaving the gym and calling my brother and saying, 'You have to see this girl. Wait a few years. She's going to be a good one.' "
It turns out Chassidy and Cassidy have both earned that label.
First Published February 22, 2013 12:00 am