2022 Trib HSSN Head of the Class: WPIAL girls basketball’s best in each classification

Tuesday, April 5, 2022 | 10:31 PM

There were a lot of players and coaches who put in plenty of time on the basketball court this season to be the best they could be.

While we salute all of those who participated in a memorable 2022 girls high school basketball campaign, we have a special seat in the front of the classroom for those who were a cut above.

The following six players and coaches will fill those seats after being named the Trib HSSN Head of the Class for the 2021-22 season in each of the six classifications.

Class 6A

Player of the Year: Ashleigh Connor, Mt. Lebanon

The Saint Louis recruit was also named the Trib HSSN Girls Basketball Player of the Year for this season. Connor averaged 21 points and 8 rebounds despite being the focal point of every defense that played the Blue Devils. In the district playoffs, she scored 18 and 16 points in quarterfinal and semifinal wins over Peters Township and Bethel Park, and then the South Hills journey ended with Connor scoring 22 points in a win over Upper St. Clair to help Mt. Lebanon win its first WPIAL title in 10 years.

Coach of the Year: Dori Oldaker, Mt. Lebanon

Oldaker has established herself as one of the top basketball coaches in the district, and the 2022 season is a golden reminder. After leading the Blue Devils to the WPIAL semifinals a year ago, Mt. Lebanon was nearly perfect in winning the school’s fourth girls basketball title. Let by HSSN POY Ashleigh Connor, Mt. Lebanon lost only two games, including to undefeated Plymouth-Whitemarsh in the PIAA finals. Oldaker has now won six WPIAL championships as a coach after winning two at Blackhawk in 1999 and 2000.

Class 5A

Player of the Year: Aislin Malcolm, Chartiers Valley

The Pitt recruit completed one of the most successful scholastic careers in WPIAL basketball history, along with her fellow senior starters in Perri Page, Hallie and Helene Cowan and Marian Turnbull. Malcolm helped lead the Colts to three WPIAL championships, a district runner-up, a PIAA title and two state runners-up. The 5-foot-11 guard averaged over 16 points per game this winter and finished with 1,671 points in her career.

Coach of the Year: Bryan Bennett, South Fayette

The South Fayette girls basketball team may have been lost in the weeds of the plush greenlands known as Section 1, but in the end, the Lions proved they were the kings of the Class 5A jungle. South Fayette took a back seat to section foes Chartiers Valley and Moon for most of the regular season. Even when the 5A brackets were revealed and the Lions were No. 2 behind three-time champion Chartiers Valley, few gave them a shot. However, Bennett guided the Lions past the Colts in the finals for the school’s second WPIAL crown.

Class 4A

Player of the Year: Payton List, Beaver

Payton List is well known for her dominance on the softball diamond. As a junior last spring, the Virginia Tech recruit was outstanding in the circle and at the plate in helping Beaver win WPIAL and PIAA gold and being named the Trib HSSN Softball Player of the Year. But softball isn’t the only sport where this Bobcats senior is making the list. List averaged over 23 points per game in helping Beaver finish 16-6 and reach the district quarterfinals a year after winning WPIAL gold.

Coach of the Year: Steve Lodovico, Blackhawk

Some felt the Cougars were a year away, coming off a 13-6 season in which the team reached the quarterfinals of the WPIAL playoffs. Steve Lodovico and his young Cougars thought otherwise though as they piled up wins with a young, balanced team. Blackhawk had the top offense in 4A by far and became the only district team to win a WPIAL championship with an undefeated record. The Cougars’ lone loss came in the PIAA quarterfinals against Villa Maria Academy.

Class 3A

Player of the Year: Alayna Rocco, North Catholic

The daughter of North Catholic boys basketball coach Jim Rocco was the model of consistency throughout her sophomore season. She averaged just under 18 points per game as the Trojans won a 21st WPIAL girls basketball crown and finished 22-6. She was the Trojans’ leading scorer in all seven of their postseason games, scoring between 15 and 25 points in the playoffs. The 5-10 guard also averaged over six rebounds and three steals a game.

Coach of the Year: John Kaercher, Freedom

In 2021, Freedom finished 6-7 overall and lost by 21 to North Catholic in the WPIAL Class 3A quarterfinals. However, this year’s Bulldogs team showed a lot more bite as they finished in second place in tough Section 1 behind North Catholic. Freedom reached the finals, only to lose a tough one to the Trojans, 48-43. John Kaercher’s team showed its resilience with four state playoff wins, including a semifinals victory over North Catholic before losing by five points to Neumann-Goretti in the PIAA finals.

Class 2A

Players of the Year: Mairan Haggerty, Neshannock

As a sophomore last winter, Mairan Haggerty got a taste of victory when Neshannock won the WPIAL championship and finished as the runner-up in the PIAA postseason. Haggerty and her teammates were driven by the broom in 2022 as they swept both district and state gold. The 6-1 Haggerty played a big part in the Lancers’ continued success, averaging over 17 points and 7.5 rebounds per game, setting the stage for a possible three-peat in 2023.

Coach of the Year: Luann Grybowski, Neshannock

Part of being a good coach is being a good motivator. Not satisfied with a WPIAL title and a PIAA runner-up from the previous season, Neshannock coach Luann Grybowski hung her PIAA silver medal on a chair on the first day of practice to remind her team what it’s going to take to change silver to gold. Not only did Neshannock repeat as WPIAL champs and win the school’s first girls basketball state title, Grybowski became only the fifth coach in WPIAL history to win 700 career games.

Class A

Player of the Year: Corynne Hauser, Rochester

This marks the second straight year a member of the Rochester girls basketball team has been named HSSN Class A POY after Alexis Robison was selected in 2021. The Kent State recruit went from one-half of a dynamic duo to playing the lead seamlessly as Hauser averaged 25 points per game and finished her career with 1,718 points. Even though the Rams came up short of a third straight district championship, Hauser helped Rochester finish 16-5.

Coach of the Year: Maddie Bazelak, Bishop Canevin

Bishop Canevin has won six WPIAL girls basketball championships in the last 10 years, but none were as surprising as the Crusaders’ title run in 2022. In her first year as head coach, Maddie Bazelak led Bishop Canevin to a 13-9 regular season record, third place in Section 1-A and the No. 7 seed in the 12-team WPIAL Class A playoffs. The Crusaders ousted Avella before pulling off back-to-back postseason upsets of No. 2 West Greene and No. 3 Union to reach the finals. In the title game, Bishop Canevin won the battle of the Crusaders over Aquinas Academy.

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