Bethel Park’s Olivia Westphal too much for Shaler in Class 6A clash

Wednesday, March 3, 2021 | 10:03 PM

Shaler started Wednesday’s Class 6A first-round girls basketball playoff game playing a box-and-one defense against Bethel Park senior Olivia Westphal.

The junk defense didn’t last long because no matter what the Titans did, they couldn’t slow down the district’s top scorer.

The Duquesne recruit scored 33 points as Bethel Park cruised to the next round with a convincing 64-37 victory over visiting Shaler.

“I can’t say enough about her. She’s just a tremendous player,” Bethel Park coach Jonna Burke said. “Sometimes I just like standing back and watching her play.”

Westphal, who averages nearly 24 points per game, did it all against the Titans. She connected on long range 3-pointers, drove to the hoop for layups or to distribute the basketball and led a transition game that was strong late when Shaler started to fade late due to the relentless Black Hawks defense.

“She is a kid that no matter how it’s going for her, she’s going to persevere and push through,” Burke said. “Even on a bad shooting night, she still ends up with 25 points somehow. I’m glad to be her coach for another game.”

When the teams met in a nonsection game last month, Shaler nearly pulled off the upset, losing 49-47.

This time, Bethel Park jumped out early, leading by six after one quarter and building a 12-point halftime lead, 28-16.

When the Black Hawks came out flying in the third quarter, even two quick timeouts by Shaler coach Cornelious Nesbit couldn’t stop Bethel Park from pulling away.

“Anytime you’re able to be up by 12 at half, you’re going to feel good about it,” Burke said. “At the same time, I was concerned. Fortunately, we came out and made a couple of buckets right away and maybe it took the wind out of their sails a little bit.”

Black Hawks junior Emma Dziezgowski was held to only two points in the first half but came to life with three 3-pointers in the second half to finish with 11 points.

A year ago, Bethel Park reached the WPIAL 6A championship game and lost an overtime heartbreaker to North Allegheny.

Burke knows that while Westphal will get her points, other Black Hawks need to step help and help with the secondary scoring.

“We’ve been preaching that all year,” Burke said. “We have to be more than a one-man show. You’re not going to win consistently in 6A with one player scoring all your points. We always say we need three or four players in double digits and then we’re going to be at our best.”

Shaler starts one senior, two sophomores and two freshmen. The Titans finished with five straight losses and a 4-12 overall record.

The lone senior starter, Audrey Fisher, played a strong game and fouled out with 13 points.

Bethel Park will need to be at its best on Saturday. In a much anticipated quarterfinals contest, the Hawks will travel down Route 19 a mile or so to face Mt. Lebanon.

The two long-time rivals did not play during the regular season because of differing mask policies.

“Talk about suffocating defense. That’s their thing,” Burke said of the Blue Devils. “They have a tremendous player and scorer in Ashleigh Connor, their starting five is hard-nosed, and they don’t take a play off. I have a lot of respect for what they do.

“I’m going to be honest. I wasn’t heartbroken that we didn’t get to play them twice this season.”

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