Bishop Canevin girls hold off Ellis School charge, reach Class 2A title game

Monday, February 24, 2020 | 9:35 PM

A 3-pointer in the waning seconds of the game wasn’t enough for The Ellis School to complete its comeback. The No. 2 Bishop Canevin Crusaders advanced to the WPIAL Class 2A girls basketball championship game with a 46-44 victory over the six-seeded Tigers on Monday night.

After a solid start and 24-15 halftime lead, the Crusaders grabbed a double-digit advantage on the first bucket of the third quarter. Bishop Canevin led Ellis, 36-23, through three quarters but scored just one field goal the rest of the way.

The Ellis School went on a 10-0 run to open the fourth quarter and barrel back into the game to cut its deficit to three points. Bishop Canevin worked to widen its advantage from the free-throw line as Ellis looked to slow the Crusaders’ scoring, and the Crusaders just looked to slow the game down entirely.

Natalie Jasper hit a pair of clutch layups in the final few minutes as the Tigers chipped away at the lead. Jasper’s final basket made it a two-possession game.

The Tigers fouled Canevin to send Alyssa Pollice to the line, and she hit one free throw to make it a three-possession game. Then Ellis’ Natalie Graf was fouled in the act of shooting a three and hit 2 of 3 from the free-throw line to make it a five-point game with under 30 seconds to play.

After a scoreless trip down the court for Canevin, Ellis had the ball back with time winding down. Graf drained a three with less than five seconds left to make it 46-44, but all the Crusaders had to do was hold the basketball and not inbound it to hold on and seal the victory.

Pollice led the Crusaders with 15 points, but it was a balanced night on offense for Canevin with Diajha Allen scoring 11 and Savannah Abbott hitting for 10, including clutch free throws in the fourth for both.

The Ellis School’s Jasper led all scorers with 23 points. Graf was next with 17 points, including five from behind the arc.

“We knew Jasper was going to take it to the hoop a lot. We had to pack inside. We had to give up something. We knew (Graf) was going to hurt us from the outside and she did, but it worked out. Scarily, but it worked out,” said coach Jim Kaczorowski.

While the trip to the Pete is a familiar one for the Crusaders, it’s a brand-new experience for the coaching staff, which is in its first season at the helm at Bishop Canevin.

“Our team worked really hard this year. This is all three of our first year here, so it’s new to us. It’s very exciting for us. We’re proud of our girls, but I’m extremely proud of my coaches, too,” said the first-year Canevin skipper.

Both squads will continue on to the PIAA state tournament, a first in the 104-year history of Shadyside-based Ellis School.

“This is the deepest run in school history. Fourth time we ever made the playoffs, first time we ever made the WPIAL semifinals, and first trip to states as well,” said third-year coach Dan LaGamba.

“I’m excited to see what this team can do. The group of girls we have here are phenomenal. They’re amazing to coach. They listen. They want to get better. So I’m excited to see what we can learn from this and get ready for the state playoffs,” LaGamba said.

While Ellis School awaits its next opponent when the PIAA Class 2A girls basketball tournament field is set, Bishop Canevin will advance to the WPIAL championship game and face fourth-seed Laurel, a 48-32 winner over Serra Catholic in the other semifinal. The Crusaders will face the Spartans at the Petersen Events Center at 5 p.m. Thursday.

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