Bishop Canevin girls top East Allegheny for 3rd straight WPIAL championship

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Saturday, March 3, 2018 | 3:15 PM


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The East Allegheny girls basketball team trotted a perfect record into Pitt's Petersen Events Center Saturday morning but fell just a few minutes short of playing a perfect game.

After holding a lead for the better part of three quarters, the Wildcats' crusade to dethrone two-time defending WPIAL Class 3A champion Bishop Canevin took a turn for worse when senior Kasey Kaczorowski drained a 3-pointer with 4 minutes, 19 seconds remaining to give the top-seeded Crusaders the lead for good and deliver a 56-52 win over No. 2 East Allegheny.

“Basketball has always been a game of runs,” first-year Bishop Canevin coach Scott Dibble said. “You just got to withstand the ones that they throw at you and not lose your composure. It's one of those maturity things and, fortunately for me, we've been there and done that.”

The win gives the Crusaders, who made their fourth straight title game appearance, three WPIAL basketball titles in school history.

“It's playoff time; it's not supposed to be easy,” Dibble said.

Nothing about the win came easy for Bishop Canevin (20-4). Trailing 27-23 coming out of halftime, if the Crusaders were going to make a run and defend their championship they had to put their poor shooting woes and defensive troubles from the first half behind them.

Junior guard Shamijah Price scored on a put-back off the glass to tie the game at 27-27 before East Allegheny's Abby Henderson came back down the floor and gave the Wildcats the lead again on a baseline jumper. It was pretty evident from that point the second half was going to be different than the first.

“We executed the first half exactly how we wanted; the second half they made adjustments against us and the shots weren't falling like they were in the first half,” East Allegheny coach Mike Osiecki said. “We executed the game plan the way we wanted to, and in the end we came up a couple (points) short.”

Price scored eight of her 14 points in the second half.

Led by Kennesaw State recruit Amani Johnson's team-high 15 points, East Allegheny (24-1) was able to land enough shots, but the Crusaders managed to stay within an arm's reach of the lead. Kaczorowski hit another clutch 3-pointer to draw the score to 36-33. Kaczorowski connected on four 3-pointers and finished with 12 points.

“We know what we're doing,” Dibble said. “Let's take a time out, chill, knock down some shots and we'll be fine.”

The Wildcats took a 40-35 lead into the fourth quarter. Kaczorowski nailed another 3-pointer to open the final quarter and cut into the East Allegheny lead. Sophomore Amaia Johnson added a basket and a foul shot to extend the Wildcats lead to 43-38 with 7:21 on the clock. Amaia Johnson finished with 13 points before fouling out late in the final quarter.

Senior Bri Allen scored 11 of her game-high 17 points in the fourth quarter to lead Bishop Canevin. Allen was clutch in the waning minutes, scoring the Crusaders' final seven points down the stretch.

The first half was all East Allegheny at both ends. Senior Myla Bortoluzzi scored all 10 of her points in the first half to pace the Wildcats. East Allegheny's defense and size down low posed problems early for Bishop Canevin, as the Wildcats dominated with rebounds.

“Myla couldn't miss a shot (in the first half),” Osiecki said. “We have four capable players who can shoot form the perimeter, and some of the shots weren't falling in the second half.”

Both teams advance to the PIAA tournament, which begins Friday and Saturday, but Bishop Canevin still has time to celebrate.

“The competition gets stiffer and stiffer the longer you go,” Dibble said. “East A did a good job today; they're well prepared.”

William Whalen is a freelance writer.

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