Blackhawk avenges WPIAL finals loss, upends North Catholic to reach state title game

Tuesday, March 21, 2023 | 10:36 PM

Kassie Potts is listed at 5-foot-4 on the Blackhawk roster, but Cougars coach Steve Lodovico said she plays with the heart of a 7-footer.

At times, Potts’ performance Tuesday night seemed larger than life.

Potts scored a game-high 19 points and combined with a superb defensive effort, Blackhawk avenged its WPIAL championship loss to North Catholic and earned a trip to Hershey with a 45-40 win in the PIAA Class 4A semifinals at New Castle.

Potts hit a pair of 3-pointers and made some tough jump shots over taller defenders to power the Cougars.

“That’s just Kassie. She’s a warrior,” Lodovico said about his senior point guard. “She’s tough and I love having her on our team.”

The Cougars will play for their fifth state championship when they face District 12 power Landsdale Catholic at noon Saturday at Giant Center.

As time expired, Blackhawk fans rained Hershey kisses down on the court as the team celebrated its upset win.

“It’s really unbelievable because you never think you’ll get to this point and then all of a sudden, you do,” Potts said. “Everyone had doubts when Quinn (Borroni) went down (with an injury prior to the playoffs). She’s a big player for us, but Aubree (Hupp) stepped up and others stepped up. It’s just amazing to be here.”

North Catholic got a couple lifelines from Blackhawk in the final minute. The Cougars missed at the free-throw line twice in a one-posession game but got stops on the defensive end.

Tori Drevna had a pair of jumpers from outside the arc but both narrowly missed. The first one was halfway down and rattled back out.

“At the end, we got some really good looks,” Trojanettes coach Molly Rottmann said. “We set up Alayna (Rocco) for a drive and she did the right thing. When they collapsed on her, she found Tori. That’s a shot she’s hit a thousand times, but it just didn’t go. I take nothing away from our kids. They worked their butts off and were playing really good basketball. We just got a little bit out of our game this evening.”

Haley Romigh corralled a rebound late and in the scrum, got hit in the eye, which forced her to leave the game. Needing someone to come off the bench to take Romigh’s free throws, Lodovico opted to send in Hupp, a freshman, who canned both to make it 45-40 with 17.4 seconds remaining, ultimately sealing the game.

Hupp had another outstanding night, scoring 17 points.

“I can’t say enough about Aubree Hupp,” Lodovico said. “When Haley Romigh had to go out, we told Aubree that it was her time and she came through.”

North Catholic handled Blackhawk, 51-35, in the WPIAL championship game a couple of weeks ago. The Cougars made a major tactical change defensively, opting to go away from their usual pressing, trapping style to a half-court defense focused on clogging the driving lanes.

“I looked at that film and said to myself trapping doesn’t work against them, because they handle the ball too well,” Lodovico said. “We had to adapt and pack it in to keep them out of the paint and then contest their 3-point shooters.”

The Cougars’ defense really came through in the fourth. They forced a half-dozen turnovers in the frame. The game was tied 33-33 after three, but Blackhawk won the fourth 12-7. They held the Trojanettes off the scoreboard for the final three and a half minutes.

Potts had eight of her 19 in the final quarter. She connected on a 3-pointer at the midway point that gave Blackhawk a 36-33 lead. She was also pivotal on defense, picking off a couple passes. Alena Fusetti, Haley and Piper Romigh also had steals.

“At this point in the season, you just have to give it your all out there and that’s what we did,” Potts said. “Whether it was scoring, handling the ball or getting stops on defense, you just have to give everything you can.”

Rocco did her best to will the Trojanettes along, scoring 13 of her 17 points in the second half. She scored 10 points in a row for North Catholic in the third quarter. Drevna finished with 12.

The Trojanettes were denied the opportunity to win a ninth state title, but they did add to the trophy case this year with a 22nd WPIAL title.

“I’m super proud of them,” Rottman said. “I told them that if you’ve been on a special team, then you know why it’s sad at the end of the year. This is a special group with a family atmosphere. I love them, and I’m just sad that we’re not going to have another day together.”

Jerin Steele is a freelance writer

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