Blackhawk defense shuts down Central Valley in Class 4A showdown

Monday, January 6, 2020 | 11:15 PM

Blackhawk girls basketball coach Steve Lodovico loves to run a press and trap defense with the goal of creating turnovers and racking up points off them. Facing a familiar foe in Central Valley on the road, he decided to adjust the gameplan.

Instead, the Cougars relied on a tough half-court defense with a goal of keeping Central Valley standout guard Christiana Frye from penetrating to the hoop.

And on a night where the Cougars offense wasn’t clicking at a pace that it normally does, that adjustment on defense proved to be key.

Blackhawk held Central Valley to single-digit point totals in each of the first three quarters and earned a 53-43 win in a battle of the top two teams in Section 2-4A Monday night at Central Valley Middle School.

“I told them in the locker room, it was nice to see that on a night that we didn’t shoot the ball really well that we were able to defend and that’s how we won,” Lodovico said.

Central Valley (8-1, 3-1) had scored more than 50 points in all but one game entering Monday, but Blackhawk (9-2, 4-0) held it to its second-lowest point total all season.

The Cougars didn’t allow Frye, a Seton Hill recruit, to make a field goal in the first half and didn’t allow many drives to the basket. Frye finished with 18 points, with nine coming in the fourth quarter.

Blackhawk also held another Central Valley standout, 6-foot-1 forward Allyson Kirby, to seven points, which was nine below her average. Kirby, a Clarion recruit, fouled out late in the fourth quarter.

“Steve’s a great coach and he did what he had to do to get a win by fighting and grinding it out,” Central Valley coach Chris Raso said. “It was a typical game between the two of us, but they did a good job executing their gameplan.”

The Cougars led from the midway point of the first quarter on but never had a double-digit lead until late in the third. In the fourth, they turned to Robert Morris recruit Mackenzie Amalia to put the game away.

Amalia had 13 of her game-high 24 points in the final quarter, including an acrobatic layup while being fouled with three minutes remaining that answered an Alyssa Gillan bucket that had cut the lead to seven. Amalia sank the free throw to put the Cougars in front, 41-31.

“She’s really hard to stop,” Lodovico said of Amalia. “It doesn’t matter how many defenders you throw at her, she finds ways to get to the rim. I always say she’s really crafty with the ball. She didn’t really hit 3-pointers tonight, but she’s really savvy getting to the hoop and scoring.”

Gillin had 11 points for the Warriors. Sierra Richard and Quinn Borroni scored nine apiece for the Cougars.

Central Valley and Blackhawk have split in the regular season each of the last two years, and the Warriors topped the Cougars in the WPIAL semifinals last season.

The two familiar foes will meet again Jan. 30 at Blackhawk.

“We’ll take it a little hard tonight, but then we’ll regroup and get back to practice,” Raso said. “The goal is to keep working and get better for when we get a shot at them again up at their place.”

Jerin Steele is a freelance writer

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