Blackhawk handles Elizabeth Forward, rolls into Class 4A finals undefeated

Tuesday, March 1, 2022 | 9:54 PM

Top-seeded Blackhawk proved to be too much for fifth-seeded Elizabeth Forward on Tuesday night.

The Cougars scored 29 first-quarter points and sophomore guard Alena Fusetti netted a game-high 28 points to lead three double-digit scorers in a 76-53 victory over the Warriors in the WPIAL Class 4A semifinals at West Allegheny.

With the win, Blackhawk (23-0) will advance to face No. 3 Knoch for the 4A title at the Petersen Events Center on Saturday. It’s the program’s first championship game appearance since 2017.

“We had big goals and big expectations coming into this year and the girls really performed,” Blackhawk coach Steve Lodovico said. “The target has been on their back all year, and when you start out the season undefeated, there are teams that are gunning for you. We’re really together as a team and we’re playing well.”

Fusetti helped set the tone for the Cougars in the first quarter as she went 5 for 5 from beyond the arc en route to a 15-point showing. She finished with eight 3-pointers in the win.

“I talked to her before the game and my message to her was, ‘This is your game. This is your time,’” Lodovico said. “I told her it was her time to take over and she did. She grew a lot today and, being a sophomore, she has a really bright future.”

Blackhawk opened the contest on a 10-3 run in the opening two-plus minutes as Fusetti hit a pair of 3s and Quinn Borroni scored four of her 12 points.

The Warriors (19-5) bounced back with an 8-2 run that cut their deficit to 12-11 with 3:49 to go. Brooke Markland scored five of her 13 points during the spurt, while Haven Briggs added a trey.

Lodovico called a timeout to give his group time to regroup, and it proved valuable.

A 12-3 run for Blackhawk, which included three 3-pointers from Fusetti and another from Casey Nixon, stretched the lead to 24-14 with under a minute remaining in the frame.

A bucket from Michelle Jellison cut EF’s deficit to eight, but a three-point play by Deryn Moye and a steal and a layup from Nixon allowed the Cougars to take a 29-16 edge after eight minutes.

“It’s hard to watch them because you get into a man and they are so aggressive. Then, you go into a zone and a girl breaks off five threes,” EF head coach Krystal Gibbs said. “There is no right answer when defending them. They’re a good team, they’re well coached, and this is what they do.”

The Cougars’ lead swelled to 20 less than three minutes into the second quarter as Kassie Potts scored seven points during a 9-2 run that made it 38-18 with 5:39 on the clock. Potts finished with 14 points.

Like they did in the first, the Warriors refused to go away quietly.

Bailie Brinson netted five of her team-high 14 points during a 10-0 run that cut the lead to 38-28 before another Blackhawk timeout.

The Cougars came out of the break to score six of the final eight points in the frame, taking a 44-30 edge into halftime.

“Our girls showed perseverance and resilience. That’s everything we’ve talked about all year,” Gibbs said. “They didn’t give up and I’m proud of them for that.”

Blackhawk controlled play in the second half, extending its lead back to 20 on multiple occasions. The Cougars outscored the Warriors, 32-23, in the final 16 minutes.

While Blackhawk will prepare for its WPIAL title game appearance on Saturday, Elizabeth Forward will await the start of the PIAA playoffs.

“Other teams would give anything to be in the final four and we still have a state game to prepare for,” Gibbs said. “We’re going to have a day off and then we’ll get back at it because we have a state run to make now.”

Tags: ,

More Basketball

Westmoreland high school notebook: Latrobe’s Blair gets D-I offer
Coach who built Deer Lakes boys basketball into perennial playoff team steps down
Westmoreland H.S. notebook: Penn-Trafford, Greensburg Salem among biggest moves in basketball realignment
Pine-Richland notebook: Sections overhauled for Rams basketball teams
Fox Chapel boys basketball drops to Class 5A in PIAA realignment