Central Valley rallies past Blackhawk, advances to 1st WPIAL title game

Monday, February 25, 2019 | 8:36 PM

Christiane Frye hoped to reach 1,000 points in her high school basketball career.

The Central Valley senior just didn’t know she’d eclipse that milestone while sending her No. 2-seeded Warriors to their first WPIAL Class 4A championship appearance. Frye tallied a team-high 14 points to help Central Valley rally past No. 3 Blackhawk, 55-48, in Wednesday’s semifinal at Ambridge.

“It’s extremely special. We’ve been working toward this goal the whole season, just like any other team,” Frye said. “But, I just think we’re different because we’ve been through a lot together. This is such a great feeling. There’s nothing better than sharing a moment like this with your team for the first time.”

Frye reached her individual milestone on a free throw with 1 minute, 5 seconds left. She made both shots from the foul line to give the Warriors (22-1) a 50-45 advantage. She has 1,006 career points.

“That’s a great feeling, too. But, we were all going into this game for one reason and that was to win,” she said. “To get that is just a bonus.”

Central Valley struggled for much of the first half. A 6:21 scoreless slump allowed the Cougars (19-5) to post an 18-7 lead after the first and a 38-16 halftime advantage.

“There wasn’t too much said at halftime. They kind of took it upon themselves. They knew they weren’t playing real well,” Central Valley coach Chris Raso said. “I am elated for them. They put a ton of work in for this. We felt we didn’t get the respect from a lot of people that we should get. They took it to heart. I am excited for them.”

Blackhawk’s lead peaked at 13 points, 31-18, early in the third, but the Warriors stormed back. They closed the frame with a 13-2 run to trim the Cougars’ advantage to 33-31 at the buzzer.

“We definitely knew that it was possible to come back from that,” Central Valley’s Kaelyn Underwood said. “I think we knew we just had to really stay together as a team on the court and on the bench. We needed everyone to get into the game. We all stayed together and we all contributed in some way, which really helped a lot.”

Central Valley took the lead for good, 43-42, with 4:01 left when Harlee Johns converted a jumper after a turnover. She added another bucket off a turnover nearly a minute later to give her squad another boost.

“Everyone contributed, and it’s been like that all year for us,” Raso said. “Harlee is good at that 10- or 12-foot shot. She stays after practice to work on that. Those were huge buckets.”

Blackhawk, which split its two Section 2 meetings with CV, pulled within two, 47-45, on Mady Aulbach’s 3-pointer with 2:08 to go. However, the Cougars failed to overcome the deficit despite a couple open looks.

“At that point, it becomes a mental game. When we’re hitting shots, as you saw in the first quarter, we build off that and get momentum. When you go cold, the opposite happens,” Blackhawk coach Steve Lodovico said. “We couldn’t get anything going. We couldn’t get a bucket to get in our press. That’s a good team. I still love the effort from my kids. Sometimes, the ball bounces that way.”

Frye sealed the win as she converted six of her seven attempts from the foul line in the final 1:05.

“We didn’t give up, and that’s all that matters,” Frye said. “It’s always a battle with Blackhawk. They are a really good team. We just played our hardest and came out with the win.”

Central Valley meets two-time defending champ North Catholic (21-3), a 64-50 winner over Elizabeth Forward, in Friday’s WPIAL title game at Pitt’s Petersen Events Center.

“North Catholic is very good, but so are we. I just don’t think the girls are satisfied with just getting there Friday night. They have bigger ideas in their head. We’re going to show up and play and see what happens,” Raso said. “I’ll let them enjoy this one. They deserve it. Now, I have to buy two trays of Police Station pizza on the way home. I’ll buy them four if we keep on going.”

Aulbach tallied a game-high 15 points for Blackhawk, which returns to action March 9 once the PIAA tournament begins. Jolie Strati added 13 points off the bench.

Johns and Underwood both finished with 10 points in the win.

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