Chartiers Valley defends WPIAL title, wins 55th consecutive game

Saturday, February 29, 2020 | 4:32 PM

Chartiers Valley girls basketball coach Tim McConnell said he told his younger sister, Trinity coach Kathy McConnell-Miller, that the only good thing about facing each other in a WPIAL final was that a McConnell was guaranteed to win.

While he loves his sister dearly, he was glad that it was his Colts that came out on top.

The top-seeded Colts used a strong second half to pull away for their second consecutive WPIAL crown in a 58-40 win in the Class 5A final Saturday at Petersen Events Center.

“It was tough going against my sister in a WPIAL championship for sure,” McConnell said. “She’s done a remarkable job working with that team in her first year. She had a lot of talent, but she had to mold it. We talked daily, and I couldn’t be more proud of her.”

Aislin Malcolm scored a game-high 23 points for the Colts, 16 of which game in the second half.

The victory completed a second consecutive undefeated WPIAL season for the Colts (25-0) and third in four years. It also extended their winning streak to 55 games.

“It was definitely hard, but I think we earned it,” Colts point guard Megan McConnell said of repeating. “We work the hardest out of every team, so it’s well-deserved.”

Megan, who is Tim’s daughter, said going against her aunt for a WPIAL title was a bit strange.

“Going against anyone else, it’s just another coach, but with her, she’s one of my favorite aunts,” Megan said. “It was hard hugging her before the game and after, but it was her first time coaching Trinity and she got them to The Pete, so good for her.”

McConnell-Miller felt like preparing and creating a scouting report on her niece was more difficult emotionally than facing her brother.

“There’s a lot of times that you want to talk about strengths and weakness when preparing for someone and that becomes challenging when you’re talking about your niece,” McConnell-Miller said. “When you talk about trying to take your niece out of her comfort zone, that piece is challenging. As far as the sideline piece with Tim, once the ball tips, my focus is on Trinity.”

Chartiers Valley led 24-19 at halftime but built a double-digit lead quickly thanks to an acrobatic layup and a deep 3-pointer from Malcolm on the first two Colts possessions.

Malcolm continued to build on her strong start to the half by draining another 3-pointer late in the third that gave Chartiers Valley a 38-26 lead. The Hillers did not get within 10 points again.

“Aislin’s been great all year and I told her before the start of the third quarter that big-time players come perform on the big-time stage, and she performed big time in that second half,” Tim McConnell said. “She’s going to play major Division I basketball, and someone is going to be lucky to have her.”

Malcolm, who has several Division I offers including one from Duke, went 6 of 7 from the free-throw line in the fourth quarter to help keep the lead in double digits.

Perri Page scored 14 points for the Colts, and Megan McConnell had 10. Kaylin Venick led the Hillers with 13 points and Riley DeRubbo scored 10.

For McConnell-Miller, it was a successful first year coaching at Trinity after coaching at the NCAA Division I and WNBA levels. Coaching in high school wasn’t something that she envisioned doing, but she’s more than happy with her current gig.

“When I walked into the gym for the first time, it was like I was coaching a college team,” McConnell-Miller said. “The talent level was there. The work ethic was there, and so was the commitment to winning and the ability to verbalize their goals.

“I have players that when practice was over, they would stay in the gym for another hour. I really enjoy them, and I love them as student-athletes. I really appreciate the way they embraced me and my system with open arms. It’s been a joy and a decision I will cherish for the rest of my life.”

Both teams will enter the PIAA tournament next week.

Watch an archived broadcast on Trib HSSN.

Jerin Steele is a freelance writer

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