Chartiers Valley finishes perfect season with victory over Archbishop Carroll in PIAA finals
Saturday, March 23, 2019 | 7:40 PM
HERSHEY — Had he known girls were so easy to coach, Tim McConnell would have switched years ago, the longtime boys basketball coach told his team.
His first season as a girls coach was absolutely perfect.
Mackenzie Wagner scored 24 points, Gabi Legister had 13 and Chartiers Valley finished its season undefeated Saturday night with a 53-40 victory over Archbishop Carroll in the PIAA Class 5A girls championship at Giant Center. The Colts (30-0) became only the fifth girls team from the WPIAL to win a state title with an undefeated record.
“Thirty-and-0 and win a state title?” said McConnell, after his players doused him in the locker room with water. “I would have coached girls from the beginning.”
The state basketball title was the first for Chartiers Valley girls or boys.
“I don’t think there are words to describe it,” Wagner said. “I’m just so excited.”
McConnell led the Chartiers Valley boys for 25 years, won more than 500 games and reached the state finals twice. But not until he took over the girls team this year, a talented roster that includes daughter Megan, did he wear a PIAA gold medal.
“I’m so happy he took that job, because we wouldn’t be here with this (gold medal) around our necks without him,” said Megan McConnell, who had 10 rebounds and earned bragging rights over brothers T.J. and Matty.
All three siblings won WPIAL titles but only Megan owns a state championship. The only way to trump her now would be for T.J. to win an NBA title, Tim McConnell said.
“To be able to say undefeated state champs, boy does that sound nice,” Tim McConnell said. “But did I think that was possible? No. I never thought we’d be undefeated. For these girls to come out and answer the bell every night for 30 games and do what they did is a credit to these girls.”
Erin Sweeney scored 19 points for District 12 champion Archbishop Carroll (25-6), a Philadelphia Catholic League team.
Chartiers Valley held a three-point halftime lead before outscoring Carroll, 19-9, in the third quarter. The Colts used their size advantage, worked the ball inside and scored 14 points in the paint.
The 5-foot-11 Wagner and 6-2 Legister scored six points apiece in the third.
“We knew that we had some mismatches because they were a little bit smaller than us,” Tim McConnell said. “We went to Gabi and then we went to Mackenzie and got a couple of inside baskets and (extended) the lead.”
Carroll had only two players taller than 5-9 and nobody taller than 5-11.
“We knew,” Carroll coach Renie Shields said. “When you have a spot to exploit, you go right at it. They went right at it.”
Chartiers Valley’s lead reached 42-29 when Megan McConnell finished the third with a layup just before the buzzer. Carroll couldn’t keep pace. The Patriots missed 11 of 13 shots in the third, shooting woes that continued in a 3-for-13 fourth quarter.
Carroll shot 29 percent for the game.
“They love the flare screen, they love the back screen and they love the UCLA screen,” Tim McConnell said. “We talked about switching (defensively on) those screens and I thought we did a really good job of not letting Sweeney get out there and get open looks.”
Sweeney scored 13 of her 19 in the first half.
“She was a really good shooter and we had to stay out on her,” Wagner said, “because they set a lot of flare screens.”
Chartiers Valley shot 56 percent from the field including an 8-for-10 shooting performance my Wagner. With a 13-point lead, the Colts recorded only one shot in the fourth. Instead, they clinched the win at the foul line by converting 11 of 13 free throws in the fourth.
“It’s honestly so unbelievable,” Megan McConnell said. “I never thought this would be real life. It doesn’t even feel real. I feel like tomorrow I’m going to wake up and it’s still not going to feel real. I’m just happy I got to experience this with my dad and my best friends.”
— Chris Harlan (@CHarlan_Trib) March 24, 2019
Chris Harlan is a Tribune-Review Staff Writer. You can contact Chris by email at [email protected] or via Twitter .
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