Chartiers Valley girls celebrate WPIAL championship

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Thursday, March 7, 2019 | 10:47 PM


The Chartiers Valley girls basketball team held a love­fest March 2 at Pitt’s Petersen Events Center.

Actually, it took place spontaneously in front of the CV bench area following the WPIAL Class 5A championship game.

The CV girls swarmed to coach Tim McConnell’s side when his name was announced at the awards ceremony following a resounding 64-48 victory over section rival Thomas Jefferson by the undefeated Colts.

“We have all these girls who can play. We didn’t count on one person (this season),” said McConnell, the first-year coach of the CV girls team. “One thing I learned about girls is they love to talk; and they love to giggle. I learned to go with flow. It’s a fun group; it was just so enjoyable all year.

“It’s not about me; it’s about these girls. They are such a joy. They’ve been tremendous. They bought in to the expectations put in front of them. It’s like I told them, ‘No one else has done what you have done to get here.’ ”

No. 1 Chartiers Valley ended its WPIAL season with a perfect 25-0 record. The Colts captured the Section 1-5A title ahead of TJ, and defeated the Jaguars twice in section play.

“To be undefeated and win a WPIAL championship with these girls is pretty special,” McConnell said. “It’s not an easy thing to do to go 25-0 and not lose one game. It shows the character of these girls of how they came in ready night-in and night-out.

“I knew it would be special this season, not this special. I knew they would be good, but they exceeded my expectations.”

After a first-round bye, the CV girls put the clamps on No. 9 Trinity, 32-22, No. 4 Penn Hills, 45-37, and No. 6 Thomas Jefferson in the WPIAL tournament.

“We didn’t do as good of a job on the boards as we wanted to,” TJ coach Lisa Fairman said. “When you give very strong offensive teams two or three opportunities, it’s going to come back and bite you and it did. We never gave up, but one of the things we like to do is own the boards and get out and run. I don’t think we got that started enough.”

The Colts were scheduled play General McLane (18-7), the third-place team in District 10, Saturday in the first round of the PIAA playoffs. The game was contested after deadline for this edition.

CV’s full-court pressure defense (35.9 ppg) is tops in 5A, and ranks as one of the best in Western Pennsylvania. The Colts also own the leading offensive average (63.3 ppg) in their division, which also ranks as one of the WPIAL’s best.

The team’s starting five consists of three seniors, one junior and one freshman.

The senior class is represented by Mackenzie Wagner, a 5-foot-10 guard; Alexandra Ferella, a 5-6 guard; and Gabby Legister, a 6-2 center.

“We talked about how our defense was the key to this game,” said Wagner, a Loyola (Md.) recruit with a 17.2 ppg average. “We knew if we couldn’t stop them, especially Alyssa DeAngelo and Jenna Clark, we wouldn’t have as good of a chance of being successful.”

McConnell said the Colts, who also won the WPIAL 5A title in 2017, made minor adjustments on defense at practice.

“We tweaked some of our zone offense,” he said. “We made some adjustments.”

Rounding out the starting lineup are Megan McConnell, a 5-7 junior guard and the coach’s daughter; and Aislin Malcolm, a 5-10 freshman guard.

Four players finished in double figures against TJ. McConnell and Malcolm netted 18 points apiece, Legister, a Kennesaw State recruit who missed last season with an injury, racked up 14 and Wagner added 10. Malcolm sank four treys and was 4 for 4 from the foul line.

Ferella provided a tough defensive presence in the Colts’ backcourt, focusing primarily on TJ’s outstanding senior guard Jenna Clark, a Yale recruit.

“Alexandra is our unsung hero,” Tim McConnell said. “She cares about this team, not herself. She always guards the best player on the other team.”

Coach McConnell now has seven WPIAL titles in his trophy case, including six as CV’s boys coach. He is believed to be the first coach to win WPIAL boys and girls basketball crowns.

“They knew I wasn’t coming to coach the girls just because I was coaching my daughter. I was coming to coach the team,” McConnell said. “I was still intense. Maybe I didn’t yell as much, but the game is still the same. They did everything we asked them to do.”

McConnell’s daughter also was a starter as a freshman on the 2017 championship squad at CV.

“This is great because this is my first one with my dad,” she said, “and it’s been the best. I love him and having him as a coach.”

In the past five seasons, the CV girls have won two WPIAL titles, were semifinalists twice, and advanced to the quarterfinal round once.

And the future looks favorable. There are six freshmen and one sophomore in the program. Megan McConnell is the lone junior.

Thomas Jefferson (19-7) went into the title game riding an eight-game winning streak. The Jaguars were led in the scoring column by Clark and DeAngelo, a junior guard, with 19 and 17 points.

CV made 17 of 21 foul shots in the second half, and 20 of 28 overall. TJ was 4 for 4 from the charity stripe, and did not attempt a free throw after halftime.

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