Chartiers Valley scorches nets, beats Latrobe to set up rematch with Trinity

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Thursday, March 11, 2021 | 9:00 PM


Latrobe girls basketball coach Mark Burkhardt looked up at one of the baskets after Thursday night’s playoff game at Chartiers Valley and, half-jokingly, wondered how often the school has to change the nets.

“I don’t know how they keep them up in here,” Burkhardt said.

With the way second-seeded Chartiers Valley shot the ball — swish after swish from long range — it was a wonder the nylon didn’t rip. With a barrage of 3-pointers — eight of their 10 came in the first half — the Colts took care of visiting Latrobe, 59-43, in a WPIAL Class 5A semifinal.

With that fast start, the Colts had one of Latrobe’s best seasons hanging by a thread. And the Wildcats could not respond.

The two-time defending WPIAL champion Colts (22-3) are headed for their third straight title game, while No. 6 Latrobe is done at 14-3, denied its first trip to the finals.

Chartiers Valley aimed and fired against Latrobe’s zone, hitting four 3s in the first quarter to take a 20-5 lead. Five more shots fell from long range in the second as the Colts went into the half ahead, 34-16.

“A 17-1 (deficit) is hard to come back from,” Burkhardt said. “I was proud of the way our girls battled. We wanted to limit their transition points, and I thought we did that. The 3s just rained down.”

Latrobe, making its first semifinal appearance since 1998, tried a 1-3-1 defense and later a triangle-and-2 to try to slow down the Colts. Despite a poor shooting third quarter when Chartiers Valley did not make a 3, Latrobe could only close the gap to 46-27.

“It was their size versus our speed,” Chartiers Valley coach Tim McConnell said. “(Latrobe) tried to take Aislin (Malcolm) away, but we had other girls step up. I thought we did a nice job on (Anna Rafferty).”

The Colts’ Big 3 combined for 56 points — 95% of the offense.

Malcolm, a 5-foot-11 junior who committed to Pitt, scored 20 points and made four 3s, all in the first half. Junior Hallie Cowan added 19, with five 3s, and 6-foot junior Perri Page scored 17 and grabbed 17 rebounds. Page is a Columbia recruit.

Crisp passing around the perimeter allowed the Colts’ offense to flow. There always seemed to be someone open and ready to shoot it.

Malcolm was firing from Austin Butler range and Cowan wasn’t too far from it.

“They move the ball like a college team,” Burkhardt said. “They move it and get open looks. They shot it so well. It’s hard to simulate their talent.”

Latrobe outscored the Colts in the second half, 27-25. It came back to beat Hampton in the quarterfinals, but there was no rally this time. The early flurry was too much to overcome.

“I thought out first-quarter effort was tremendous,” McConnell said. “We did some good things defensively. We weren’t going to let them bring it up the floor and throw it to their bigs.

“We took some bad shots (in the second half), but we’re shooters and we kept shooting.”

Rafferty, a 6-2 junior forward, led Latrobe with 17 points, 12 after halftime.

In Monday’s finals, Chartiers Valley will play No. 1 Trinity, the team that ended its 64-game winning streak earlier this season. McConnell’s sister, Kathy McConnell-Miller, coaches the Hillers.

Chartiers Valley has won 79 of its last 82 games.

“In three years, our girls have lost three games,” Tim McConnell said. “They are not used to losing. We like to say, ‘So what? Now what?’”

Latrobe could only cut the margin to 13 in the second half. Senior Rachel Ridilla made three 3s for nine points. The rest of the Wildcats’ starters, Rafferty excluded, combined for 11 points.

Sophomore forward Emma Blair had 10 rebounds.

“It’s sad to lose these (four) seniors,” Burkhardt said. “That hurts more than losing the game. We gave the community a lot to be happy about.”

Malcolm and Rafferty are on schedule to be AAU teammates this year with the Western PA Bruins.

Watch an archived broadcast of this game on Trib HSSN.

Bill Beckner Jr. is a Tribune-Review Staff Writer. You can contact Bill by email at bbeckner@triblive.com or via Twitter .

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