Christiane Frye leads Central Valley past Blackhawk

Thursday, January 30, 2020 | 10:06 PM

Central Valley is right back in the Section 2-4A championship race.

Christiane Frye made sure of that.

The senior guard tallied a game-high 26 points Thursday night to lead the Warriors to a 58-50 win at Blackhawk in a key Section 2-4A showdown. The victory tied Central Valley (15-2 overall, 9-1 section) with the Cougars (16-3, 9-1) atop the section standings.

“It feels so great. We worked so hard for this. I knew we weren’t going to back down after our first loss against them,” Frye said. “I respect Blackhawk; they are a great team. I think, at the end of the day, we just wanted it more this time.”

It was another classic showdown between the two section rivals. They split their section meetings last year and shared the title, while Central Valley earned a win in the WPIAL semifinals.

“When we play, they are always battles. The officials let them play and that makes for a good game,” Central Valley coach Chris Raso said. “It’s fun to watch and coach in a game like this. It’s tremendous girls basketball.”

The Warriors, who opened the game with a 9-0 run, relied heavily on their defense, which held Blackhawk star Mackenzie Amalia, a Robert Morris recruit, to 13 points — or about half her average.

“All the credit goes to Central Valley,” Blackhawk coach Steve Lodovico said. “I thought they did a great job tonight and they had a good game plan taking Mackenzie away. We were prepared for it, but we just couldn’t get our transition game going. They played it at their tempo. It’s one game and we’ll bounce back.”

Blackhawk entered the game with the WPIAL’s top offense (69.9 points per game), but struggled to get in a groove. The Cougars shook off their slow start, though, to grab a 16-15 lead at the end of the first.

However, Central Valley rallied in the second quarter. Hannah Engleman scored seven of her 12 points in the frame to give the guests a 28-22 halftime lead.

“We knew they were going to come back,” Frye said. “As long as we stayed level-headed, we’d be fine.”

The Warriors led for the rest of the game. Casey Nixon’s bucket with 43.5 seconds left in the third brought Blackhawk within 35-31. Central Valley’s Alyssa Gillin swished a 3-pointer with 12 seconds left. Frye provided a dagger when her half-court shot at the buzzer found nothing but net to give the guests a 41-31 lead.

“That lead definitely helped,” Frye said. “There was still a lot of game left to play.”

The Cougars got within three points, 43-40, on Jolie Strati’s basket with 4:28 to go, but the Warriors outscored the hosts, 15-7, the rest of the way and held on for the win.

“Maturity is the perfect word for that,” Frye said. “A couple years ago, we probably would have backed down and let them come back. This year, we’ve matured a lot. I am really so proud of my teammates.”

Frye, a Seton Hill recruit, scored nine of her points in the fourth to help wrap up the victory.

“She is a warrior, no pun intended. She is just tremendous. She always has a knack for making a shot when we need it. That one at the end of the third really propelled us,” Raso said. “I am proud of the way the whole team played. We wavered a little bit, but we did well and we made plays when we had to.”

Allyson Kirby added 11 points in the win. Thompson led Blackhawk with 16.

Joe Sager is a freelance writer.

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