In battle of defending champs, North Catholic tops Blackhawk for 22nd WPIAL title

Saturday, March 4, 2023 | 4:28 PM

Dacia Lewandowski said she and her North Catholic girls basketball teammates ask themselves “What’s their why?” going into every game.

The choice for their “why” going into the WPIAL Class 4A championship game was clear.

“Our why was that we were the two seed and we took that personally,” Lewandowski said. “Out there, we left it all on the court and made a name for ourselves.”

The Trojanettes certainly looked like a motivated group, putting forth a dominant effort on defense, and added to their legacy in the process.

North Catholic held top-seeded Blackhawk to only eight made field goals and earned its record 22nd district title in a 51-35 win Saturday at Petersen Events Center.

The Trojanettes (22-3) earned their second consecutive title after winning in Class 3A last year and knocked off the defending 4A champion Cougars (21-4) in the process.

It was also the 11th title for Trojanettes coach Molly Rottmann, tying her with her former coach at North Catholic, Don Barth, for the most in WPIAL history.

“I still have a couple states to win, so I’m not there yet,” Rottmann joked when asked about tying her mentor. “Mr. Barth was the best. His wife gave me his key chain that says state champs on it and I always give that a little rub for luck before the game.

“What this means is that I’ve been here for a really long time and that I’ve been blessed to have unbelievable players.”

Most of the players were unaware of Rottmann tying Barth because Rottmann said she never talks about individual accomplishments with the players.

They all cheered their coach upon hearing the news.

“She values every single player on this team, no matter what role they have,” senior guard Tori Drevna said. “She’s a great coach.”

North Catholic forced 17 turnovers. The Cougars were 8 for 38 from the field.

The lead was in double digits most of the second half. Blackhawk cut the lead to nine midway through the fourth quarter but never got any closer.

“It was one of our best (defensive performances) for sure,” Rottmann said. “I give a ton of props to our JV and role players that run scout team. Our assistant coach Kate (Lewandowski) has them watch film with her on what they are doing and breaks it down. You can’t do anything, because (Blackhawk) runs so many sets, but there’s basics like back screen or down screen. We just wanted to make sure that we didn’t lose (Alena) Fusetti in that. They did a great job. They knew what was coming and communicated well.”

Alayna Rocco had 16 points, Ava Walker scored 13 and Lewandowski and Drevna finished with eight each for the Trojanettes.

One highlight for the Cougars was Fusetti reaching 1,000 points for her career with a deep 3-pointer in the second quarter. Fusetti was presented with a ball to celebrate the achievement, which she gave to her mother.

“It was really awesome finally getting to reach that goal,” Fusetti said. “I’ve always had it. My mom helps me through pretty much everything. It would have been better though if we pulled off the win.

The Cougars were without senior standout Quinn Borroni, who is out for the season due to an injury sustained in practice prior to the playoffs. Aubree Hupp had 12 points, in place of Borroni in the lineup.

Both teams will enter the state tournament next Saturday. North Catholic will play the fourth-place team from District 10, while Blackhawk gets the third-place team in District 10.

“Obviously it’s not the outcome we wanted, but we still have more games to play,” Cougars senior point guard Kassie Potts said. “It’s not the end of the season. We have to take this like a chip on our shoulders, work on what we didn’t do well today and hopefully make a run at states.”

Watch an archived broadcast of this game on Trib HSSN.

Jerin Steele is a freelance writer

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