North Catholic girls roll past Blackhawk, earn another Class 4A finals appearance

Monday, February 24, 2020 | 10:23 PM

It’s back to The Pete for the North Catholic girls.

The top-seeded Trojanettes broke open a close game starting late in the third period and defeated No. 4 Blackhawk, 71-51, in a girls Class 4A semifinal Monday night at North Hills Middle School.

After Cougars guard Mackenzie Amalia’s basket with 1 minute, 1 second left in the third quarter brought Blackhawk to within 47-42, North Catholic reeled off 15 consecutive points to take command.

Senior Tess Myers scored 21 points and pulled down nine rebounds to lead the Trojanettes, who will be seeking their record 20th WPIAL title — and fourth in a row — at 7 p.m. Friday at Petersen Events Center.

North Catholic (23-1) will play Southmoreland as Myers will attempt to go 4 for 4 — four titles in her four years along state Route 228.

“I think in this game we were really motivated,” Myers said. “We knew they were going to bring the momentum, but we had to match that, and more.”

The Cougars (20-4) were seeking their eighth WPIAL crown. Blackhawk is now 98-38 all-time in playoff games.

Blackhawk started off quickly, taking a 6-0 lead within the first two minutes of play, forcing North Catholic coach Molly Rottmann to call a quick time out.

“We started out a little tentative, out of our gameplan,” Rottmann said. “They came out in a triangle-and-two, and we weren’t adjusting quite as quickly. We practiced against the pressure, and we knew it was coming, and we needed to settle down.”

Amalia’s basket gave the Cougars what would be their final lead, 30-29, with 1:15 to go in the half.

In what turned out to be a key sequence 25 seconds later, Jolie Strati stepped back behind the arc and fired in a 3-pointer, but she was called for traveling. After North Catholic took a 33-30 lead, Blackhawk was holding for the final shot of the half, but a corner trap by the Trojanettes prevented the Cougars from getting a shot off.

Belle O’ Hara scored in the first minute of the third period to give North Catholic a 35-30 lead. Kylee Lewandowski’s first basket of the game gave the Trojanettes a 41-34 lead with 3:31 left in the third quarter.

Blackhawk cut the lead to 44-40, but the Cougars couldn’t get any closer after that as North Catholic began to assert itself on the boards.

“When you look at them, they’re big and physical,” said Blackhawk coach Steve Lodovico. “We feed off our pressure, forcing turnovers in the first half. In the second half, they hit a bunch of shots, and our shots weren’t falling.”

Blackhawk forced 13 North Catholic turnovers in the first half.

Said Rottmann: “We discussed at halftime about just settling for one pass and a shot. But the seams and the gaps were open, so we attacked the open seams or kicked it out for a three.”

Guard Emma Pospisil tallied 17 points for the Trojanettes — 10 in the second half.

Amalia led the way for the Cougars with 22 points, her per-game average on the season. She was 5 of 6 from the foul line. Julie Strati collected eight rebounds, giving her the team lead of 191 in that category.

Both teams have qualified for the PIAA tournament, which begins March 7.

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