North Catholic steps up, denies Laurel Highlands another trip to WPIAL finals

Monday, February 27, 2023 | 10:59 PM

North Catholic denied Laurel Highlands its fourth consecutive trip to the WPIAL championship game by defeating the second-seeded Mustangs, 74-59, in the Class 4A semifinals Monday at Norwin.

The sixth-seeded Trojans combined hot 3-point shooting in the first half with a pressure defense to defeat the Mustangs.

North Catholic (19-6) will now face No. 1 Lincoln Park (24-1), which defeated Highlands, 87-64, for the third time this season in the title game at 9 p.m. Friday at Pitt’s Petersen Events Center.

Laurel Highlands (21-3) will play host to Highlands (21-4) in a third-place game Wednesday.

The Mustangs were able to handle the Trojans’ pressure in the first quarter, building an 18-13 lead on six points from Patrick Cavanaugh and five from Rodney Gallagher.

“They are a tough matchup with the way they run their offense,” Laurel Highlands coach Rick Hauger said. “We didn’t do a very good job rotating on defense. They run the offense really well.

“I felt we were able to handle their pressure when Keondre (DeShields) was on the floor, and that’s all I’m saying.”

Laurel Highlands had a chance to extend the lead but turned the ball over and North Catholic used that spark to close the quarter on an 8-0 run to grab a 21-18 lead.

During that run, Max Hurray and Matt Ellery nailed 3-pointers. A basket by Andrew Maddalon to open the second quarter completed a 10-0 run and gave Trojans a 23-18 lead.

The Mustangs never recovered. When Mason Bolish and DeShields picked up their second and third fouls, the Mustangs saw the Trojans extend the lead to 39-33 by halftime. Even a disallowed 3-pointer at the buzzer didn’t seem to bother the Trojans.

DeShields, one of the top scorers for the Mustangs, picked up his fourth foul early in the third quarter and it forced him to the bench. He ended up with nine points.

“We shot the ball really well,” North Catholic coach Jim Rocco said. “Our guys have done a real good job finding space. What we do is draw people in and then find the open guy. When we find time to shoot it, our guys do a great job.”

North Catholic made nine 3-pointers in the game, seven in the first half. Nick Larson came off the bench to score 12 points on four 3-pointers. Matt Ellery came off the bench to score 10.

Meanwhile, the Mustangs defense had trouble containing Maddalon, who finished with a game-high 25 points, 14 in the fourth quarter as the Trojans’ lead grew to 59-42.

Hurray checked in with 21 points, 10 in the first quarter.

Gallagher, who is headed to West Virginia to play football, tried his best to keep the Mustangs in the game. He faced a double team the entire game and still managed to score 24 points. Cavanaugh chipped in with 10 points.

“We’ve been shooting the ball well all year,” Rocco said. “We have strong kids who can handle the ball well and don’t turn the ball over. Our defense played well and has been strong all season.”

Paul Schofield is a Tribune-Review Staff Writer. You can contact Paul by email at or via Twitter .

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