Oakland Catholic drops McKeesport again to advance to Class 5A title game

Tuesday, February 28, 2023 | 10:44 PM

Oakland Catholic continued to be McKeesport’s kryptonite Tuesday night.

The second-seeded Eagles punched their ticket into the WPIAL Class 5A championship game by topping the third-seeded Tigers for the third time this season with a 58–51 win in the semifinal round Tuesday night at Gateway High School.

With the win, Oakland Catholic (22-3) advances to the district title game for the first time since 2017. The Eagles will face top-seeded South Fayette, a 68-25 winner over No. 12 Woodland Hills in the other semifinal matchup, for the 5A crown at Pitt’s Petersen Events Center on Saturday.

The game was tied 41-41 entering the fourth quarter before the Eagles outscored the Tigers by a 17-10 margin in the final eight minutes.

Alexa Washington helped guide Oakland Catholic to the win by hitting two clutch 3-pointers to help her team take the lead for good.

Washington also hit a pair of free throws down the stretch for the Eagles, who went 9 for 12 from the charity stripe in the final 3:31.

Washington finished with six 3-pointers and a game-high 26 points.

“I love to shoot,” Washington said. “If it’s going to get us up or help the team, I have confidence in my shot that it’s going to go in. I think my teammates have confidence in me, too.”

McKeesport (20-5) struggled mightily to hit shots in the final quarter.

Rachael Manfredo, who led the team with 17 points, converted on a layup within the opening minute to tie the game at 43-43.

After that, the Tigers missed 16 shot attempts in a row before Brooke Evans scored inside with under a minute to go in the contest. Evans was the Tigers’ other double-digit scorer with 11 points. Kaylee Charles and Malina Boord each added nine.

Manfredo helped lead the way in the first quarter by pouring in 10 of her points and guiding the Tigers to an 18-11 lead after one.

Madison Hertzler and Boord each added clutch 3s in the frame, while Jill Gallo paced the Eagles with six points of her own. Gallo finished with 13 points and Rachel Haver added 10 in the win.

Evans scored the first bucket of the second quarter to extend McKeesport’s lead to 20-11 within the first 10 seconds.

Then, the Eagles took over.

Washington tallied 10 of her 13 first-half points during a stretch in which Oakland Catholic outscored McKeesport by a sizable 19-5 margin to take a 30-25 lead into the halftime break.

At one point, the Eagles scored 17 unanswered points.

Washington’s final bucket of the frame came with less than five seconds left, as she scored in transition to make it a two-possession lead for the Eagles. Her clutch shot came after five straight points on a pair of free throws from Manfredo and a trey by Boord.

“When we went into the huddle going into the second quarter, coach (Eddie Benton Jr.) said, ‘Pick it up. The game isn’t over,’” Washington explained. “We always feel like we have the energy and confidence to bring it back.”

McKeesport rallied in the third quarter to outscore Oakland Catholic by a 16-11 margin and tie it going into the fourth.

Midway through the third, the Tigers went on a 9-2 run that featured four points from Charles and three from Manfredo.

McKeesport will meet Woodland Hills in the third-place game Thursday at a site and time to be determined.

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