Oakland Catholic girls edge rival Penn Hills in PIAA Class 5A 2nd round

Wednesday, March 13, 2019 | 11:32 PM

No team wants to see a section rival in the postseason, but that’s what happened Wednesday night at Fox Chapel. Section 3-5A foes Oakland Catholic and Penn Hills laced them up one last time this season in a rubber match.

But this time the stakes were higher. A spot in the PIAA Class 5A quarterfinals was on the line.

Backed by clutch shooting from seniors Sierra DeAngelo and Jayde Boyd, Oakland Catholic managed to hold off Penn Hills and pull out a 39-27 win in the second round of PIAA playoffs.

“They executed the game plan to a T,” first-year Oakland Catholic coach Brianne O’Rourke-Kelly said. “(DeAngelo and Boyd) carry this team, and they’re captains on this team.

“It’s their senior years, and they don’t want it to end. They’re fighting and battling every single game, and they know what they have to give for us to be successful and to win games.”

For the second season in a row, Oakland Catholic (22-4) moves on to the PIAA quarterfinals and will face WPIAL champion Chartiers Valley (27-0) on Saturday at a site and time to be determined. The Colts advanced by beating District 10 runner-up Slippery Rock, 54-35.

“For us, there wasn’t a lot of changes we needed to make,” Penn Hills coach Robert Cash said. “They scored 31 (in the first section game). The second time, at our place, they scored 43, and tonight they scored 39. If you’re able to hold somebody to 39 points in a game you expect to win.”

Penn Hills (16-8) was hot early on. Indians senior guard Adia Brisker gave Penn Hills a 6-4 lead off a beautiful reverse baseline layup with 2 minutes, 9 seconds remaining in the first quarter.

Oakland Catholic senior leadership then stepped up. Boyd connected on two free throws, added a layup off a steal and DeAngelo added a 3-pointer from the top of the arc at the first-quarter buzzer to give the Eagles the lead for good at 11-6. DeAngelo finished with a game-high 15 points and Boyd added 13.

“They knew that it was going to be a battle from the jump,” O’Rourke-Kelly said. “They’re a great team and athletic, and we knew what we were up against.”

DeAngleo added deep 3-pointer to start the second quarter and scored on a layup late. Most of the Eagles second-quarter points came from the foul line.

“We live at the free-throw line in practice because, believe me, state playoff games come down to the free-throw line,” O’Rourke-Kelly said.

Penn Hills senior guard Tayonna Robertson supplied all six of the Indians’ points in the second quarter. She was the Indians’ lone double-digit scorer, finishing with 12 points.

Oakland Catholic finished the first half holding an 18-10 lead, but between two rivals, no lead is secure.

“You always expect yourself to be able to put the ball in the hole and get it done,” Cash said. “For some reason tonight, we just weren’t able to get it done.”

The Indians came out in the third quarter, settled down and played better. Brisker added a basket early. Robertson added another short jumper to cut into the Eagles’ lead at 21-17.

Penn Hills senior Ariana Dunson drained back-to-back 3-pointers to tie the game at 23-23 with 49 seconds remaining in the third quarter. But Boyd came right back down the floor and swished a 3-pointer from the left corner to silence the Penn Hills fans.

Boyd added an underarm floater just before the third-quarter buzzer to extend Oakland Catholic’s lead to 28-23.

Penn Hills went back into its shooting slump in the fourth quarter. Robertson added a short basket and Diamond-Jay Whittington connected on a short jumper from inside the paint, but that was it.

“We had shots, we just didn’t make them,” Cash said. “We had layups. We had open jump shots. We had opportunities, but we just didn’t take care of the opportunities that we had. They did theirs a little bit better than what we did tonight.”

It was all free throws down the stretch for Oakland Catholic. The Eagles connected on 7 of 10 shots from the foul line.

O’Rourke-Kelly isn’t interested in what happened last year in the state playoffs. She and her team are not living in the past. The Eagles are only focused on what’s in front of them.

“We don’t look at last season, I wasn’t here,” she said. “It’s a different team and a new dynamic that we have. There’s a new goal in front of us, and they know that they have to battle again on Saturday.”

William Whalen is a freelance writer.

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