OLSH boys headed back to WPIAL title game, take down South Side in Class 2A semifinals

Tuesday, February 26, 2019 | 10:28 PM

After losing to Sewickley Academy in the WPIAL finals the last two seasons, Our Lady of the Sacred Heart is hoping to bring home the gold against a different opponent this time.

The top-seeded Chargers (21-2) will take on Serra Catholic at 5 p.m. Friday at Pitt’s Petersen Events Center.

OLSH prevailed over No. 5 South Side, 70-55, in the Class 2A semifinals Tuesday night at Canon-McMillan.

A 13-1 spurt that started in the latter stages of the first quarter put the Chargers in the driver’s seat.

The surge was highlighted by four points in the last four seconds of the opening quarter.

Daren DiMichele drove in for a layup and Dante Spadafora stole the inbounds pass and scored at the buzzer to put OLSH ahead, 22-17.

“We went to a trap defense just to surprise them,” Chargers coach Mike Rodriguez said. “It worked, it got us the baskets that we needed, but it’s not something you can run the whole time because you’ll get exhausted.”

OLSH capped a strong first half with a steal by Austin Wigley that resulted in a third-chance basket by Michael Dugan to give the Chargers a 33-24 halftime advantage.

It was the first time in the semifinals for South Side in the school’s history.

“I thought our kids played hard,” Rams coach Bob Harrison said. “We knew it was going to be difficult. We had to take care of the ball. It was our third time playing them and we know them pretty well.”

The Rams lost twice to the Chargers during Section 3-2A play.

“The boys played really hard,” Rodriguez said. “We did some things we don’t normally do because we’ve seen them three times. They’ve gotten really good throughout the year.”

South Side was bothered by the OLSH defense just into the Rams forecourt, pressuring their guards, sometimes with double teams.

Added Rodriguez: “We played ‘man’ the entire game which is uncharacteristic for us. We wanted to make sure we took away their back-door cuts. We were successful taking that away from them.”

A drive by Austin Wigley gave OLSH its biggest lead, 45-29, with 3 minutes, 25 seconds left in the third quarter.

“When we played them before, we had a couple of lapses that didn’t go our way, and tonight it was the same thing,” Harrison said. “The third quarter kind of killed us tonight. It’s hard when you’re playing them, you just can’t make mistakes.”

The Rams cut the OLSH lead to 10 twice in the second half, but couldn’t get their deficit to single digits.

Logan English scored 25 points and collected seven rebounds for South Side (18-7), which has already qualified for the PIAA playoffs.

Wigley led the Chargers with 20 points — 10 in the fourth quarter.

Daren DiMichele added 17 and Ricco Tate grabbed 13 rebounds.

Rodriguez feels his program is fortunate to go to the finals three consecutive seasons.

“We’re blessed,” Rodriguez said. “We got a lot of kids back from last year’s team, but this is a different team. We’re honored to be going back; it’s hard to get there.”

OLSH was also ranked No. 2 in the state this week by Trib Total Media and is in the WPIAL playoffs for the 23rd time.

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