OLSH joins elite list as undefeated PIAA boys basketball champion

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Friday, March 26, 2021 | 4:43 PM


HERSHEY — For Our Lady of the Sacred Heart, this was the perfect ending.

OLSH junior Jake DiMichele had 21 points, 16 rebounds and five blocks, and senior Dante Spadafora added 15 points as the Chargers defeated Philadelphia’s Constitution, 62-49, in the PIAA Class 2A final Friday at Giant Center.

A year ago, they were two wins away from Hershey when the pandemic dashed their state championship hopes. This year, nothing stopped the Chargers, who celebrated the first PIAA title in team history.

And they won it with a perfect 24-0 record, making them the 14th WPIAL boys team ever to earn an undefeated state title.

“After my freshman year, we lost (in the state playoffs) and I remember texting Dante and I told him we’re going to win a state championship,” DiMichele said. “I thought it was going to be last year but we got shut down. When he stepped out of the game, I gave him a big hug and said: ‘I know you remember that text I sent you.’”

The perfect record made the title even sweeter.

“I can’t really put it into words,” Spadafora said. “It really doesn’t feel real. I think tomorrow it’s really going to hit me. I kind of knew this was coming all along, but I didn’t know it was going to be an undefeated season.”

Dawson Summers added 13 points and B.J. Vaughn had 11 for OLSH, which had four scorers in double figures. The team’s 15-for-21 performance at the free throw line was also key.

There were six ties and four lead changes in the first half. Two free throws by Summers gave OLSH a 20-19 lead early in second quarter, part of a 10-2 run that put the Chargers ahead for good.

OLSH led 34-25 at half and 42-35 after three.

Quadier Miller led Constitution (14-7) with 19 points, Jacob Beccies had 13 and Lamar Glover had 12.

This year’s championship was a rematch from the 2018 final that Constitution won 81-71. Spadafora was a freshman then and was determined ever since to see Giant Center again.

“In 2018, we were, I don’t want to say, amazed,” OLSH coach Mike Rodriguez said, “but we were proud to be here. We were so excited it was the first time. The bus ride was exciting. The hotel was a mad house and the boys were overly excited to be here. This time, I can say for Dante and Jake, it was more of a business trip.”

But for a time Thursday, it wasn’t certain the game would be played. Constitution’s health was in question after semifinal opponent Old Forge reported a covid-19 case.

OLSH’s players learned the news on the bus ride to Hershey, and agreed that’s not how they wanted to win.

“If you win by a forfeit, there’s always going to be that asterisk,” DiMichele said. “I’d always have in the back of my mind that we didn’t really win the state championship.”

Spadafora agreed.

“I’d rather get second place than win that way,” he said.

With help from Philadelphia’s health department, Constitution underwent rapid covid testing Thursday and everyone was cleared, allowing the game to be played as scheduled.

“We were already talking about calling coach (Robert) Moore and scheduling a game (for another day),” Rodriguez said. “I don’t want to win that way. Who does? It’s not so much about winning or losing. It’s about playing here.”

OLSH made an early statement with four blocks in the first quarter. As a team, the Chargers finished with 10 led by DiMichele’s five.

“Our assistant coach told us that they’re just going to try to out-jump us,” DiMichele said. “It may not look like it, but we have some kids who can jump too. … When you block someone like that, it makes them think twice next time they go in. They started doing reverses and shooting floaters.

“Those blocks certainly set the tone.”

Remarkably, DiMichele isn’t the first undefeated state champion in his family. His father Daren, who was in the crowd Friday, celebrated an unbeaten PIAA title with Sto-Rox in 1983.

“He talks about it all the time,” DiMichele said. “I never really understood it when I was younger. I listened but I never really understood it. And then when I was around 11 or 12 years old, I watched the game on like an old DVD. I remember thinking, ‘I want to be there one day. I want to be in Hershey winning it with my teammates.’”

Chris Harlan is a TribLive reporter covering sports. He joined the Trib in 2009 after seven years as a reporter at the Beaver County Times. He can be reached at charlan@triblive.com.

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