OLSH tops Sto-Rox to win 2nd straight WPIAL Class 2A boys basketball title

Friday, February 28, 2020 | 6:54 PM

It was a WPIAL title repeat for OLSH.

But, other than the uniforms, not much looked the same for the Chargers.

The team graduated eight seniors from last year’s Class 2A title squad. Nevertheless, holdovers Jake DiMichele and Dante Spadafora helped guide the squad to another championship Friday night in an 81-72 decision over Sto-Rox at Pitt’s Petersen Events Center.

“No, I didn’t think we’d be back here,” OLSH coach Mike Rodriguez said. “Did I think I had two special players returning from last year? Yes, I did. But we graduated eight special players. These guys made it all the more special this year. “

The Chargers (24-1) and Vikings, who both entered the game averaging more than 70 points per game, got right to it in a fast-paced first quarter. After falling behind, 7-6, with 4:25 left in the opening quarter, Sto-Rox (18-7) closed the frame with a 14-5 run.

The Vikings’ lead swelled to 10 points, 22-12, 23 seconds into the second quarter.

“They are a very senior team. I think they have 11 seniors that play. While Jake and Dante have been here, I don’t think anybody on the team experienced it before. So I think we had the jitters to start,” Rodriguez said. “We were missing layups and open shots. I think, once we calmed down and got in the flow of the game, they did a great job. I am very proud of them.”

Sto-Rox experienced some foul trouble in the second quarter, which ramped down the team’s aggressiveness.

“I thought foul trouble was the difference,” Sto-Rox coach Ryan Hughes said. “In the first quarter, they let us play a little bit. I thought they tightened it up a little bit in the second quarter and called some fouls that maybe didn’t need to be called in a championship game. But you never know what you’re going to get in a game, so you just have to play.

“The game plan was to get the ball out of Spadafora and DiMichele’s hands. I thought we were doing a really good job in the first quarter. That’s why we were up by double figures. Once we had to change things around a little bit, they got a couple open shots and a little bit of confidence. That foul trouble just killed us.”

OLSH cut the deficit in half, 23-18, when DiMichele swished a pair of free throws with 5:34 left in the half. Sto-Rox’s Malik Smith answered it emphatically with a slam dunk 15 seconds later.

The Chargers gained the lead on Jake Kocent’s driving layup. DiMichele’s steal and layup on the ensuing possession gave them a 32-29 edge with 2:02 to go. They carried a 41-38 edge into intermission.

OLSH opened the third quarter with an 11-3 run. DiMichele’s 3-pointer gave the Chargers a 52-41 lead with 4:57 remaining. OLSH maintained a double-digit lead for the rest of the quarter and carried a 62-50 lead into the fourth.

“It definitely helps to have (a double-digit) lead. When you play a team like Sto-Rox, where they are all high momentum and they like to trap, if you do make one or two mistakes, you still have a pretty comfortable lead,” Spadafora said. “If you’re up by four and make some mistakes, your head starts going and you get flustered and then it’s a tie game. Having that big lead gives you some room to make some mistakes.”

The Chargers’ advantage grew as large as 16 points, 75-59, with 3:37 left. The margin proved to be too much for the Vikings to overcome.

“With the foul trouble, it was hard to get the guys in that we wanted in order to make the run we needed to come back,” said Sto-Rox’s Jamal Williams, who had a team-high 18 points. “The other guys are capable, but I’d rather have our best five guys out there. That wasn’t the case tonight. It is what it is.”

Both teams move onto the PIAA tournament, which starts next Saturday. OLSH plays the District 10 No. 4 seed, while Sto-Rox draws the D-6 No. 4 seed.

“I still feel like we have a very good team. If fouls don’t go the way they go today, it’s a totally different game. I definitely expect to see them again. I think we’re probably the two best teams in Double-A,” Hughes said. “I feel we match up well with them. If we can stay out of foul trouble the next time we see them, maybe we’ll have some success against them.”

DiMichele led all scorers with 30 points.

Check out the archived video stream broadcast at Trib HSSN.

Joe Sager is a freelance writer.

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