Rochester tops West Greene in WPIAL finals for 3rd straight year
Monday, March 15, 2021 | 7:13 PM
Rochester used big games from their top two scorers to roll to a third straight WPIAL Class A girls basketball championship with a 71-41 victory over West Greene Monday at Peters Township.
Senior Alexis Robison scored a game-high 29 points while junior teammate Corynne Hauser added 23 points for Rochester.
The Rams’ win marks the third straight year they defeated the Pioneers in the finals.
“It has a special place in our heart,” Rochester coach C.J. Iannini said. “Not only for our community, our school, these players, but just also for Beaver County. We’re only the second team in Beaver County history to ever do three straight. That’s a heck of an accomplishment.”
The Rams join Aliquippa as the only county girls teams to win three district titles in a row. Aliquippa won four straight Class AA crowns from 1987-90.
One of the turning points came early in the game. In the waning seconds of the first quarter with the score tied 12-12 and with West Greene in possession, Hauser stole the ball and fed Robison for a layup, then stole the inbound pass that led to another layup and a 16-12 Rochester lead after one.
“It gave us a little cushion, and the girls got a little more comfortable,” Iannini said. “We realized, ‘Hey, let’s just play basketball and not let the pressure of the game get to us as much anymore.’”
The Rams extended the lead to 10 by halftime, 31-21, with the combo of Robison and Hauser combining for 23 of the 31 points.
“I tried to give it everything I had like it was my last game because it really could have been,” Alexis Robison said.
The Rochester defense was a big part of the victory. It forced 21 West Greene turnovers, 16 in the first half.
Another major factor in the one-sided outcome was that while Rochester’s top two scorers enjoyed big games, West Greene’s leading point producer was shut down.
Senior Jersey Wise was scoreless at halftime and ended up with only two points as Hauser guarded her the entire game.
“Hauser’s as good as we ever played against,” West Greene coach Jordan Watson said. “D-1 girls don’t grow on trees. They’re pretty good, whether its offense or defense.
“We took her (Wise) off the ball and had Anna (Durbin) run point.”
Iannini said a lot of the Rams’ efforts in practice leading up to the postseason were placed on defense.
“We had an 18-day break after our last section game, so we really took that time to work on our defense,” he said. “We wanted to work on our man-to-man, angles, passing lanes, active hands, and the girls responded to it. Part of the game plan tonight was to put Corynne on Jersey to limit their leading scorer.”
The Rams ran away and finished strong in the second half, outscoring the Pioneers, 40-20.
Besides making county history, Rochester became the fourth WPIAL school to three-peat in girls Class A.
St. Francis Academy (1989-91) and Avonworth (1992-94) won three straight while Vincentian Academy won five straight (2012-16).
Besides Alexis Robison and Hauser, junior Mekenzie Robison added 10 points for the Rams.
With the loss, West Greene (18-4) makes district history by falling in the championship game for a fourth consecutive season, the most in WPIAL basketball history.
The Pioneers lost to Rochester, 59-43 in 2020, 62-56 in 2019, and to Winchester Thurston, 76-57 in 2018.
In the 108-year history of the WPIAL basketball finals, North Catholic girls (1990-92), Greensburg Central Catholic (1994-96) and North Allegheny (1997-99) also lost three finals in a row.
Now West Greene stands alone in that dubious distinction. However, Watson is not embarrassed by his team’s Buffalo Bills-like streak in title games.
“It’s hard for a public school to make it here,” he said. “We always have to go through the private schools to get here. We’ve been very blessed to have a great senior class. It’s hard to lose four in a row, but if you would have told (my seniors) in 2018 that they would win four section titles, you’re never going to lose a home game or a section game, and you’re going to make the championship the next four years, I think they would have all taken it.”
Rochester (15-3) now prepares for the PIAA playoffs. The Rams will host a quarterfinal state playoff game Saturday against the winner of Wednesday’s first-round game between District 10 champion Kennedy Catholic and District 5 winner Shanksville-Stonycreek.
“There is no easy way out,” Iannini said. “We’re familiar with both. Immediately (Monday night) I’ll start hitting the film and see who we got next.”
“We’ll focus on the first game, then go on from there,” Robison added. “Hopefully we can make it to the state championship.”
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