Rochester, West Greene to square off again in WPIAL Class A girls title tilt

Thursday, February 27, 2020 | 10:24 PM

It’s starting to become an annual reunion for two Class A schools in the WPIAL girls basketball playoffs. This year will mark the fourth year in a row Rochester and West Greene will meet in the playoffs and the second year in a row in the championship game.

No. 1 Rochester (23-1) won last year’s title matchup and will look to go back to back as the No. 2 Pioneers (24-0) have their sights on winning the first WPIAL title in program history when they tip off at 3 p.m. Friday at Petersen Events Center.

Last year, the Rams became the first public school to win the WPIAL Class A girls basketball title since 2006 after beating West Greene, 62-56.

“It’s almost like we’re section rivals with us playing in the championship in back-to-back years. It’s going to come down to which team wants it more,” Rochester coach CJ Iannini said.

West Greene advanced to the finals after they escaped with a 46-45 victory over No. 6 Sewickley Academy (14-11) in semifinals Tuesday. The Raiders had a chance to win with the basketball under their own hoop with 6.7 seconds remaining.

The Pioneers hope that the third time’s a charm as they lost against Winchester-Thurston, 76-57, in the 2018 championship game.

“I think being there three years in a row is a different comfort zone,” West Greene coach Jordan Watson said. “We try to preach that it’s just another game, but it is different. The first year we couldn’t even find the locker rooms. We know where to get off the bus, where the locker rooms are and the environment.”

The Rams advanced to the final after a 57-37 win over No. 4 Clairton (20-4) in the semifinals.

After winning their first WPIAL title last year, the Rams know it would be special to repeat as champions.

“Last year was extremely special with winning the first WPIAL championship in school history but to win back to back will be the icing on the cake,” Iannini said. “It would put these girls, this team and the school in a position where they haven’t been before.”

Rochester is led by their two guards offensively — junior Alexis Robison (19.5 points per game) and sophomore Corynne Hauser (15.3 ppg).

Hauser has made an impact in many different ways as she leads the Rams with 5.5 rebounds, 4.8 assists and 4.4 steals per game.

However, the Rams will need to have contributions from their role players if they want to repeat.

Sophomore guard Mekenzie Robinson will look to build off her 14-point performance in the semifinals, while senior forward Jasmine Mack will look to take advantage of her 5-foot-11 frame in the paint.

“We try to space it out and try to be unselfish as much as we can by getting other parties involved so you can’t key on our two leading scorers, but I feel like the other key contributors will step up for us,” Iannini said.

The up-tempo Pioneers are led by three players who have averaged in double figures this season — junior guard Jersey Wise (17.8 ppg), sophomore guard Anna Durbin (11.5 ppg) and junior guard Elizabeth Brudnock (10.8 ppg).

With the size of Mack, the Pioneers will need to stress the need to rebound as a team. Sophomore guard/forward Brooke Barner leads the Pioneers with 9.3 rebounds per game. All three top-scorers average around five rebound per game – Durbin (4.9), Brudnock (4.8) and Wise (4.2).

“We got to keep (Mack) off the boards,” Watson said. “She’s going to be a lot bigger than anybody we have. We have to focus on getting a body on her and fronting the post.”

Rochester has averaged 62 points this season, while limiting opponents to 40.3 points per game.

Iannini is fully expecting the West Greene press and will look to limit its effectiveness. Wise leads the Pioneers with 4.1 steals per game this season.

“It comes down to if we take care of the basketball, control the tempo and handle their press,” Iannini said. “They are recognized and known for creating turnovers and creating havoc. If we do those things, we have a great chance of coming out on top.”

West Greene has averaged 63.7 points per game, while holding opponents to 32.8 points per game this season. The Pioneers will look to have a better shooting performance after struggling in semifinals as they like to rely on the 3-point shot.

Watson understands what a win would mean to the community.

“It would mean a lot since there hasn’t been a team in Greene County that has won a WPIAL championship in basketball,” he said. “It would mean everything for our area and our community if we win it.”

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