Suffocating defense helps No. 3 OLSH girls snap No. 1 Chartiers-Houston’s section winning streak

Thursday, January 18, 2018 | 10:33 PM

In a matchup that pitted the top two teams in Section 1-2A, it was team defense that made the difference as Our Lady of the Sacred Heart stifled top-ranked Chartiers-Houston with an agitating full-court press to help key a 41-34 victory, bringing an end to the Buccaneers' 22-game section winning streak.

The all-out press defense is a staple for coach Don Eckerle's teams, but Thursday it worked to perfection as No. 3-ranked OLSH (11-2, 6-1) pressured the Bucs' ball-handlers relentlessly, throwing the defending WPIAL Class 2A champs off of their offensive game.

“That is part of our normal scheme. Tonight, it accomplished what we needed it to accomplish. We created 28 turnovers on their side. We were able to bring Alexa Williamson away from the basket,” Eckerle said.

“It accomplished those two things, which ultimately gave us a lot more opportunities.”

The Chargers' defensive efforts culminated in a pivotal fourth quarter that saw them outscore Chartiers-Houston, 12-5.

Offensively, it was Kennede Mickle who shined for OLSH. The junior forward rose to the occasion after teammate Ashley Norling got into early foul trouble and ended up pouring in a game-high 21 points.

“With Ashley in foul trouble, Kennede really stepped up,” Eckerle said. “One of the things we pride ourselves in is that we never know who our leading scorer is going to be in a given game. Tonight was her night to step up, and she did. She led us in a lot of ways, but she gave us that offensive firepower when we needed it. The biggest thing is that she was not afraid to take the shot when we needed her to.”

Sophomore point guard Haley Hamilton also chipped in 10 points for OLSH.

The Buccaneers (10-4, 7-1) struggled with their half-court offense throughout the night.

Alexa Williamson, an all-state selection last season who is averaging 26 points, had trouble getting the ball cleanly in her team's offensive sets. The Temple commit still managed 15 points and 15 rebounds, but OLSH's ability to disrupt the passing lanes of Chartiers-Houston's guards helped to soften her impact on the final outcome.

“I just think that we couldn't get our offense going,” Chartiers-Houston coach Laura Montecalvo said. “We didn't do a good job being patient in the half court, and we did not take care of the basketball. So, we gave them a lot of opportunities from our own mistakes and turning the ball over.”

Kevin Lohman is a freelance writer.


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