Top-seeded Union girls overpower Riverview, earn return trip to WPIAL Class A final

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Monday, February 26, 2024 | 9:39 PM


If you give the Union girls basketball team an inch, it usually takes a mile.

That was the case Monday in a WPIAL Class A semifinal at North Allegheny.

The No. 1 Scotties built a big lead in the first half and didn’t give No. 4 Riverview any momentum in a 56-13 final.

“It’s nice to see that hard work pay off, from all the way back to the summertime after last year’s state title game was over,” Union coach Rob Nogay said.

“These girls work hard at everything they do, all the sports that they play. Basketball is no different, and they’ve worked hard for me all season.”

Union improved to 18-5 overall and will head to its second straight WPIAL championship game Saturday morning at the Petersen Events Center in search of back-to-back titles.

“We set our goals, and this was one of our goals, to get back to the (title game),” Nogay said.

Riverview (16-7) has a quick turnaround for its next game.

The Raiders, who clinched a spot in the state playoffs with Thursday’s quarterfinal win over No. 5 Monessen, will play for third place Wednesday at a site and time to be determined.

Riverview came up empty on its first seven possessions — five turnovers, a missed 3-pointer and a jump ball — and Union capitalized to open a 9-0 lead.

“That was important for us, and we talk about coming out and starting strong every game,” Nogay said. “We always want to dictate the pace and set the tone. We were able to do that with our defensive pressure. We’ve relied on that all year.”

The Raiders got on the board with a jumper from junior Katerina Tsambis with 2:59 left in the opening quarter.

A putback from sophomore Isabella Chaparro and a layup from senior Lola Abraham trimmed the Scotties lead to six late in the first, but Union got the final two points of the frame to lead 13-6.

Riverview’s offensive woes were prevalent in the second. Missed shots and six additional turnovers spelled doom for the Raiders.

The Scotties outscored Riverview 20-0 in the second to take full control.

Senior Bella Cameron hit a trio of 3-pointers in the second. She had four total in the first half and finished the game with 12 points.

Senior Kelly Cleaver added four points in the second quarter, had 10 at the half, and finished with a game-best 15 to go along with 11 rebounds.

“We had some kids hit some big shots for us, and one through five, our entire unit played some really good defense tonight,” Nogay said.

“Bella has been hitting those shots for us all year. (Defenses) will sag down to stop Kelly and over-exaggerate on Kylie (Fruehstorfer), and that will often leave Bella with some wide-open looks, and she stepped up again and hit some big shots.”

A layup from sophomore Miera Gunn with 6:22 left in the third quarter put Union up 38-8 and put the mercy running clock into affect.

“We’re not used to playing zone, and we played zone today, and that was a little bit out of our element,” Riverview coach Jill Catanzaro said.

“On a plus note, we were able to handle their press. We just didn’t capitalize enough on coming down (on offense). We did get some good looks. They just weren’t falling.”

Union, with its comfortable lead, started to sub its starters early in the fourth quarter. Riverview reciprocated as the final quarter progressed.

Chaparro came off the bench to lead Riverview with five points. Abraham and Tsambis scored four apiece for the Raiders, who are 0-6 all-time in WPIAL semifinal games.

“The one thing that I told the girls that I wanted them to come and compete,” Catanzaro said.

“They did that. But when they started hitting and hitting and we didn’t, it really took the wind out of our sails. I think we’re a better team than the final score. But to play in a big arena like this, against a powerful team like Union, and to be in the semifinals, that is big for the girls.”

Michael Love is a TribLive reporter covering sports in the Alle-Kiski Valley and the eastern suburbs of Pittsburgh. A Clearfield native and a graduate of Westminster (Pa.), he joined the Trib in 2002 after spending five years at the Clearfield Progress. He can be reached at mlove@triblive.com.

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