Trib HSSN Girls Basketball Player of the Week: Blackhawk’s Mackenzie Amalia
By: Don Rebel
Sunday, March 10, 2019 | 8:17 PM
This has been a unique season for the Blackhawk girls’ basketball team.
Right before the start of a highly anticipated campaign, it was announced assistant coach and the father of one of the top players, Bob Amalia, was in a fight for his life against cancer.
Amalia, who is also the coach of the Cougars baseball team, is just “Dad” to junior MacKenzie Amalia.
She scored 25 points Saturday in the Cougars’ 70-46 victory over Punxsutawney in the first round of the PIAA Class 4A girls basketball playoffs.
“We don’t talk much about Bob‘s condition during the year,” Blackhawk coach Steve Lodovico said. “We talked to the team about it, and then we all became closer as a family because of it.
“Bob is a big factor in what we do, and Mackenzie has dealt with it in a very positive manner. She is relying on her faith and using basketball as an outlet, and her play on the court is quite remarkable with all that her and her family have gone through.”
After losing to Central Valley in the WPIAL semifinals, Blackhawk opened up the PIAA postseason Saturday against District 9 champion Punxsutawney.
The Chucks entered the game with a 22-1 record and led by one after the opening quarter. The Cougars bounced back and claimed a 35-29 lead at the half.
Blackhawk took control in the third quarter, holding Punxsutawney to only 17 points in the second half and cruising to a 24-point win.
“At halftime, we didn’t make many adjustments,” Lodovico said. “We just needed to fix a few things on our press. Once we are able to get our defense pressuring the basketball and causing turnovers, we were able to score in transition.”
Lodovico said Amalia did a lot more than lead the Cougars on the scoreboard.
“Mackenzie did a great job of controlling the tempo and made some big shots to help us pull away. She had a couple key on the ball steals the converted into points in critical times. Also she hit four 3’s.”
Obviously, this has been a trying season off the court for Amalia, but Lodovico said she has really improved her game.
“Her game has evolved quite a bit from her first two years,” he said. “She has great floor vision and, over the summer, has really become stronger and faster, which has helped her find different ways to score. Her ability to set others up with her passing is probably her biggest asset to our team.”
Blackhawk draws WPIAL champion North Catholic in the second round.
“We are really looking forward to playing North Catholic on Wednesday,” an excited Lodovico said. “Obviously, they are a great team and a great program. On our side, we feel we have that same type of tradition, and I think the matchup is going to produce a fun and exciting game.”
Makenna Marisa, Peters Township
There was no WPIAL championship hangover for this first-time champs. Six days after celebrating the school’s first girls’ basketball championship, Peters Township jumped out to a 16-7 lead and never looked back as it rolled past Harrisburg, 54-34. As always, it was senior standout Makenna Marisa leading the way for the Indians as she scored 25 points, 18 of them coming in the first half. Now it’s on to the second round and a fourth battle with Section 2-6A rival Bethel Park.
Jenna Clark, Thomas Jefferson
Whenever its crunch time for Thomas Jefferson, they find a way to get the ball in the hands of senior guard Jenna Clark and she delivers. On Saturday, those deliveries included several trips to the bank. In a close game, Clark hit several key second half shots, several of which were bank shots from sharp angles, as the Jaguars bounced back from the WPIAL title game defeat by Chartiers Valley with a 50-44 victory over section rival Trinity.
Alexis Robison, Rochester
WPIAL Class A champion Rochester showed no fear against the District 9 Terrors. The Rams raced out to a 24-15 lead after one and extended their advantage to 42-24, leaving the best mechanics around unable to fix Otto-Eldred. Alexis Robison did most of the damage as the sophomore continued her successful postseason play by scoring 27 points in a 67-44 victory that moves Rochester to the state second round where they will face another District 9 foe in Coudersport.
Don Rebel hosts the Rebel Yell podcasts for HSSN.