As the Chartiers Valley girls basketball players saluted their fans from midcourt following their win over Thomas Jefferson, coach Tim McConnell showed off his sweet tooth as he begged for more Hershey’s kisses to reign down on him and his team.
In a season filled with all wins, this may have been the sweetest.
Chartiers Valley beat Thomas Jefferson for a fourth time this season, winning 50-44 on Tuesday to earn a berth in the PIAA championship game at 6 p.m. Saturday in Hershey against District 12 champion Archbishop Carroll.
“I got a little lump on my head,” McConnell said. “I think one of my friends threw a little hard and doinked me on the head. But it will still feel good in the morning, I don’t care how big the lump is.”
The unbeaten Colts delivered the first blow after a back-and-forth start by scoring 9 of the final 12 points in the first quarter to take a 16-10 lead.
Thomas Jefferson, which lost two regular-season games and the WPIAL championship game to Chartiers Valley, closed the gap in the second quarter and trailed 22-19 at halftime.
“They did a good job on us in keeping our girls in check,” McConnell said. “That’s why buckets were hard to come by.”
Trailing 23-19, the Jaguars scored five straight points to grab a 24-23 lead 1:30 into the second half.
Thirty seconds later, Gabriella Legister’s layup after an offensive rebound put Chartiers Valley ahead 25-24. Thomas Jefferson would never lead again.
Legister’s go-ahead basket capped off a possession in which the Colts picked up four offensive rebounds.
“We did get a couple of rebounds and loose balls,” McConnell said of the sequence. “We threw it to Gabby and she got a layup, then she got another basket for us.
“We didn’t panic when they got the lead, we came down and kept our composure, and that’s the leadership that this team shows.”
Chartiers Valley closed out the third quarter with a Megan McConnell conventional 3-point play to go up 35-31.
On that basket, Thomas Jefferson guard Jenna Clark picked up her fourth foul, which put her on the Jaguars bench until a minute into the final quarter.
The Colts built up their biggest lead to nine points twice, early in the fourth quarter, then with a couple minutes left in regulation.
Chartiers Valley again went with a four corners offense with the lead in the fourth quarter, and Thomas Jefferson could get no closer than four points.
“If we have the lead and if we don’t give up the ball, how are they going to tie us?” McConnell said explaining his delay game.
“If we take care of the ball and they foul us and we hit our foul shots, then we increase our lead. “
Once again, it was a balanced offensive attack for Chartiers Valley as freshman Aislin Malcolm led the way with 12 points and senior Mackenzie Wagner chipped in 10 points. Megan McConnell had 10 points, seven rebounds and six assists.
Seniors Shaylor Williams, off the bench and Clark each had 11 points to pace the Jaguars, who finished 22-8. Junior Alyssa DeAngelo had seven points for TJ before fouling out.
McConnell felt the job his team did on Clark and DeAngelo was a big reason why the Colts are headed to Hershey.
“Think about it, we won by six points. If we don’t keep them in check and they get their 18 or 20 points, we’re going home a loser,” he said.
Chartiers Valley (29-0) is now one win away from double gold and a perfect season.