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Cheswick Christian girls aiming high as season heads toward playoffs

Michael Love
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Louis Raggiunti | For the Tribune-Review
Cheswick Christian Academy’s Allyson Drake (left) and Alexis Blazevich compete during practice Thursday, Jan. 24, 2019.
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Louis Raggiunti | For the Tribune-Review
Cheswick Christian Academy girls baskeball coach Clinton Blazevich talks to his players during practice Thursday, Jan. 24, 2019.
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Louis Raggiunti | For the Tribune-Review
Cheswick Christian Academy’s Bethany Kosor competes during practice Thursday, Jan. 24, 2019.
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Louis Raggiunti | For the Tribune-Review
Cheswick Christian Academy’s Bethany Kosor practices Thursday, Jan. 24, 2019.
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Louis Raggiunti | For the Tribune-Review
Cheswick Christian Academy’s Kelsey Kiger competes during practice Thursday, Jan. 24, 2019.
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Louis Raggiunti | For the Tribune-Review
Cheswick Christian Academy’s Daisy Hamilton competes during practice Thursday, Jan. 24, 2019.

The Cheswick Christian Academy girls basketball team returned all five starters from last year’s Southwest Christian Athletic Conference playoff qualifier.

Injuries to a pair of key starters at the start of this season tempered expectations, but the Chargers weathered the storm and have positioned themselves for a postseason run.

“Our motto all season is that the most important game we play is the next game,” coach Clinton Blazevich said. “If we keep that focus, we’ll be OK. The girls have come together and played well.”

Sophomore point guard Daisy Hamilton and junior center Allyson Drake missed the first three games of the season with injuries, but both returned in Game 4 against Trinity. The team won that game Dec. 15 and was off and running.

“Trinity is a big rival, and it felt great to be back and help get the win,” Hamilton said.

Blazevich credited sophomores Anna Ivanov and Nina Rasulova for stepping up and filling those starting spots when Hamilton and Drake were out.

“That showed us we would have a nice rotation for the rest of the season,” he said.

Cheswick is 11-3 overall and 7-1 in the Greater Pittsburgh Division after Tuesday’s 48-18 victory at Harvest Baptist. The Chargers are a half game behind Cornerstone Prep Christian for first.

Cheswick avenged an earlier 17-point loss to Cornerstone with an 18-17 win at home last Saturday. Cornerstone hit a long-range 2-point basket to close to within one with about a minute left.

The Cheswick offense drained most of the remaining time off the clock. Cornerstone got one last chance, but a desperation heave at the buzzer was off the mark.

“We felt confident in our defense that if we didn’t put any more points on the board, we were playing well enough to pull out that win,” Blazevich said. “The girls really wanted this win, and they worked so hard to get it.”

Hamilton and senior small forward Bethany Kosor have helped the cause with several double-figure scoring efforts. Kosor, a five-year varsity starter, moved into second place on the program’s all-time scoring list in a Jan. 22 win over Hillcrest Christian.

She scored nine points against Harvest Baptist and has 664 career points. Alicia Maust has the record with 1,065 points.

“It was a cool feeling to be able to do it with my team,” Kosor said. “Even though I didn’t get to do it at home, (Hillcrest) was the place I first got to play with Cheswick in sixth grade. It was pretty special.”

Hamilton led Cheswick with 12 points against Harvest Baptist.

Cheswick has a pair of division games left, starting Saturday with a senior-day matchup against Hillcrest at 6 p.m. Kosor and fellow senior Deanna Ormesher will be honored before the game.

“Hopefully, the energy from that (senior ceremony) will flow over to the game,” Blazevich said.

If Cornerstone and Cheswick finish tied at the top of the division, point differential would determine who is the top seed from the division to the league playoffs. Cornerstone holds that advantage — 16 points — on the strength of their first win over the Chargers.

“Our hope is to win out and see if Cornerstone loses one of their remaining games,” Blazevich said.

Four teams from each division make up the eight-team SWCAC playoffs, which begin Feb. 19.

“We’ve tried to get past the quarterfinals the past couple of years, but this year, we feel we can win a championship if we continue to play well,” Kosor said.

Michael Love is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Michael at 412-388-5825, [email protected] or via Twitter @MLove_Trib.