No. 3 Central Valley girls hold on to beat No. 2 Blackhawk
This time, it was Blackhawk’s turn to do the chasing.
However the Cougars’ furious comeback fell short Thursday night as Central Valley held on for a 49-46 victory in a key WPIAL Section 2-4A girls basketball battle at Central Valley Middle School.
“It was amazing to win,” Central Valley’s Christiane Frye said. “We’ve been practicing for this moment. Big games — that’s what we’ve been looking forward to. It was great. We limited the bad things we did last game and got the win.”
The victory puts the Warriors (16-1 overall, 9-1 section) in a tie atop the section standings with Blackhawk (14-3, 9-1) with two section games remaining. It avenged an earlier 64-53 loss at Blackhawk in which Central Valley made a big comeback in the fourth quarter, but fell short.
“We can celebrate this tonight, but we have to get ready for Quaker Valley on Monday,” Central Valley coach Chris Raso said. “They know what the goal was at the beginning of the year, and we’re on that path now. This wasn’t pretty. But, I don’t care what it looks like as long as we have more points than the other team at the end of the night.”
Frye led the way for Central Valley. The junior guard sparked the Warriors with 12 points on four 3-pointers — the last one from half court at the buzzer — in the first quarter. It gave the squad an 18-7 lead.
“I think that was really important, to get them down early and send a message,” Frye said. “It’s funny because I hit a similar shot last year at home when we beat them. It’s just a good feeling, especially for the team. We worked together and won as a team. We just wanted some redemption from last game.”
Frye finished with a team-high 14 points.
“I think Christiane had it in her mind that she had something to prove. She kind of struggled out there the first time we played them,” Raso said. “The past two days at practice, she was zeroed in and you can tell when she is going to have a big game. She really propelled us, and I thought it carried over long enough for us to do what we had to do.”
Blackhawk spent the next three quarters chasing the Warriors, but struggled to get its offense going until the fourth quarter.
“When you’re on the road and in this kind of environment with their fans, it’s tough to come back. Christiane hit four 3s and that half-court one killed us. She did it last year, as well,” Blackhawk coach Steve Lodovico said. “I told the girls in the locker room that, eventually, they were going to have a bad night. We just picked the wrong night to have a bad night. Hat’s off to Central Valley because their players hit shots and we didn’t. We had one of our worst nights that I can remember in a long time.”
Kaitlyn Lyons gave Central Valley its biggest lead, 40-25, with a bucket 28 seconds into the fourth quarter. However, the Cougars warmed up and started generating some points off their pressure defense. Jolie Strati’s 3-pointer sparked a 7-0 run that trimmed the deficit to 40-32 with 6:02 left.
“We knew the game was never over. We had to play to the last second,” Frye said. “I am just proud of my team.”
The Warriors restored a double-digit lead (47-35) when Lyons swished a trey with 4:24 to play. However, Blackhawk came back again with another 7-0 run. Mady Aulbach’s 3-pointer trimmed the deficit to 47-42 with 2:54 to go.
“They made several runs. We talk about taking a punch and taking several punches. We knew it was going to happen and I thought we did a nice job until that last three minutes when we started throwing it all over the place,” Raso said. “You know you’re going to turn it over against them, but you have to overcome it and we did. That’s something last year that would’ve bugged us, but it’s a sign they’re growing up this year.”
The Cougars got within a bucket, 49-46, with 47.5 seconds to go. After a Warriors turnover, Blackhawk had a chance to tie, but a 3-point shot missed its mark. Central Valley rebounded and drew a foul, but failed to convert at the foul line with 1.4 seconds to go. The Cougars rebounded and lofted a desperation shot, but it fell short.
“Our problem the past two years is that, in big games, we haven’t been showing up,” Lodovico said. “We have to figure a way to get over the hump.”
Kaelyn Underwdood and Harlee Johns both had 12 points for the Warriors. Strati led Blackhawk with 17 points, while Mackenzie Amalia added 14.
“It’s really important that all of us chipped in tonight,” Frye said. “It wasn’t just one or two players, it was all of us and that’s what we care about.”
Joe Sager is a freelance writer.