BEAVER FALLS - Olivia Stever emerged from the locker room following her final high school basketball game with the remnants of a few tears but her head held high.
The Tyrone senior scored a game-high 28 points and kept her Lady Eagles in the game until the final minute of a 60-51 loss to host Blackhawk in the PIAA Class AAA preliminary round Tuesday.
"We all had confidence that we could come out here and win," Stever said. "A lot of people probably didn't think we could win, but we were up after the first quarter.
Mirror photo by Darian?Somers
Tyrone’s Morgan Taylor (front) and Alayna Hettinger react following Tuesday’s loss.
"I didn't have a doubt in my team. We came up short, but we gave it our all and really tried."
Despite going through a three-hour bus trip to get to the game and playing a highly-touted WPIAL team in the Lady Cougars, it was the Lady Eagles that jumped ahead early.
Tyrone forced eight turnovers in the first quarter and took an 18-12 lead before Chassidy Omogrosso hit a layup near the buzzer.
"Tyrone is a very good team," Blackhawk coach Steve Lodovico said. "They play hard, and the Stever girl is solid. We were getting overpowered early."
The Lady Eagles maintained their lead until Blackhawk used a 9-0 run midway through the second quarter to go ahead, 25-21. Tyrone got right back into it with an Alayna Hettinger 3-pointer. It looked as though Tyrone would go into the half trailing by just one until Omogrosso connected on a 3-pointer from near the half-court line.
"That was really deep, and it was a big shot," Tyrone coach Luke Rhoades said. "We had shut her down, and she fumbled it a little bit, then she hit a shot from well-beyond NBA range."
Omogrosso finished with a team-high 23 points and was 8-for-8 from the foul line.
Tyrone tied the game with two Nicole Gripp free throws at the 4:51 mark of the third quarter and captured the lead when Stever made a traditional three-point play with 3:33 to play in the quarter.
"Olivia steps up in big games, and I told her after the game that it hurts me that I won't see her play another game for us," Rhoades said. "She put the team on her shoulders, and she is an All-Star caliber player."
Following Stever's basket, Blackhawk used a 10-2 run to close out the quarter and sat on that lead for most of the fourth.
Stever was fouled while making a layup with 1:02 left that cut the lead to 54-49, but she missed the free throw and Tyrone got no closer.
"Most people didn't think we had a chance, but we showed that we could stay in the game," Tyrone's Jordyn Swogger said. "We should have won. It's so hard losing our seniors Olivia and Emily [Brokenshire]."
Tyrone finished with just three 3-pointers, one each by Swogger, Hettinger and Morgan Taylor.
"We tried to keep the pressure up," Lodovico said. "I know that they're a 3-point shooting team, but I think we got their legs tired. They started coming up short on shots, and I think that was a credit to our pressure."
The Lady Eagles finished the season 20-5 and have a Mountain League title to their credit. Tyrone will drop back down to Class AA next year after playing in the Class AAA playoffs the past two seasons.
"The other girls have to work really hard this offseason if we are going to continue to move in the right direction," Rhoades said. "We played with heart and pride, and we played hard for 32 minutes. I'm really proud of every girl's effort tonight."
TYRONE (51): Gripp 1 2-2 4, Stever 11 6-7 28, Swogger 3 0-0 7, Taylor 3 0-0 7, Hettinger 2 0-0 5, Brokenshire 0 0-0 0, Brooks 0 0-0 0. Totals 20 8-9 51.
BLACKHAWK (60): Omogrosso 6 8-8 23, Emge 1 0-0 2, Shaffer 1 4-5 6, Vannoy 5 0-1 10, Graham 7 0-5 14, Levato 2 1-2 5, Potts 0 0-0 0. Totals 22 13-21 60.
SCORE BY QUARTERS
Tyrone 18 10 17 8 - 51
Blackhawk 14 18 18 10 - 60
3-pointers: Tyrone 3 (Swogger, Taylor, Hettinger). Blackhawk 3 (Omogrosso 3)
Records: Tyrone (20-5); Blackhawk (22-4)
Officials: Mary Jane Mellott, Leslie Whalen, Mike Pruss