B-A girls, Carroll boys hope to punch ticket to state final
Minutes after Bellwood-Antis defeated Chartiers-Houston in the PIAA Class 2A quarterfinals, star sophomore Alli Campbell was informed her Lady Blue Devils were playing Blairsville in the semifinals.
“Are we?” said Campbell as a smile came over her face. “Good. Good to hear.”
Tonight’s game at DeGol Arena on the campus of Saint Francis University will tip at 7 p.m. and will be Bellwood’s chance at a double-dose of redemption. The Lady Blue Devils were eliminated on the doorstep of the state final a year ago in a 68-57 loss to Bishop McCort. Campbell managed just 12 points in that game after scoring 28 in a two-point district title loss to McCort after the Lady Crushers designed their game plan around stopping her.
“It’s really exciting to make it back, because it hurt so much losing last year,” Bellwood-Antis guard Riley D’Angelo said. “Now we have a chance to make it right and make it to the state finals.”
Bellwood-Antis will also be attempting to avenge a 44-37 loss to Blairsville in the District 6 2A semifinals. The Lady Bobcats took a 10-point third quarter lead and slowed the game down. The Lady Blue Devils pulled within three with under a minute to play but could never catch up.
“We’re all excited to get the chance to play them again,” Campbell said. “We were all looking forward to it after the last time we played them.”
Following Bellwood’s victory over Kane in the first round of the state playoffs, Lady Blue Devils coach Jim Swaney put the blame of the Blairsville loss on himself, claiming his team played tight because of him and vowed that B-A would play its way the rest of its run.
“They slowed down the tempo,” D’Angelo said. “We like to play fast and run a lot. So, if we can make them run, we can run up the score and they won’t catch up. It would make it so much sweeter, because they beat us in districts to get revenge and go to states.”
Campbell scored 25 points in the first game, but B-A struggled from the field, and the rest of the team combined for just 12 points.
“We’re hungry to redeem ourselves,” B-A forward Sakeria Haralson said. “We just want to win. We need to play harder and keep more focus. Get to all the loose balls.”
Bellwood-Antis led the first game, 8-3, after the first quarter. However, it missed several layups and open shots that could have extended the lead.
“This time we have to get up on them fast so they aren’t able to hold the ball on us,” Campbell said. “We have to try and play great defense and get the rebound on their first shot.”
Blairsville coach Ralph McGinnis said a quick start for B-A is his biggest concern.
“We can’t let them get out and get into their game,” McGinnis said. “We can’t get too far behind them. They like to steamroll teams early, and obviously we need to avoid that.”
The Lady Blue Devils shot just 11-of-47 from the field and 2-for-11 from the 3-point line in the first contest. Those numbers are much lower than Bellwood averages, but the 37 points it scored is more in line with Blairsville’s average of allowing 31.9 points per game.
“We want to play our game, our tempo, and get up and down the court,” Campbell said. “We can’t fall into what we did last time.”
Swaney scoffed at the idea his team would be more motivated tonight because B-A lost to Blairsville in districts.
“We’re going to try and play a little bit better,” Swaney said. “You shouldn’t need extra incentive at this point. It’s the Western Final. You have a chance to play for the state title. Shouldn’t need anything else to get up for a game than that.”
The winner of tonight’s game will play the winner of District 6’s fourth-place finisher Penns Manor and District 12 champion Philadelphia West Catholic on Thursday in the state title game at the Giant Center in Hershey at noon.
“It’s really awesome to see three out of the four remaining teams are from District 6,” McGinnis said. “Even with (District 6 champion) Bishop McCort being eliminated, the power of the district has really shown.”
Carroll back in semis
Bishop Carroll Catholic will play in the PIAA Class 1A semifinals for the second time under coach Cosie Aliquo when the Huskies travel to Monroeville to play District 10 champion Kennedy Catholic at Gateway High School tonight at 7:30 p.m.
Carroll lost to Lincoln Park in 2014.
“This is a whole set of new kids,” Aliquo said. “They don’t realize what they’ve accomplished. This does nothing but build our program back up. We went from 7-15 to one of the final four teams in the state. We get a chance to play the defending state champs, and that’s a great accomplishment for our program and our school.”
The Huskies’ challenge is a tall one — literally. Four of the Golden Eagles’ starters are at least 6-foot-5, and center Oscar Tshiebwe, who averages 21.2 points per game, is 6-foot-10 and has offers to several different Division I colleges.
Bishop Carroll will hang its hat on its pressure defense and full-court press to try and stop Kennedy Catholic from settling into its offense.
“We’ll find out (tonight),” said Aliquo when asked how the press will match up against the Eagles’ height. “I have no idea how it’s going to turn out. I hope it works out. We’ll find out.”
Three of Bishop Carroll’s starters are underclassmen, including point guard Carson Ertter. The Huskies also will return the top tier of their bench, including leading scorer, sophomore Tristan McDannell.
“It’s up to them how much they work next year whether this run is going to benefit them,” Aliquo said. “We will lose seniors Ben (Eckenrode) and Alec (Ratchford), which is huge, but there’s a lot of talent coming up that if they work they can be back to this level again.”