CV girls headed for WPIAL finals after edging Lebo, 31-27
For the first time in school history, Chartiers Valley, by virtue of its victory over Mt. Lebanon, 31-27, at North Allegheny on Feb. 26, will play for a WPIAL championship in girls’ basketball.
“We are so used to being stuck in the semifinals,” said head coach Spencer Stefko of his Lady Colts’ Final Four appearances in Class AAA. In addition to being state semifinals in two of the past three seasons, this was CV’s third crack at reaching the title tilt in the past four district tournaments.
It also was the third time that the Lady Colts faced the Lebo Ladies. Twice in Section 4-AAAA competition, the Blue Devils trumped CV, 48-45, at home and 49-40 on the Colts’ court.
Stefko sensed his ladies would snap the spell. They had a determined look about them.
“Those seniors in the locker room, three times they weren’t able to get it down,” he explained. “But their look was different tonight. They had this look in their eye. They had it during the national anthem. Sometimes it takes a tough team, a good team to bring out the best in you and Lebo pulled out the best in us.”
CV played its best in the first frame when Mariah Wells pumped in 11 of her game-high 17 points. She staked the Lady Colts to advantages of 5-0 and 10-4 before settling into a 13-8 lead.
After Wells scored her 15th point in the half, Mt. Lebanon defenders from Anna Miller, Margie McCaffrey, even Jordan Holmes, put the clamps on her. They held Wells to two free throws that came with 10.8 seconds to play. Those shots from the line coupled with Kristina Coyne’s driving fast-break lay-up off an inbound pass with 35 seconds to play sealed the victory for the Lady Colts.
Coyne’s and Kristin McGeough’s four points as well as Kassidy O’Keefe’s and Alexa Golden’s three tallies accounted for the remainder of the CV’s points.
Of Wells’ effort, Stefko said, “that’s everything you expect out of a 3-year starter and 1,000-point scorer. She’s the rock of our team.
“But give credit to Lebo. They did a great defensive job on her.”
Defense was the name of the game after halftime saw the Colts clinging to a 20-17 advantage. Lebo outscored CV in the third frame, 4-3, and each team only had one field goal in the eight-minute stretch. In the final frame, CV outscored Lebo, 8-6.
“It may be an embarrassing box score,” said Stefko, “but it’s beautiful to me. At the end of the third quarter, I told them they probably needed to score more than two points in the fourth quarter to win this thing.”
Lebo had chances to win the game but the Blue Devils converted only four of their eight free throws in the second half. They also registered only three field goals in the final 16 minutes of play.
Christine Ehland and Margie McCaffrey led the Lebo Ladies in scoring with 13 and 11 points respectively. Ten of Ehland’s points came in the first half.
“I’m pretty sure this game was not pleasing to the observer but if you love basketball and you are old school, then you enjoyed this. It was kids making play and kids getting after it.
“Give Lebo a lot of credit,” Stefko added. “They are a darn good defensive team. That makes (this win) feel good. We beat a darn good basketball team.”
Indeed, the Lebo ladies came into this year’s tournament seeded No. 1 after winning the section title and sporting a 22-3 overall record. The Blue Devils, winners of three state championships from 2009-2011, won last year’s WPIAL title and were looking to reach the finals for the fifth straight year.
“It’s special to play any Lebo team because they are so fundamentally sound and they play tremendous defense,” said Stefko.
And for the Colts’ reward, they must face another team of such stature. CV will play Bethel Park in the WPIAL Quad-A girls’ championship game set for 7 p.m. Saturday, March 2 at the A.J. Palumbo Center. The Lady Hawks beat Gateway, 36-28, in their semifinal game at Keystone Oaks.
BP, like Lebo, has beaten CV twice in league competition. Seeded No. 3 in the tournament, the Lady Hawks are 22-3 overall while the Colts are 19-6.
When asked about facing the Lady Hawks Stefko replied, “please, can’t I enjoy (this victory)?”
Stefko then commented about CV’s status. “These kids don’t mind being the underdog,” he said. “They relish it. But, BP is so good and so well-coached. There is a reason why they are in the championship game.”
And a reason, too, why the Lady Colts are right there along with them.