Char Valley “Golden” against Lebo
Sophomore leads the way to victory
With two starters out with injuries, Chartiers Valley (22-7) entered its PIAA Quad-A girls’ basketball quarterfinal playoff game against rival Mt. Lebanon a distinct underdog. The odds were so stacked against the Colts that were their coach a spectator, he would have skipped the game entirely.
“I don’t think anyone outside of our locker room gave us a chance,” said CV head coach Spencer Stefko. “I know if I was outside this locker room, I wouldn’t have even bought a ticket to this game. It was an obvious blowout to me.”
Not to Alexa Golden, however. The sophomore single-handily upset the Lebo ladies. In CV’s 48-37 triumph, she exploded for 23 points. Though the 5-9 guard started slowly, she finished with a flair, scoring 20 points in the last 11 minutes of play. In fact, she reeled off eight straight, including a third-period buzzer-beating lay-up, to stake the Colts to a 32-23 advantage to start the fourth frame.
“My teammates,” she said crediting them for her success. “They are always there. They had my back. They told me to keep going at halftime and that my shots would fall.”
Because they did, Lebo fell for the second straight time to the Lady Colts. After sweeping CV, 48-45 and 49-40, to win the Section 4 banner, Lebo dropped a 31-27 decision to the Colts.
In that district semifinal match-up Mariah Wells scored 17 points. The senior, however, is out for the season due to a foot injury. Missing from the CV line-up, too, was Jenna Devinney, also because of an injury.
“All the stuff leading up to the game made us stronger,” explained senior Kassidy O’Keefe, who scored six points. “It brought us together as a team.
“It fueled the fire,” added senior forward Kristina Coyne, who finished with 10 tallies. “We weren’t giving up. And, as the game went along, we gained more confidence.”
Though Lebo forged a 9-8 edge in the first frame, on back-to-back three pointers from Alex Ventrone and a three-point play from Christine Ehland, CV eked ahead, 15-13, on a pair of free throws by Coyne in the second stanza.
CV never trailed after that. The Colts even expanded their margin to as many as five points throughout the third quarter, thanks to strong dives to the basket by Golden.
“She reminded me of Phil Ford out there,” said Stefko referring to the former Olympian and NBA pro, who only recently had his scoring records at North Carolina surpassed. “I got tired just watching her.”
Golden said she was just doing what she was told to do. “Coach told us to play our game and be us.”
Yet Stefko did not recognize his girls, particularly when they weathered their toughest stretch in the contest. “Those kids are different,” he said. “I’m going to have to watch the film and see how we won this game.
“It was a lot of intangibles. Sticking together. Playing hard. Looking after each other. Playing with instinct. We didn’t look like us.”
With 3:07 to play and leading, 36-29, Kristin McGeough fouled out. But when Stefko failed to replace his 6-3 forward, who finished with nine points, within the referee’s requested time, the Colts were slapped with a technical. The infraction was the first in Stefko’s seven-year coaching career at CV.
“It looked like it would turn the momentum,” Stefko said of the technical. “I apologized to my kids but you would need a special group of kids to not let it get to them. I guess it proves that I have the most special kids you could possibly ask for.”
Lebo had its share of special players and Ehland stepped up. The junior forward knocked down four free throws to cut CV’s lead to three.
Golden, however, took over again. She scored CV’s final 12 points, including 6-for-6 from the charity stripe in the final 2:28 of the game.
“I’ve been coaching Alexa since she was in sixth grade so I’ve seen some of this before but not on this stage,” said Stefko. “If you have an Alexa Golden on your team, then you have a shot.”
“She’s a very, very good basketball player,” said Lebo floor boss Dori Oldaker. “She played well.”
Down the stretch Lebo did not play well and the Blue Devils shot poorly from the free throw line. They converted 12 of 21 attempts from the charity stripe.
Ehland led Lebo in scoring with 16 tallies. She was 8 of 10 from the line. Casey McCaffrey followed with seven points.
With the loss, Lebo finished the season at 24-4 overall. The Blue Devils, who had won state titles from 2009-11, graduate four seniors from their roster: Ventrone, Jordan Holmes, Amanda Frosztega and Hannah Sharpe.
“It’s painful,” said Oldaker of the defeat. “We are still so proud of what they accomplished but they don’t want to hear that. They are devastated and shocked.”