Lady ’Canes fall to Blackhawk in quarterfinals  
Blackhawk (57) Vs. New Castle (44)
By Dan Irwin
New Castle News

AMBRIDGE — When the Blackhawk High girls needed s’more offense, they used a Graham cracker.

Camped beneath the rim, 5-foot-11 junior Alexis Graham broke open the Lady Cougars’ quarterfinal round WPIAL Class AAA playoff game against New Castle on Saturday with a 20-point, 11 rebound effort that sparked a 57-44 triumph.

The Lady ’Canes were coming off a 43-42 win over Mount Pleasant on Wednesday in which they trailed by as many as eight points early in the second half.

Only one of Graham’s eight field goals — a trey at the close of the first quarter — came from beyond point-blank range, and her 11 first-half points were tallied in a 12-minute span during which Blackhawk (21-3) rallied from a 6-0 deficit to take a 28-14 lead by halftime.

The effort helped take up the slack for freshman guard Chassidy Omogrosso, who’d had 36 points in the Lady Cougars’ prior playoff win against West Mifflin, but who managed just seven against the Lady ’Canes (13-10).

“She’s been really tough on us,” New Castle head coach Jason Rankin said of Graham. “ Even last year, she had 25 at our place, and she played a great game tonight. We have the guards that can guard Omogrosso. She had 10 against us at Blackhawk.

“The difference in the game at Blackhawk (a 63-50 regular season loss) was 24 offensive rebounds, and Graham and (6-0 freshman Courtney) Vannoy really did the damage. So we really tried to concentrate on the second shots, but Graham made the first ones.”

Blackhawk head coach Steve Lodovico figured Omogrosso would be a target after her three-dozen points against West Mifflin, and he said as much to his team prior to the game.

“With Chassidy, having 36 the night before, we knew they were going to try to take her away,” he said. “So in that box and one early on, we said, ‘You guys gotta be confident, if you’ve got an open shot, don’t think about it, shoot it.

“And we told Chass, ‘rely on your teammates, don’t try to do too much, find the open girls because we have other scorers on the floor.’ That’s what happened. Graham was huge in the second quarter, just her size and really attacking the rim for us.”

Blackhawk’s 28-8 run that broke the game open was fueled by a combination of cold shooting by the Lady ’Canes and dominant rebounding by the Lady Cougars. New Castle hit only 7 of 32 shots prior to intermission, and Blackhawk enjoyed a 10-3 advantage in rebounds in the second quarter.

“I thought we got a little bit tired” Rankin said. “And the reason we got tired was, the shots we normally would make, we missed. We had some bad floor balance and they were able to get some easy baskets. It’s kind of like chasing your tail there.

“They got a rebound, you’re underneath the basket, now you’ve got to run back. Before you know it, they score, then you gotta run back to be on offense and we miss the shot again. That was really the key to the game.”

New Castle, which can still make the PIAA Class AAA playoffs if Blackhawk beats South Park (21-2) on Wednesday, once again played without leading scorer Kaylynn Waters, lost in midseason with a torn ACL

“It goes without saying that when she’s there, we’re a different team,” Rankin said. “We beat this team, and we beat (other Class AAA semifinalists) Hopewell (22-2) and Char-Valley (22-2) in the same week with her.

“You can sit around and talk about ifs and buts, but I’d rather talk about what we had and what happened. And I give a lot of credit to the rest of the kids for stepping up and giving the effort.”

Game Scoreboard
Blackhawk 8 20 14 15 0 57
New Castle 6 8 16 14 0 44
Box Scores
Rachael Razzano 2 3-8 7
Dana Perrotta 2 0-0 5
Kelsey Scott 2 1-2 5
Christina Talbert 8 1-4 17
Nakia Fish 1 2-2 4
Darrian Johnson 1 0-0 3
Ki’Ria McPhatter 0 0-0 0
Brandy Stewart 1 1-2 3
Velvet Wade 0 0-0 0.
Totals: 17 8-18 44.

Bridgette Shaffer 4 5-6 15
Chassidy Omogrosso 3 1-5 7
Alexis Graham 8 3-4 20
Courtney Vannoy 1 2-4 4
Jamie Emge 1 7-10 10
Danielle Levato 0 1-2 1
Jessica Potts 0 0-0 0
Halle Denman 0 0-0 0.
Totals: 17 19-31 57.

NEW CASTLE 6 8 16 14 — 44
BLACKHAWK 8 20 14 15 — 57

3-point goals — New Castle 2 (Perrotta 1, Johnson 1), Blackhawk 4 (Shaffer 2, Graham 1, Emge 1).

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