GIRLSClass AAAA Archbishop Carroll (Radnor) (24-5) vs. Mt. Lebanon (Pittsburgh) (24-6), Friday at 6 p.m.
The game is actually a rematch of a game played earlier this season between the two-time defending state champion Mount Lebanon Blue Devils and Archbishop Carroll, the District 12 champion and 2009 Class AAA state champion.
Mount Lebanon won that first meeting, 54-52, in overtime on January 15, behind a game-high 17 points by Notre Dame-bound Madison Cable. It should be noted that Carroll was missing two key players, Jen Carney
and Rachel Pearson
, in that game, a key cogs in the Patriots schemes.
Mount Lebanon received an interesting motivational jolt when Shaler upset the Blue Devils in the WPIAL championship, 41-35, coughing up a nine-point halftime lead. Since then, the Blue Devils have been running roughshod over every state playoff opponent they've met, crushing teams by an average of 29.7 points a game.
Buoyed by Emily Fazzini
(Rider), Meghan Creighton
, Sarah Curran
and Pearson, Carroll might not roll over that easily. The Pats received a little kick along the way to their second state championship game appearance in three years, too. Carroll lost to Archbishop Wood, the 2010 Class AAA state champion, in the Catholic League finals.
Since then, Carroll has beaten its four state playoff opponents by an average of 27.2 points a game.
Mark it down - this could be the best game of the weekend, boys or girls. Class AAA: Archbishop Wood (Warminster) (26-4) vs. Mercyhurst Prep (Erie) (27-2), Saturday at 5 p.m.
Wood is going for a second-straight state title and mowing down everyone in its way, winning by an average of 20.7 points a game during the Lady Vikings' drive for two-straight titles.
Wood is a senior-laden, veteran group led by guards Steph Keyes
and Christine Verrelle
, center Tori Arnao
and forward Caitlin McCartney
. They win with suffocating, persistent defense, a patient offense and tenacity.
The Lakers reached this stage using a polar opposite brand, exploding on opponents and making huge runs. Mercyhurst Prep will look toward Lindsay Stamp
, who led the Lakers with 26 points in their state semifinal 58-46 victory over Villa Joseph Marie.
Look for the rugged Wood defense to smother the Lakers, opening the possibility for the Lady Vikings to walk away with a second-straight state championship.Class AA: Dunmore (26-5) vs. Villa Maria Academy (Erie) (27-2), Friday at 1 p.m.
This game kicks off a smorgasbord of eight great games and 16 super teams. The Villa Maria Academy Victors are looking for a threepeat in 2011, after winning consecutive state titles in 2009 and again in '10.
But the Victors will be doing it without coach Scott Dibble, who was asked to resign after the regular season when the school discovered an off-the-court matter that did not fit "the mission and values of Villa Maria Academy," Villa Maria's president Rev. Scott Jabo wrote in a statement at the time.
Amid all of this, the Victors, under the new direction of long-time assistant coach Doug Chuzie, serving in an interim capacity, still reached their third-straight state finals, thanks to 21 points by Villa point guard Lisa Mifsud
in the Victors' 58-34 victory over Seton-La Salle in the state semifinals.
The Victors have won 14-straight state playoff games.
Dunmore comes in with a little less drama. Senior Ashley Murray
, who scored 25 points in Dunmore's 51-46 state semifinal victory over Mid Valley, leads the Lady Bucks.
Expect a great tug-of-war between two teams that play stellar defense. But the edge may go to Villa, an experienced team that knows what the grand stage of a state championship game is all about.Class A: Steelton-Highspire (25-4) vs. Bishop Guilfoyle (Altoona) (29-1), Saturday at 12-noon
Bishop Guilfoyle is the defending state champion, and the Lady Marauders already got a good dose of Steelton-Highspire – and star Malia Tate-DeFreitas - in their season opener, winning 56-46.
Guilfoyle got here by beating Homer-Center in the state semis, 52-41, and starts just one senior, Kelsey Livoti
. But they're led by sophomore Halee Adams
, who finished with a team-high 16 against Homer-Center, including scoring 11 of Guilfoyle's first 13 points. She'll get help from Elyssa Ehredt
and Devin Stessney
Steelton-Highspire beat Delco Christian, 52-48, to reach the state finals and are also pretty young, led by Malia Tate-DeFreitas
, a sophomore point guard who averages 24 points a game for the Steamrollers.
She finished with a game-high 25 points against Delco in the state semis and is a very clutch player, proven by her 8-for-8 from the foul line in icing the contest in the fourth quarter. Look for Tate-DeFreitas to get help from senior center Cinnamon Brown
, sophomore backcourt mate Jazmine Blanding
and senior forward Janelle Hill
. Another key factor could be senior forward Jessika Williams
, who was a 14-points-a-game scorer before she injured her ankle.Joseph Santoliquito can be contacted at JSantoliquito@yahoo.com