Tuesday, March 21, 2023 | 12:05 AM
The Road to Hershey is supposed to be difficult.
If you don’t think so, ask the Oakland Catholic basketball team.
Following two dramatic wins last week, the Eagles are flying high into the state semifinals.
“In the playoffs as a senior, I don’t want my season to end.” Alexa Washington said. “You have to stay calm and you have to play until the end because anything can really happen.”
Washington is a guard who has taken her game to another level in her senior season.
“Her game has improved so much because now she has gotten quicker and can score from all three levels,” Oakland Catholic coach Eddie Benton said. “Where before, she was a little one dimensional and was a rhythm jump shooter. Now, she can get to the rim off the bounce, hit the pull up jumper, and we all know she can make the deep ball. Her game has improved drastically over the last several years.”
Washington, a North Florida commit, played in a big part in ending the perfect season for District 6 champion Hollidaysburg in the second round last week.
“What stood out the most was she was getting fouled, pushed and shoved all game long and wasn’t getting the calls,” Benton said. “She became a little frustrated, but was still able to perform down the stretch and score tough baskets when we needed her the most.”
After stealing an inbounds pass, Washington drove the floor and hit a layup at the buzzer to lift Oakland Catholic past Hollidaysburg, 48-47.
“Actually, I thought I lost the game for us,” Washington said. “I threw the ball on the other side of the court on a lob pass, and it just went out of bounds and the clock hadn’t even started yet. I had two steals earlier, and if I didn’t get that ball, London (Creech) was right there. At that point, the most nervous thing was the layup.”
Creech led the Eagles with 15 points while Washington added 14 points.
Then it was the fourth meeting of the season between section foes Oakland Catholic and McKeesport.
The sweep for the Eagles didn’t look promising early as the Tigers jumped out to an early lead, 16-2, but Oakland Catholic kept chipping away at the McKeesport advantage.
“I was nervous — I’m not going to lie — but we pulled it off at the end,” Washington said.
When it was crunch time, Washington rose to the occasion, scoring most of her points late in the overtime victory for the Eagles.
“Alexa was very good this past Saturday,” Benton said. “They were denying her and face-guarding her everywhere she went and she had a hard time catching the ball in the first half. We decided to run some different things in the second half to free her up, and she scored 17 of her 24 points in the fourth quarter and overtime combined, which was amazing to me because McKeesport is so physical. You could definitely tell that she was one of the Division I players on the floor.”
After missing her first free throw, Creech connected on the second shot with two seconds left and that was the difference as the Eagles beat the Tigers in OT, 60-59.
“At practice, London is a good free-throw shooter,” Washington said. “When I went up to her, I remember saying, ‘Just do your thing.’”
Now it’s a rematch of the WPIAL Class 5A championship game Tuesday when Oakland Catholic faces South Fayette at Peters Township for a spot in the PIAA 5A finals.
The Lions beat the Eagles at The Pete, 64-49.
“South Fayette is a phenomenal team and very well coached and we have our hands full, but we will be prepared and we will be ready to give it our best shot,” Benton said. “Our girls are hungry and they are ready to compete.”
Trib HSSN Girls Basketball Players of the Week
Week 10 – Nina Shaw, Knoch
Week 9 – Ava Walker, North Catholic
Week 8 – Maddie Webber, South Fayette
Week 7 – Kaley Rohanna, Waynesburg Central
Week 6 – Madison Zavasky, Pine-Richland
Week 5 – Mairan Haggerty, Neshannock
Week 4 – Iyanna Wade, Clairton
Week 3 – Shaye Bailey, Freedom
Week 2 – Rylee Kalocay, Upper St. Clair
Week 1 – McKenna DeUnger, Charleroi
Tags: Oakland Catholic
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