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North Catholic girls scrap their way back to WPIAL title game

Familiar Territory
North Catholic's Alayna Rocco drains a trey during the Trojanettes’ 42-34 WPIAL 4A girls basketball semifinal win over Elizabeth Forward on Tuesday night at Fox Chapel High School. Ed Thompson/Butler Eagle 02/27/2024

FOX CHAPEL — North Catholic was thrown off its game — but not off its throne.

The Trojanettes survived 22 turnovers against Elizabeth Forward in their WPIAL 4A girls basketball semifinal Tuesday night at Fox Chapel High School, but used staunch defense to secure a 42-34 victory over the Warriors.

North Catholic coach Molly Rottman draws up a play late in the game after Elizabeth Forward narrowed the margin in their WPIAL 4A semifinal Tuesday night at Fox Chapel High School. Ed Thompson/Butler Eagle 02/27/224

The loss snapped a 19-game winning streak by E-F (21-3) and sends North Catholic (16-7) back to the WPIAL championship game for at least a seventh straight season. The Trojanettes will have a rematch with Blackhawk (22-2), which defeated Lauirel Highlands, 51-32, in Tuesday’s other semifinal. Blackhawk is riding a 15-game winning streak.

North has won three consecutive WPIAL titles.

North Catholic's Alayna Rocco drives by an Elizabeth Forward defender Tuesday night in their WPIAL 4A semifinal at Fox Chapel High School. Ed Thompson/Butler Eagle 02/27/2024

“This was a rough game, extremely physical,” Trojanettes coach Molly Rottmann said of Tuesday’s win. “We knew it’d be that way coming in, that we had to match their physicality, and I feel like we did that.”

The Trojanettes jumped out to an 8-0 lead and never trailed all night, but the Warriors drew close on a few occasions. E-F trailed only 13-11 after one quarter and an Alyssa Terza trey pulled the Warriors within 38-33 with 1:37 still to play.

North Catholic's Anna Lazaro goes up, but gets fouled by a Lady Warrior defender during their WPIAL 4A semifinal at Fox Chapel. Ed Thompson/Butler Eagle 02/27/2024

But North answered every time.

“We relied on each other. In this type of game, we knew we had to play together,” freshman forward Lauren Reitz said.

The Trojanettes finally put the game away at the free throw line. Sara Loughry drained a pair of foul shots with 1:22 remaining and Alayna Rocco sank a pair with 14 seconds left.

North Catholic's Alayna Rocco drives down the court in the WPIAL 4A semifinal matchup with Elizabeth Forward at Fox Chapel High School. Ed Thompson/Butler Eagle 02/27/2024

The Warriors struggled shooting the basketball the entire game, sinking nine of 45 field goal attempts and only 10 of 19 free throws. By comparison, North Catholic was 10 of 12 from the line, 15 of 36 from the field.

E-F sank only one field goal in the middle two quarters, but the Trojanettes never built a lead higher than 13 points.

North Catholic freshman Brady Wehner drives the baseline on her way to the hoop Tuesday night in their WPIAL semifinal matchup with Elizabeth Forward at Fox Chapel High School. Ed Thompson/Butler Eagle 02/27/2024

“A lot of girls made big plays,” Rottmann said. “Brady (Wehner) had a huge three (giving North a 36-26 lead) in the fourth quarter. Sara Loughry had some big stops on defense. Alayna had a solid all-around game.

“We did what we had to do.”

Reitz led the Trojanettes with 16 points and 11 rebounds. Rocco contributed 15 points, nine rebounds, three steals and three assists. Loughry tallied nine rebounds and three assists.

North Catholic's Sarah Loughry dribbles and pulls quickly to pass the back out to re-set the play Tuesday in their WPIAL semifinal with the Lady Warriors of Elizabeth Forward at Fox Chapel High School. Ed Thompson/Butler Eagle 02/27/2024

“She has come on very strong down the stretch for us,” Rottmann said. “We’ve needed her and she’s been coming up with some big games.”

The Trojanettes return to the WPIAL championship game despite starting two freshmen — Reitz and Wehner — and losing senior Ava Walker for the season with a knee injury.

“With Ava out, I knew I had to step things up,” Reitz said. “Coach told me that was necessary if we were going to win and I wanted to win.”

North Catholic's Sarah Loughry hits a quick 2-pointer early Tuesday night in the first period in their matchup with Elizabeth Forward at Fox Chapel High School. Ed Thompson/Butler Eagle 02/27/2024

Rottmann added: “Ava gave us so much with her leadership, ball handling skills, defense ... Lauren’s filled a good bit of that gap.”

Kaelynn Settles paced E-F with 14 points and 11 rebounds. Terza had 11 points and four steals.

The Warriors’ 34 points marked a season-low for the team.

E-F coach Noah Yartin could not be reached for comment.

ELIZABETH FORWARD 34

Kaelynn Settles 5-17 1-4 14, Chloe Zombek 1-9 4-7 6, Mia Sostaric 1-3 0-0 3, Michelle Jellison 0-6 0-2 0, Alyssa Tetrza 2-11 5-6 11, Addyson Nigut 0-0 0-0 0. Totals: 9-45 10-19 34.

NORTH CATHOLIC 42

Brady Wehner 2-8 0-0 5, Alayna Rocco 6-17 2-2 15, Sara Loughry 2-3 2-2 6, Lauren Reitz 5-6 6-8 16, Lauren Mihm 0-1 0-0 0, Anna Lazzara 0-0 0-0 0, Emma Shoemaker 0-1 0-0 0. Totals: 15-36 10-12 42.

Elizabeth Forward 11 5 6 12 — 34

North Catholic 13 12 6 11 — 42

3-point goals: Elizabeth Forward 6 (Settles 3, Sostaric, Terza 2), North Catholic 2 (Wehner, Rocco)

Saturday: WPIL 4A Championship, North Catholic s. Blackhawk, 3 p.m., Petersen Events Center

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