By Pete Chiodo
Defense, defense, defense.
That is the focus for head coach Sarah Jay and the General McLane girls basketball team as the Lady Lancers go up against WPIAL champion Bishop Canevin in the second round of the PIAA Class AA basketball playoffs today at 6 p.m. at Sharon High School.
The Crusaders (23-4) have a scoring threat at all five positions, which means, “Everyone is going to have to play defense,” said coach Jay. “We’ll press and try to get them to turn the ball over. They set really good screens, so we’re going to have to switch and we’re really going to have to talk. It’s going to require an excellent defensive effort.”
Bishop Canevin won this year’s WPIAL championship with a 56-47 win over Seton LaSalle, a team that had beaten the Crusaders twice during the regular season.
Canevin junior Johnie Olkasky led the Crusaders in the championship game with 26 points, knocking down seven 3-pointers. Her backcourt effort was bolstered by the efforts of a pair of 5-10 senior in Carly Forse (14 points) and Celine DiPietro (10 points).
“They have size,” said Jay. “And that’s what probably worries me the most. We don’t have much size. And their size can go out and shoot the 3. They’re not like a pound-it-in type of team. They can shoot.”
Canevin’s size once again played a role in its 51-37 victory over Westmont Hilltop in the first round of the state playoffs. Forse — a Point Park College recruit — led the way with a 25-point, 10-rebound double-double. And Duquesne recruit Erin Waskowiak — the tallest member of the team at 5-11 and considered the Crusaders’ best player — rang up 17 points.
“We’ve lived on our stop-their-leading-scorer type of defense,” said Jay. “We’ll try to contain (Waskowiak). But who I have guarding her, she doesn’t have size, so we might have to get out of that. We’ll have to switch a lot on screens. And the girls have to know, if we switch and you end up on their best player you have to ‘D’ up on her.
“But we’ll also have to worry about Forse. Then we’ll have to worry about DiPietro,” said Jay. “Their starting five are all solid. And they have three 3-point shooters who are equally capable of making four or more in a game. No one can relax on defense.”
The Lancers (23-3) will also have to find some time to score some hoops of their own. And they’ve certainly got some girls up to the task, like sophomore guard Michelle Jahn (13.0 points per game), senior guard/forward Lindsey Jahn (10.9 ppg.), senior guard Katie Clark (9.4 ppg.) and junior guard Katie Rodrigues (8.3 ppg.).
Each of those players scored their average in this past Friday’s 51-34 win over Jeannette in the state playoff’s first round. Michelle Jahn scored 12 points. Lindsey Jahn had 10. Clark scored nine and Rodrigues eight.
Another offensive performance like that would help, but only if the Lancers can step it up on the other side of the ball.
“At this point in season you know you’re going to be playing good teams,” said Jay. “It’s going to take an effort like this every night. And I think our girls are up to the challenge.”