PITTSBURGH — In the hours before the WPIAL Girls 3A Championship, North Catholic coach Molly Rottmann was alongside senior guard Anastasia Peterson as she was at the funeral for her mother Jennifer who passed away Feb. 28.
For Anastasia, there was never a doubt that she would hit the court, as she did for the team’s semifinal, a day after her mother’s passing.
“These last couple of days have been hard not only mentally, but also physically,” she said. “That was one of the things she told me before she did pass, she told me that she wanted me to be on the court.”
In the latter stages of the championship game against Freedom Area, with North Catholic needing a basket, Peterson delivered with a jump shot which saw the entire Trojanette bench on its feet shouting approval and encouragement.
“I can’t say enough of how amazing she has been,” said Rottmann. “We talked about it and her mom was Jennifer Peterson, what better of a place to win for her and Anastasia. The girls have been really great and it’s been ongoing and her teammates have supported her the whole time. That shot tonight was huge, we needed that.”
A year after coming up short in the championship game, top-seeded North Catholic was able to defeat Freedom 48-43 Thursday night at the Petersen Events Center to win the WPIAL Girls 3A Championship.
North Catholic trailed for 25 minutes in the entire contest and due to injuries started a five-guard lineup, which included five-foot-seven guard Anna Waskiewicz seeing time in the post.
“What they’ve gone through and what they’ve had to adjust to with injuries and people out of position, we were putting people all over the place to make things work,” Rottmann said. “They’ve bought into it and doing whatever needs to be done. They’ve shown some unbelievable fierceness in the face of adversity.”
This is Rottmann’s 10th title and given the circumstances, one of her more special seasons.
Sophomore Alayna Rocco led North Catholic with 15 points, while junior Dacia Lewandowski netted 13 points. Junior Victoria Drevna also achieved a double-digit point total with her 11.
Freedom was in this stage for the first time and kept the game close for most of the evening.
Senior guard Renae Mohrbacher, a Robert Morris Women’s Soccer commit, achieved a double-double with her 18 points and 12 rebounds and left it all out on the court, which included a miss in the closing seconds, where her leg cramped up, briefly keeping her on the court in a seated position. Sophomore guard Shaye Bailey added 11 points.
As a team, Freedom scored 28 of its 43 points in the paint, though it did not convert a two-point jumpshot all evening.
Despite the loss, less than 10 minutes later, those on the court took the loss well. The Bulldogs had never been in this position before and played David to North Catholic’s Goliath and nearly pulled off the upset.
“From the beginning of the year, we thought we were one of the best teams in 3A and tonight was not a disappointment,” Freedom coach John Kaercher said. “We came out here and went toe-to-toe with the giant. Unfortunately, we came up a little short tonight, but we’ll get our turn.”
In the closing minutes, the game was determined by North Catholic’s ability to make free throws, something which was inconsistent in the opening three quarter, but with the game on the line, the Trojanettes delivered.
“We knew we had to go in confident and just stay poised on the court no matter what was going on,” said Lewandowski. “We just stayed together as a team and rode it out to the end.”
Now both teams will turn its collective attention to state playoffs, which will begin Tuesday.
“I still think we can go far in states,” said Mohrbacher. “We played a good game regardless, even with a loss, so we just have to take that and use it as motivation for our game that’s coming on Tuesday.”
As Rottman departed the media room, she regaled the assembled press about t-shirts her father made for the team.
It was a design with a special message and a specific focus.
“Unfinished business and that’s a catch all for a lot of things,” she said. “From the get go, these girls have had big aspirations, and that’s what we’re aiming for.”