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Leroux, Webber Lead South Fayette to 2nd Straight WPIAL 5A Championship



PITTSBURGH — The top two teams in Class 5A Girls’ basketball did not face each other all season until when it mattered the most in March. No. 1 South Fayette boasted the best defense in the classification while No. 2  Oakland Catholic owned the top offense as the two squads took center stage at the Pete.

Led by championship experience from a year ago, South Fayette (24-2) pulled away from the Oakland Catholic Eagles (22-4) to claim the 5A title for the second consecutive season, 64-49.

With a second championship title, it sends the talented senior class off on a high note in the WPIAL.

“It means a lot, especially because we are seniors and we really wanted to get it,” Rachel Black said. 

As expected, the Lions saw big contributions from Maddie Webber and Ava Leroux. The two teammates have played nearly their who lives together as their impact was felt against Oakland Catholic with Leroux scoring 17 and Webber pouring in 16.

“Experiencing something like this is really important to us and makes us stronger,” Webber said.

Making a run back to the Pete for the second straight year changed how team’s approached South Fayette, which altered the Lions’ mentality.

“We’ve been the hunted all year this year,” South Fayette head coach Bryan Bennett said. “We learned in December that there’s no nights off anymore and there’s a target on our back. We’re blessed to be here for two consecutive years.”

Oakland Catholic attempted to track down the Lions and spoil a repeat night. The game started as a back-and-forth scoring affair. Neither team settled into the driver seat, but Oakland Catholic got a push from its star, senior Alexa Washington. 

Washington pushed the pace of play in the first half for the Eagles as she totaled 16 points. The North Florida commit showcased her skills including a smooth eurostep and finish which tied the game before the Eagles took the eventual lead.

“I think us getting to the basket was hard for [South Fayette] to guard. We have a quick first step on our team,” Washington said.

As both teams kept it tight, South Fayette had to fight through some foul trouble with its top player. Late in the first quarter, Maddie Webber picked up her second foul and spent a majority of the second quarter on the bench.

“We felt that if we could ride out and keep the game close it was better to keep her on the bench and prevent a third foul,” Bennett said. “Fortunately we have a lot of talented kids that stepped up in the second quarter that kept the game close. I know we were down two at the half, but that was the best possible outcome we could have.”

With Webber looking on from the sidelines, both Ava Leroux and Ryan Oldaker, who came off the bench for Webber, dropped four points each for the Lions before the quarters’ end.

“I trust my teammates so much,” Webber said. “I know they are great players, but it was hard watching it because you want to be on the court.”

“I knew that Maddie was a big contributor to the game,” Leroux added. “I knew we had to step up as a team, so I tried to do the best I could. Do what I could control, box out, get rebounds and do the little things to contribute.”

Trailing by two points, South Fayette entered the second half and started to seize momentum with Webber back on the floor. The Lions outscored the Eagles 16-8 in the third quarter.

“I told them at halftime that I didn’t think we played very well in the first half,” Bennett said. “Oakland took us out of it and got us a little bit rattled. At halftime, we regrouped and refocused and we played our game in the second half.”

As the energy shifted to the Lions, they also fed off of an outstanding game cleaning up the glass. South Fayette controlled the board, out-rebounding Oakland Catholic 39-18. Leroux registered 13 of those rebounds on the way to her double-double effort.

For Oakland Catholic, the size and athleticism of Leroux (6-foot-3) and Webber (5-foot-11) became too much to handle.

“It was definitely hard,” Oakland Catholic senior Jill Gallo, who added 10 rebounds herself, said. “I feel like I should’ve been anticipating their fakes. I feel like overall we are a stronger team than them physically, they’re just really fast.” 

Throughout the season, South Fayette has relied on its rebounding and defense – allowing 37 points per game – and as the Lions pulled away, the defense shut the door.

Regardless of the outcome, Eagles’ coach Eddie Benton, Jr. was proud of his team’s accomplishments.

“We were 22-3 for a reason,” Benton Jr. said. “We believe in everything that we do and we were just worried about us being the best team we could be and today just wasn’t enough. There’s going to be many more times in our life when it’s not enough, and those are the lessons these young ladies get to learn.”

Along with Washington’s performance, Rachel Haver poured in 15 of her own. Both Helena Hill and London Creach added seven. 

On the South Fayette side, Lainey Yater dropped in 12. Junior Erica Hall scored eight with freshman Ryan Oldaker adding seven.

Sandy Schall, Coldwell Banker
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