McMURRAY – This is becoming a habit.
For four consectuive years, West Greene High School’s girls basketball team has overwhelmed opponents in the regular season and early rounds of the playoffs with an aggressive and determined style of play that has worn out all types of foes.
It is a formula for success that worked every year until the WPIAL Class A championship game, when the Pioneers ran into opponents with more high-end talent. The Pioneers played well for stretches in each title game but would have to settle for silver medals instead of gold.
West Greene’s latest runner-up finish came Monday evening when the Pioneers ran into Rochester’s high-scoring trio of Alexis Robison, Corynne Hauser and Makenzie Robison. The trio combined for 62 points in Rochester’s 71-41 victory at Peters Township High School’s new gymnasium.
For Rochester (15-3), it is the Rams’ third consectuive WPIAL championship, all coming against West Greene. And this one was the most impressive.
Rochester clamped down defensively on the Pioneers, holding leading scorer Jersey Wise to only two points and forcing an uncharacteristic 15 turnovers by West Greene in the first half.
“We try to play quality teams in non-section play, but it’s hard to simulate Rochester’s athletic ability in practice,” West Greene coach Jordan Watson said. “Hauser is a Division I girl. She’s as quick as anyone we’ve ever played against. Division I girls don’t grow on trees.”
Hauser scored 23 points, many of them on end-to-end driving layups. Her biggest contribution, Rochester coach C.J. Iannini said, came on defense. Hauser played sticky man-to-man defense against Wise as the Rams’ ball pressure caused all kinds of problems for the Pioneers.
“Her defense was phenomenal,” Iannini said. “We gave Corynne the challenge of guarding their leading scorer, who was averaging 17 points per game. We wanted her to hold Wise to half of that.”
Alexis Robison led Rochester with 29 points and Makenzie Robison had 10.
Anna Durbin led West Greene (18-4) with 13 points. Elizabeth Brudnock and Brooke Barner each had strong games, scoring 11 points. Barner had a team-high eight rebounds.
Because the PIAA tournament is limited to only district champions this year because of the COVID-19 pandemic, West Greene’s season is over. Watson said the Pioneers will miss their three seniors, Wise, Brudnock and Kaytlynn Walls.
“It’s disappointing to get here and lose four in a row, but this is a great senior class,” Watson said. “In 2018, if somebody would have told those three kids that we’d win four section titles, not lose a home game, not lose a section game and get to the WPIAL finals four years in a row, I think they’d take it. It’s disappointing now, but they had great careers.
“Last year, six teams made the state tournament so this game wasn’t an elimination deal. This year, only one team goes and it makes losing harder because it’s the last game. Our girls will be going to softball practice Tuesday.”
Rochester started quickly, forging a 6-0 lead before West Greene battled back behind long-range shooting and tied the score at 12-12 in the final minute of the opening quarter. The Rams, however, scored two baskets in the final five seconds to lead 16-12.
“They did a good job of closing quarters,” Watson said. “We fought back and tied it, then in a blink it was 16-12. Those are daggers when it comes to momentum. It should have been tied after one quarter.”
Rochester built the lead to 31-21 at halftime as Alexis Robison had 14 at the break. Barner made a three-pointer from the corner with two seconds left in the half to keep West Greene within striking distance.
Even with all of their turnovers, the Pioneers were thinking comeback because Rochester missed each of its first 17 three-point shots and finished 1-for-19 behind the stripe. West Greene, however, couldn’t fuel enough offense to generate a comeback.
Alexis Robison had nine points in the third quarter and Hauser scored eight as Rochester pushed its lead to 48-33.
“We had too many mental lapses,” Brudock said explaining the turnovers.
“Their ball pressure took away our drives, and our offense is a lot of drive and pitch for an open shot,” Wise added.