PITTSBURGH – The Trinity High School girls basketball team wore all blue, similar to its student section. Kathy McConnell-Miller was dressed in all white from head to toe.
But there was sometimes no mistaking, especially on offense, just how green and inexperienced the Hillers looked.
Failing to get any rhythm on the offensive end and falling victim to do-everything guard Aislin Malcolm, No. 3 seed Trinity lost to top-seeded Chartiers Valley, 58-40, in the WPIAL Class 5A championship game Saturday afternoon at the Petersen Events Center.
“They all can pass. They all can shoot. They all execute really, really well,” Trinity’s Riley DeRubbo said. “It’s hard for us to guard. They are always consistent. They are a very good team.”
Trinity (19-5) has seen time and time again just how good the Colts can be. The back-to-back WPIAL championships for Chartiers Valley (25-0) were both finished with a perfect record. The Colts have won 55 straight games – one shy of tying North Catholic’s WPIAL record from 1987-89. Six of those victories have come against Trinity.
The 18-point gap was created by Malcolm, who made one shot after another – all varying in levels of difficulty – and scored 16 of her 23 points in the second half to help Chartiers Valley pull away.
With the Colts leading by just five points at halftime, 24-19, Malcolm spun into the lane and made an acrobatic layup on the opening possession of the second half. Less than 40 seconds later, she stepped back and hit a deep three-pointer that extended the lead to double digits for the first time, 29-19.
“The magic number between us and Chartiers Valley is 10,” McConnell-Miller said. “They get up 10 (points) on you and are extremely difficult to come back on based on a next-level point guard and being well-coached. (Malcolm) is really tough. She’s as versatile of a player as you are going to see in the WPIAL, in the area and somewhat nationally. She can shoot. She can drive and finish. She is quiet and unassuming but definitely broke it open.”
A highly recruited sophomore, Malcolm broke it open again after Trinity cut its deficit to single digits. Already three feet beyond the high school three-point arc, Malcolm stepped farther back and drained a shot make it 38-26 with 1:58 left in the third quarter.
“My coach tells me that if I’m open to shoot it,” Malcolm said. “Whenever it gets into my hands I let it fly.”
Chartiers Valley never had its lead threatened the rest of the game.
“The thing about Aislin is she’s never seen a shot she doesn’t like,” Chartiers Valley coach Tim McConnell joked. “She’ll shoot the ball getting off the bus if you let her.
“Aislin has been great all year. She performed big time in that second half. This girl is going to play major Division I college basketball.”
However, settling for deeper shots were what caused Chartiers Valley to fall behind early. Trinity jumped out to a 7-3 lead after the Colts missed seven of their first eight shots.
After taking an early lead, the Hillers failed to maintain any offensive consistency throughout the game. They surrendered seven straight points to end the first quarter and lost the lead. Another seven-point run by the Colts midway through the second quarter, which culminated with a Hallie Cowan three from the baseline at 4:35, gave Chartiers Valley the lead for good.
Kaylin Venick was the lone player for Trinity to reach double figures, finishing with 13 points.
“We are good at getting stops, outletting the ball and getting easy buckets,” McConnell-Miller said of Trinity’s up-tempo style. “It’s really worked for us all year. It hasn’t worked any of the times against them. They are good at transition defense and do a good job at jamming the ball handler. They force you to run an offense.”
The 40 points Trinity was limited to was its second lowest all season. DeRubbo was held to nine points.
“We knew we couldn’t allow two-on-one layups to happen,” McConnell said. “We concentrated on half-court man defense and said we wanted to make it difficult for them to score. The adjustment we made was staying in front of them and guarding the ball hard, not giving them easy looks at the basket.”
Perri Page and Megan McConnell balanced the offense for Chartiers Valley with 14 and 10 points, respectively. Malcolm grabbed nine rebounds.
Trinity won’t have to travel far to open the PIAA tournament Saturday against Penn Hills (12-12), which lost to Chartiers Valley in the quarterfinals and was dragged in as the fifth-place team out of the WPIAL.
“It was a different atmosphere but we embraced it,” McConnell-Miller said. “But at this time of the year everybody needs to be playing their best basketball, particularly against a team like Chartiers Valley.”