BRIDGEVILLE – Our Lady of Sacred Heart’s basketball team has forged its success this season on the ability to rally. The reason the Chargers have had to do so against their better competition is because of their notorious slow starts.
First quarters have been an anvil around the neck of the Chargers for much of the season, but no one was going to convince Fort Cherry of that Tuesday night.
OLSH bolted to a 15-8 lead after the first eight minutes and Fort Cherry chased that deficit for the next three quarters, never catching up and losing 49-40 in a WPIAL Class AA second-round game at Chartiers Valley High School.
The victory pushes OLSH’s record to 16-7 and sends the Chargers, the second-place team in Section 6, against Seton-La Salle in the quarterfinals. Fort Cherry, the third-place team in Section 4, finishes the season at 15-7.
“In girls basketball, teams that jump ahead early are hard to beat,” said OLSH head coach Don Eckerle. “The first quarter is not our forte. We’ve had to come back a lot.”
The Chargers used the powerful inside presence of 6-1 junior center Heidi Langhorst to open up the outside shooting for 5-5 junior guard Jaqueline Mathews. Langhorst muscled her way for 14 points on seven baskets and pulled down 12 rebounds, close to her averages of 13 and 9. Mathews’ first 12 points came on four three-point shots and she finished with 14.
The two used the inside-outside game to help OLSH build a 29-17 halftime lead. Fort Cherry would come no closer than four points in the second half.
“We knew they drove and dished,” said Fort Cherry head coach Gary Kacsur. “We tried to eliminate the penetration. OLSH is a good team. They made their shots and we didn’t.”
The Rangers had a half dozen shots rattle the rim and roll out, including a 30-footer by Jenna Lucas that might have changed the momentum. Rebecca Bellhy, one of the Rangers charged with stopping Langhorst, nearly brought Fort Cherry back in the third quarter single-handedly.
Bellhy, a 5-7 forward, scored seven of her game-high 25 points in the third quarter. The Rangers cut the Chargers’ lead to four on Bellhy’s eight-foot jumper from the lane with 34 seconds to go in the quarter.
Fort Cherry couldn’t sustain that momentum. After holding OLSH to five points in the third quarter, Fort Cherry allowed a 7-2 run in the fourth. OLSH made it 47-33 with just under two minutes to go, thanks to a three-pointer and layup by Mathews and two layups by Courtney Alexander, who finished with 10 points.
“We were down by 12 at halftime, and I told the girls let’s get it down to five by the end of the third quarter,” Kacsur said. “They got it down to four, but we couldn’t get closer. Our shots just didn’t fall.”
Bellhy, the fourth member of her family to score more than 1,000 points at Fort Cherry, finished her scholastic basketball career with a double-double, 25 points and 12 rebounds, well above her averages of 18 and 10.
“I knew my last game would come eventually,” said Bellhy. “I was hoping it wasn’t going to be tonight. We fought hard all season, and I am proud of our team.”
It also was the final game for Lucas, who finished with nine points and two rebounds, and Allison McVicker, who had two points and three rebounds.
“It was an emotional locker room after the game,” said Kacsur. “I told the girls I was proud of how they played all year. We were limited some by injuries. But they played hard all year long, and I am proud of them for that.”