This basketball season, Bethel Park has added a new twist to the adage: “if at first you don’t succeed…” Instead of “try, try again,” the Lady Hawks attempt a different approach.
Since turning the ball over 13 times and squandering a 20-point advantage against South Fayette to lose the championship in their own holiday tournament, the Lady Hawks have learned that valuable lesson.
“We forced a lot of things,” explained coach Jonna Burke of that 64-55 loss back on Dec. 28. “Now, we are working through things. We reset and look for something else when it’s not there. We do something different.”
Last week, Bethel Park certainly did something different. The Lady Hawks won well and big over rival Mt. Lebanon, 55-36.
“Usually when we play them it’s an ugly game and a struggle because they are a very good defensive team,” Burke explained.
The Lady Hawks, however, had the hot hand from the outside. They torched the Blue Devils by burying 10, 3-point field goals.
Olivia Westphal drained six of them, four in a second stanza as BP forged ahead, 21-19, by halftime. The Hawks outscored Lebo, 20-11 in the third quarter and Emily Papalia’s trey provided a 39-30 edge with 45 seconds left in the frame. Westphal’s triple and Maddie Dziezgowski’s bucket made it 44-30 to start the fourth frame. Another long-range shot from Westphal and a pair of free throws from Maria Cerro widened the gap to 21 points, twice in the final frame.
Westphal finished with a game-high 24 points. Dziezgowski supplied 10 tallies while Cerro and Kamryn Lach chipped in nine markers each.
In addition to the victory against Lebo, the Lady Hawks also won big against Canon-McMillan, 50-37, and Baldwin, 54-35, to move into a tie for first place in Section 3 with Peters Township. Both have 4-1 records at the halfway point in league play. Overall, Bethel Park is 9-3 heading into its rematch at Peters Township on Jan. 22.
Against the Lady Macs, Cerro led the way with 20 points. Dziezgowski and Westphal followed with 13 and 12 tallies respectively. Against the Highlanders, Wesphal topped out at 22 while Dziezgowski and Cerro followed with 13 and 10 markers.
The streak of victories also exposed another factor in BP’s success so far this season.
“Balance. That’s our strength,” Burke said. “We have a lot of offensive weapons, players that can score. We are getting the ball to the open guy and trusting each other. We have to play in that manner. Hopefully that carries us through.”
A blend of the new and the old has carried the Hawks through so far. Westphal, who was the MVP in BP’s tipoff tournament, is a freshman. Dziezgowski is a sophomore. Lach, who is bound for Chatham University, is a senior along with Ashley Spence, the team’s fifth starter. Cerro is a junior. The Hawks also rely heavily on seniors Emma Papalia and Jillian Acker.
“We do have experience and a nice mix of new talent,” Burke said. “But, we do have good senior leadership and that makes a difference. Even our two seniors off the bench. They are cheering us on and then they are able to come in and help us when we need it most. That says a lot about us. Each of my guys is backing up their teammates.”
The Lady Hawks, however, are far from polished and a finished product. Plenty of tests are ahead before they even envision returning to the Palumbo Center to compete for the WPIAL 6-A title as they did last March.
Bethel Park embarks on the second half of section play visiting Peters Township at 7:30 p.m. Jan. 22. The Hawks lost the first encounter in the waning seconds, 38-37. BP also must visit Mt. Lebanon on Jan. 28. There are also league encounters with USC, Baldwin and Canon-McMillan on the second-half slate along with non-section contests with No. 1-ranked North Allegheny (Jan. 27), Oakland Catholic, Norwin and Shaler.
“I like how we are playing,” Burke said. “But, we are still a work in progress.”