PITTSBURGH — Dani Short carried Tess Myers on her back down a hallway in the bowels of the Petersen Event Center.
In reality, it was Myers who put the North Catholic girls basketball team on her shoulders.
Trailing by four at the half, the Trojanettes turned to their junior point guard, who triggered a 17-0 run with a pair of 3-pointers and finished with a game-high 26 as North Catholic won their third consecutive WPIAL 4A title and 19th district championship overall in a 75-57 victory Friday night over Central Valley.
Myers had 10 alone in the third as North Catholic (22-3) outscored Central Valley 30-12 in the frame.
“It means everything,” Myers said. “We just came together at halftime. I’m just really proud of everyone.”
North Catholic was the prohibitive favorite to win the WPIAL title again this season. The Trojanettes played under that kind of pressure the whole season.
It didn’t faze them in December and it didn’t faze them, either, on the first day of March.
“They’re supposed to win this, right?” said North Catholic coach Molly Rottmann. “This was what was supposed to happen from the first day of the year to the end, and it’s hard sometimes with that pressure on your back. We talked about enjoy the journey. It’s a great group. We have fun.”
Kylee Lewandowski, a Butler native, said the players constantly tried to mitigate the pressure by keeping things light at times, but turning serious and focused when the situation warranted.
“I think we knew we were all there for each other,” Lewandowski said.
Myers said they use the pressure as fire.
“No one wants us to win,” Myers added. “That’s a huge motivator for us.”
Things did not start out well for North Catholic.
The Trojanettes fell behind 16-7 in the first seven minutes as North Catholic didn’t shoot well and turned the ball over several times.
But Emma Popisil, Lewandowski and Myers each hit a 3-pointer to draw North Catholic even at 22-22 midway through the second quarter.
Myers and Dani Short each had seven points at the half. Lewandowski and Short, however, struggled from the floor, combining to go just 4 of 13 in the first two quarters.
That changed, along with the North Catholic fortunes, during an impressive blitzkrieg in the third.
A 9-0 run in the first two minutes gave the Trojanettes a 35-30 lead. Shell-shocked Central Valley (22-2) never got closer.
If this coaching thing doesn’t work out for Rottmann, she may have a future as a motivational speaker.
“They make me look like a really great halftime speaker,” Rottmann said, chuckling. “I don’t think we really talked about a lot of things at halftime. They were just shooting well, and we got a little lost at times on defense.”
Lewandowski added 16 points and 13 rebounds and Cassie Foster 15 points as North Catholic dominated on the glass in the second half and had a much easier time getting to the rim.
“I think in the first half we were making one pass and then trying,” Rottmann said. “We did a better job moving the ball around. We spread the ball out a little bit. They had trouble matching up. We’re hard to match up with and we did a better job in the second half taking advantage of that.”
In what has been a season of firsts for Central Valley, the loss in the WPIAL final was hard to swallow, especially after the hot start.
“You know, it hurts,” said Central Valley coach Chris Raso. “We didn’t come here to lose.”
It was Central Valley’s first appearance in the WPIAL championship game.