Lady Blue Devils will face West Catholic in State Championship


Jake Miller

The Lady Devils go after their first state championship Monday in Hershey.

Colin McCaulley, Sports Writer

Two young teams are set to prove who can handle the pressure and pull out a state championship. Each team has one lone senior on the roster, but are battle tested so far this season.

It’s the 27-3 Bellwood-Antis Lady Blue Devils squaring off against 16-12 West Catholic Monday at the Giant Center in Hershey for the PIAA 2A title.

Playing out of the Philadelphia Catholic League, the Lady Burrs schedule was an absolutely brutal one this year, playing historical powerhouse schools such as Neumann-Goretti, Germantown, and Archbishop Wood. Though they lost all of those games they hung tough the whole way, only losing to Neumann-Goretti by ten points. Their record may be just four games above .500, but this is not the typical 16-12 I.C.C. team; this is a very good and very athletic team and shouldn’t be taken lightly.

“They are quick and have some very good shooters.  There entire game is based upon dribble, drive and kick,” said B-A coach Jim Swaney.

B-A has already been tested by the WPIAL champion in Chartiers-Houston, and now they will face the test of Philadelphia basketball. There is no doubt the Lady Blue Devils have been tested by Western teams like Juniata Valley, who is playing in the 1A state championship, Altoona, and Blairsville.

West Catholic’s coach Beulah Osueke has done an incredible job in her four years with the Lady Burrs. Five years ago the team went 0-18 before Coach Osueke came in and turned things around.

“I didn’t expect such a quick turn around but I’m excited to see the fruit of our labor,” Coach Osueke said. “Our kids have bought into our system and into our program’s values, there’s been a significant culture shift. It’s on an upward swing.”

With their relatively young rosters, both teams will be tested in their ability to handle the big-game atmosphere of a trip to Hershey. Swaney sees that as a key.

“The team that handles the atmosphere the best will win this game,” he said.  “They are a very young basketball team and so are we. Both teams are battle tested though so it will be fun.”

The team that handles the atmosphere the best will win this game.

— Coach Swaney

B-A certainly has some players who are no strangers to high-level championship basketball, starting with sophomore Alli Campbel, who was recently named the Gatorade Player of the Year in Pennsylvania. She averages over 27 points and 8 rebounds per game, she’s the No. 8 sophomore point guard in America, and she has played in plenty of big games on the AAU circuit.  The same could be said of teammate Sakeria Haralson, who is a one-time AAU teammate of Alli. She averages almost 13 points and over 10 rebounds per game.

Point guard Riley D’Angelo also has strong AAU experience. The starting five is rounded out with senior Tina Hollen and sophomore Emilie Leidig (11.9 ppg), another AAU player who has played plenty of basketball in her career.

It will be a contrast in styles. B-A is scoring just under 70 points per game. West Catholic likes to keep games lower than that, averaging 55 per game.

“Disciplined defense and taking care of the ball are going to be key for us,” said Coach Oseuke. “We’re expecting to see a high-powered offensive team that capitalizes off of mistakes.”