Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Surprising Run to Piaa Final for Olsh

Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Surprising Run to Piaa Final for Olsh

Article excerpt

While big upsets have been commonplace in the NCAA basketball tournament this season, a certain sense of March madness has hit the Our Lady of the Sacred Heart team.

The PIAA doesn't seed teams for its tournament, so it's not like OLSH is the Loyola-Chicago of this year's state tournament. But OLSH is certainly surprising. The Chargers will be in Hershey Tuesday playing for a PIAA championship, and can someone please pinch coach Mike Rodriguez so that he can be sure this is real.

OLSH, a small Catholic school in Coraopolis, had never even made it as far as the PIAA semifinals before this season. And this year's team doesn't have one senior on the roster.

Rodriguez is a retired boss of the FBI's Pittsburgh office and said, "If you would've told me at the beginning of the season that we would just make it to the WPIAL final, I would've said that they haven't passed the marijuana law yet. From my FBI days, I would've said, 'I'm going to start arresting you.'"

But when they toss the ball up for the PIAA Class 2A championship Tuesday afternoon, the purple and gold gang of OLSH will be on the court at the Giant Center in Hershey. OLSH will play in the 2 p.m. game against either Constitution or Holy Cross, who will meet in a semifinal game Saturday.

Don't get the impression that OLSH is a team without much talent. The Chargers are good. But not even the players expected to be making a late March trip up the Pennsylvania Turnpike for Hershey.

OLSH earned the right to play in the title game when it defeated Sewickley Academy, 70-68, in a thrilling semifinal Tuesday. Sewickley Academy was the defending PIAA champion and had defeated OLSH in two of three meetings this season, including the WPIAL championship.

"At the start of this season, I was thinking definitely [WPIAL] playoffs, and I figured maybe second or third in our section," said Daren DiMichele, a junior guard for OLSH. "We don't have a senior and I'm thinking next year we're going to be really good. Maybe we'll lose in the second or third round of the WPIAL playoffs this year, and maybe first or second round in states. But I definitely didn't think about playing for the WPIAL championship or making the state finals. I'm just being honest."

OLSH lost its first game of the season to Seton LaSalle, but Rodriguez got things to click after that, even though the Chargers started a freshman at point guard (Dante Spadafora) and the top returning scorer (Donovan Johnson) missed the first few weeks of the season with an injury. After the Seton LaSalle game, the only other two losses were to Sewickley Academy - in the final section game and the WPIAL final.

"Come on," said Rodriguez. "We had a freshman point guard who I had never seen before until he comes into school and Johnson was hurting, missing the first seven games. …

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