T-D HS Basketball

Westmont avenges ‘13 loss, captures LHAC girls crown

By: Mike Mastovich

Westmont Hilltop combined another dominating performance by Alyssa Miller on offense with a stifling defensive effort to defeat Bishop Guilfoyle 42-30 in the Laurel Highlands Athletic Conference girls basketball championship on Saturday night.
Miller scored 17 points, had six rebounds and four assists as Westmont Hilltop won its first LHAC girls crown since 2007 and sixth overall. The Hilltoppers had finished as the conference runner-up the  past three years, including losses to Guilfoyle last season and in 2011.
“The key was stopping (Lili) Benzel,” Westmont coach Jodi Hillegass said of Bishop Guilfoyle’s 5-foot-8 freshman guard. “We went in a diamond-and-one (defense). Megan (Zolnosky) did a great job on her, and Bridget Sheehan did a great job. I thought that was the key to the game.”
Bishop Guilfolye, the defending LHAC girls champion, played its third game in little more than 24 hours by the time the team stepped on the Richland High School Sports Center floor. The Marauders had to sweep an unusual doubleheader at two different sites on Friday to win a Section 1 tiebreaker and earn a spot opposite of the Section 2 Hilltoppers.
Bishop Guilfoyle won at Cambria Heights and then traveled to Bishop Carroll and won the nightcap on Friday.
“It was more about the good things that Westmont did tonight and not about us playing three games,” Bishop Guilfoyle coach Mark Moschella said. “We won’t use that as an excuse. We need to have other kids on the team step up offensively and that didn’t happen for us.”
Benzel finished with eight points, four in the first quarter and four in the fourth. She had Bishop Guilfoyle’s only points in the final eight minutes as Westmont posted an 11-4 scoring advantage down the stretch.
“They did a nice job on defense but if we have some kids step up and hit some shots, she has to get out of her junk defense,” Moschella said of the diamond-and-one. “If we don’t and we’re not aggressive with our other players, she can stay in it, and that’s exactly what happened. They were able to dictate the defense.”
Miller didn’t have any first quarter points, but being one of only two Hilltop seniors, she was determined to elevate her game. She had six points in the second quarter as Westmont built a 20-13 halftime advantage.
“I just always try to be a strong senior leader,” Miller said. “I just try to be there to help in every aspect I can.”
Zolnosky had 11 points, and Bridget Moyer netted nine for Westmont Hilltop. Bishop Guilfoyle didn’t have a player score in double digits.
“Bishop Guilfoyle is a really good team and we knew they had a strong offense, starting with Benzel,” Miller said. “Megan (Zolnosky) played great defense the whole game. We knew to beat Bishop Guilfoyle we had to get her (Benzel) off her game.”
Hillegass said Westmont’s game plan was pretty evident throughout the practices leading up to the title contest.
“We just said, ‘Deny her the ball. When she does get the ball, she gets no easy looks, no open looks,’” Hillegass said of Benzel. “When you’re in the diamond, you always have somebody to help. Even when the defender was being picked there was always somebody there to pick up the double team.”
Winning the LHAC crown had added significance because of how close the Hilltoppers had been in the previous three years, falling to the Marauders twice and Forest Hills once (2012).
“Bishop Guilfoyle is a great program,” Hillegass said. “To win the Laurel Highlands is great but to win the Laurel Highlands over Bishop Guilfoyle is a greater feat.”