The Star Beacon; Ashtabula, Ohio

Sports

March 24, 2014

A Don McCormack column: The ex-files...

Former PV coach Steve Lodovico leads Blackhawk to girls basketball state title in Pennsylvania

A decade or so ago, Steve Lodovico came west from Blackhawk, Pa. to accept a teaching position at Pymatuning Valley High School, where he served as eighth-grade boys basketball coach on the staff of Jeremy Huber.

However, the tug of home pulled him back to Blackhawk, where he became not only a teacher — of the fourth grade at Blackhawk Intermediate School — but the Cougars’ varsity girls basketball coach after serving one season as an assistant for his high school coach, the legendary John Miller.

Saturday, he guided his alma mater to its third Pennsylvania Interscholastic Athletic Association state championship with a 51-43 triumph against Archbishop Wood to capture the Class AAA crown at the Giant Center in Hershey.

Lodovico had experienced being a state champion as a player 18 years previous, starting at point guard for Miller’s two-time PIAA state championship squads, doing so in Class AAA in the 1994-95 and 1995-96 campaigns.

He said he wanted his players — who finished the 2013-14 season with a 28-2 record en route to winning the state championship — to have memories akin to what he has carried for almost two decades.

“To this day, it’s one of the best memories, besides getting married and having my two kids, that I’ll never forget,” Lodovico, who just finished his ninth season at the helm, said. “They’re going to remember it for the rest of their lives and it’s a lot better when you win.”

Lodovico’s squad earned the title the way all great teams do — shooting lights out from the free-throw line and limiting turnovers.

The Cougars connected on 21 of 24 from the charity stripe in the game — including 13 of 14 in the final quarter — and committed just six turnovers.

Blackhawk won back-to-back Class AAA PIAA state titles in 1998-99 and 1999-2000.

Lodovico knows his players have fostered memories they will carry with them forever.

“I told them this is really a big deal, something they are never going to forget,” Lodovico, whose squad won its last 12 games in blazing its trail to the gold, said. “I was lucky enough to win two in a row, and they are going to remember it for the rest of their lives.

“This one means more. You can appreciate so much more what it takes now. When you’re 17 or 18, you really don’t think about that but, when you’re 36, you know how much hard work is involved.”

Don’t be surprised if Lodovico’s girls match him by making it consecutive state championships next winter, even though they will lose Indiana University of Pennsylvania recruit Halle Denman (13 points in the title game Saturday, including 9 of 12 from the free-throw line) to graduation.

Standout guard Chassidy Omogrosso, who led all scorers in the championship game by pouring in 26 points — including a clutch 8-for-8 performance from the free-throw line in the second half, 6 of 6 in the fourth quarter — and added 8 rebounds and 4 steals is only a junior.

Three other Blackhawk starters will also return with the Omogrosso, a Duquense commit, to form a formidable defending state champion. A year ago, the Cougars lost in the state semifinals.

“We’ve got Omogrosso, so I think we can win every game with her,” Lodovico said.

McCormack is the sports editor of the Star Beacon. Reach him at donmac@suite224.net.

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