When Our Lady of the Sacred Heart tied the state record for consecutive wins in March, it came on the grandest of stages, as the Chargers polished off a second consecutive undefeated season with a win in the PIAA Class 2A championship at Hershey.

Saturday, following about an hour drive, OLSH played its season opener in front of a small crowd at Brownsville High School. The Chargers didn’t get to hoist a trophy this time, but they did claim a historic win.

The longest all-time win streak by a Pennsylvania high school boys basketball team is now owned solely by OLSH, this after a gritty 52-40 win against Albert Gallatin in the Brownsville tournament. The Chargers previously shared the record with West Philadelphia, which won 68 games in a row from 1976-78.

“It’s a tribute to all the teams that came before this year’s team that worked very hard and contributed greatly to the program and accomplished so many things,” OLSH coach Mike Rodriguez said. “Hopefully that filtered down to us, this group, and we’ll learn from those experiences of being around the guys the last couple of years, and I hope we continue to put some wins up.”

OLSH has certainly done a lot of that the past few seasons. The last time the Chargers suffered a loss, the first case of COVID-19 in the United States had not yet even popped up. It came Jan. 7, 2020, at Aliquippa, which downed OLSH, 73-69. Three nights later, the Chargers beat Mohawk, 75-19 — and they have not lost since.

As has become custom with Rodriguez, there was no talk of the streak or record prior to the game. There was no big celebration afterward, either. Some OLSH fans flashed photos and cheered as the seconds wound down, but that was the extent of elation. 

“We go into every game the same, so we played this one like we played the other 68 of them,” said senior forward Bryson Kirschner, who scored a game-high 15 points.

OLSH won this one differently than many of the others, though. Unlike the past few seasons, there are no potent scorers on this Chargers team. Dante Spadafora and his 1,792 career points graduated in 2021. Jake DiMichele, the second-leading scorer in WPIAL history with 2,642 points, graduated in the spring. DiMichele had averaged 31 points per game last season, when the Chargers led the WPIAL in scoring with 76 points per game. Their lowest total of the season was 54 points, two more than they scored Saturday.

“Everybody just needs to step up this year,” senior point guard Rocco Spadafora said.

The previous time OLSH lost a game, Spadafora was a freshman reserve and Kirschner was at Quigley Catholic. The two are the only starters back. Senior guard B.J. Vaughn, the team’s sixth man for much of last season, has moved into the starting lineup. Vaughn scored 10 points Saturday, and Spadafora added nine. Rodriguez called those three the leaders of the team. Senior Zion McIntosh, playing his first year of high school basketball, started Saturday, as did junior guard Dorrien Tate.

Added Rodriguez, “It’s not last year’s team. It’s not the team from the prior two years. But they’re great kids. They’re working very hard, and they have an opportunity to do something nice.”

OLSH was bumped up from Class 2A to Class 3A this season, while Albert Gallatin is now in Class 4A after going 10-12 and making the playoffs in Class 5A a season ago. Unlike many of OLSH’s games the past few seasons, this was no blowout. OLSH led by as many as 16 points, but Albert Gallatin seemed to never go away. Isaac Ellsworth came off the bench and provided the Colonials with a big spark, knocking down four 3-pointers in the second half. They accounted for all of his team-high 12 points. The Colonials pulled within 46-38 with about two minutes left before OLSH pulled away.

“We need other guys to contribute offensively,” Rodriguez said. “We have to be more deliberate in the halfcourt and do a better job of executing in the halfcourt. But the defense doesn’t change. The effort on defense doesn’t change. Now, the pace has changed, the effort in getting to spots, knowing when to help, knowing when to drop to the weak side. Those things are emphasized every day. That doesn’t change. But, still, being able to put the ball in the basket, the individuals we have now have to get better at that. That’s where we have to improve.”

Chances are this OLSH team will improve quite a bit as this 2022-23 season moves on, a season that started with a bit of history.

“We’re going to prove ourselves this year, I promise,” Spadafora said. “We’re still all good basketball players.”

Hampton slips past North Hills

Of Peter Kramer’s 34 points, the final two were unquestionably the biggest. Kramer capped an outstanding performance by making a basket at the overtime buzzer to lift Hampton (2-0) to a thrilling 76-74 win against North Hills in the North Hills tournament. Kramer, a transfer from Shady Side Academy, scored 28 points a night earlier. Against North Hills, Brennan Murray added 22 points, while Royce Parham paced the Indians (1-1) with 28. The Indians led by 12 points at the half.

Fox Chapel hands USC loss

A battle of the past two WPIAL Class 6A champions was won by the defending champ. Fox Chapel (2-0) beat Upper St. Clair (1-1), 63-47, in the Upper St. Clair tournament. Jimmy Hanna and Erik Wilson both scored a career-high 14 points for the Foxes. Hanna connected on four 3-pointers and grabbed 8 rebounds. Wilson finished with 12 rebounds.

Vinnie watch

Vinnie Cugini moved a little bit closer to the WPIAL all-time scoring record by scoring 44 points in Aquinas Academy’s (2-0) 71-40 win against Hillcrest Christian (0-2) in the Aquinas Academy tournament. Cugini scored 33 points Friday and now has 2,155 in his career. Tom Pipkins holds the record, scoring 2,838 points before graduating from Valley in 1993.

Freedom girls improve to 2-0

Freedom, a state finalist last season, ran its record to 2-0 courtesy of a 56-24 rout of Beaver Falls (1-1) in the South Side tournament. Shaye Bailey led Freedom with a game-high 22 points, 12 of those coming in the first half. Julz Mohrbacher added 12, while Cassidy Harris and Olivia Henderson each scored 10.


*** — Taylor Schumacher, McGuffey. Schumacher was a shoo-in for star honors Saturday. She knocked down eight 3-pointers among her 31 points in leading the Highlanders (1-1) to a 49-18 win against Mapletown (0-2) in the Avella tournament.

** — Tasso Sfanos, Mars. Sfanos went over 30 points for the second game in a row while leading Mars (2-0) to an 85-57 win over Meadville in the Sharon tournament. Sfanos tallied 34 points after scoring 33 a day earlier. He also knocked down five 3-pointers to give him nine in two games.

* — Connor Spratt, Seton LaSalle. It came in a losing effort, but Spratt continued his strong start by scoring 41 points in a 67-61 loss to Pine-Richland (1-1) in the Upper St. Clair tournament. Spratt had 31 a night earlier when the Rebels (0-2) lost to Upper St. Clair.


* Imani Christian (1-1) quickly rebounded from Friday’s loss to Lincoln Park with a 76-68 win against Monsignor Scanlan of the Bronx in the North Catholic tournament. Dame Givner (19 points), Alier Maluk (15), R.J. Sledge (15) and Virgil Hall (10) all scored in double figures for the Saints. Nasir Rodriguez, a junior with Division I offers, led Monsignor Scanlan with 21.

* The Chartiers Valley girls, with a new coach (Mike Semplice) and five new starters, improved to 2-0 after a 59-26 win over West Allegheny (1-1) in the Keystone Oaks tournament. Ella Cupka led the way with 19 points, Lilah Turnbull chipped in 13 and Emma Reynolds added 9. A day earlier, the Colts downed Elizabeth Forward, 67-36, behind 21 points from Cupka and 15 from Turnbull.

* It happened Friday, but it’s not too late to mention Clairton’s Iyanna Wade’s performance against Westinghouse (0-1). A sophomore, Wade nearly single handedly led Clairton (1-0) to the win, pouring in 49 points in her team’s 52-30 triumph. Yes, 49. Yes, all but three of her team’s points. Wade was Class 1A third-team all-state as a freshman when she averaged 23 points a game.

Brad is a sports writer at the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, but he's currently on strike. Email him at beverett@unionprogress.com.

Brad Everett

Brad is a sports writer at the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, but he's currently on strike. Email him at beverett@unionprogress.com.