Maddie Webber said that in all her years of playing basketball, she had never hit a buzzer-beating shot to win a game.
Webber did just that Saturday, and the biggest basket of her career has South Fayette now one win away from reaching its first PIAA final.
Webber, a sensational senior guard, drilled a step-back 3-pointer from well behind the 3-point line at the buzzer to help the WPIAL champion Lions storm from 12 points down to defeat District 10 champion Cathedral Prep, 40-37, in a PIAA Class 5A quarterfinal at Sharon.
The triumph propelled South Fayette (27-2) into the semifinals for just the second time in program history. The Lions were eliminated in that round in 2017. They next will meet Oakland Catholic in a rematch of the recent WPIAL final won by South Fayette, 64-49. Cathedral Prep finished its season with a record of 23-2.
As she typically does, Webber stepped up Saturday in the clutch. After a quiet first half that saw her score only four points, the Villanova recruit turned it up in the second half when she tallied 14. None were bigger than the 3-pointer that will be talked about in South Fayette for a long time. With the score tied, 37-37, with 14 seconds left, South Fayette inbounded the ball after a timeout. The ball eventually worked its way around to Webber, who knocked down the deep 3-pointer despite two defenders in her face.
“That’s what we expect of her,” South Fayette coach Bryan Bennett said. “She’s such a talented kid. We just have all the faith in the world in her. She took a couple of bad ones here and there, but she stepped up big when it counted.”
Webber said she had mixed feelings on whether or not the ball would fall through when she launched it.
“It felt really high so I thought I might airball it, but it felt good, so I was like, ‘Maybe,’” said Webber, who finished with a game-high 18 points.
Webber did airball a 3-point attempt with just over a minute left and her team trailing, 37-35. Webber committed her fourth foul a possession earlier, so Bennett replaced her with freshman Juliette Leroux after Cathedral Prep took possession after Webber’s miss. Leroux then became an unlikely star by making gigantic plays defensively and offensively. She intercepted a Cathedral Prep pass to give the Lions possession down two before knocking down two free throws with 1:03 left to tie the score at 37-37. They were Leroux’s first points of the game.
“I was like, “Oh my God, am I going to make these,’” Leroux recalled. “My legs were shaking so much. I couldn’t feel my entire body.”
Cathedral Prep’s Tori Mayes then went to the free-throw line after getting fouled three seconds later, but Mayes misfired on both attempts. Ava Leroux rebounded the miss, setting the stage for Webber’s heroics.
South Fayette rallied from a 12-point third-quarter deficit against a Cathedral Prep squad that had eliminated the WPIAL champion from the PIAA playoffs in three of the previous seven seasons. It was South Fayette’s defense that fueled the comeback. Cathedral Prep was 2 of 17 from the field in the second half and didn’t convert a field goal in the fourth quarter.
“They were really physical. Probably the most physical opponent we saw all year, and I think it rattled us in the first half,” Bennett said. “I saw some uncharacteristic basketball out of our kids that I typically don’t see. We talked at halftime just to relax and play their game and I thought that’s what they did in the second half.”
South Fayette was 9 of 15 from the field in the second half and finished 13 of 34 (38%). Cathedral Prep was 12 of 41 (29%).
Hall added 11 points for South Fayette, while Ava Leroux, an Elon recruit, chipped in seven. Lena Walz scored 13 points and Addie Biel added 11 points for Cathedral Prep. South Fayette limited Cathedral Prep standout junior Jayden McBride to six points. McBride, the sister of three-time WNBA All-Star Kayla McBride, has a list of scholarship offers which includes Marquette and West Virginia.
“In the fourth I was a little scared, but I was really confident in our team because we never back down ever, no matter the score,” Webber said. “We always keep fighting. I knew we were going to keep doing that until the buzzer. And it ended up working out for sure.”
Other Class 5A
• London Creach converted 1 of 2 free throws with 3.7 seconds left in overtime to vault Oakland Catholic (25-4) to a 60-59 win against McKeesport (23-6) at Peters Township. Creach’s free throw came after McKeesport’s Rachel Manfredo connected on two free throws to tie the contest with 17 seconds left. McKeesport led, 49-46, in the final minute of regulation before Oakland Catholic tied it via Rachel Haver’s two free throws and one from Jill Gallo. Alexa Washington scored a game-high 21 points for Oakland Catholic, which previously advanced to the semifinals in 2012. Manfredo led McKeesport with 24 points.
• WPIAL champion North Catholic (25-3) rolled into the semifinals for the fifth time since 2016 by defeating District 3 champion Wyomissing (28-3), 60-27, at Bald Eagle. North Catholic led by 16 points after one quarter before taking a commanding 44-15 halftime advantage. Alayna Rocco led the Trojanettes with 19 points, while Tori Drevna and Dacia Lewandowski added 16 apiece. That trio combined to make 10 3-pointers. Wyomissing was led by Amaya Stewart’s 10 points. North Catholic, which lost to Freedom in the 2022 semifinals, will be appearing in the semifinals for the 17th time overall.
• Blackhawk (24-4) scored the final seven points of the game to top District 10 champion Fairview (21-9), 40-34, at Sharon. The win puts Blackhawk, the WPIAL runner-up, in the semifinals for the first time since winning its fourth title in 2015. Kassie Potts and Alena Fusetti paced Blackhawk with 15 points apiece. Potts scored eight of Blackhawk’s 13 fourth-quarter points, including the go-ahead layup. Blackhawk held Fairview without a point over the final 3:42. Hope Garrity led Fairview with 11 points. Just like in Class 5A, the PIAA Class 4A semifinals will feature a rematch of the WPIAL championship. North Catholic defeated Blackhawk, 51-35, in the final earlier this month.
• Union (21-6) rallied from 10 points down at the half to reach the semifinals for the first time courtesy of a 43-37 win against District 6 champion Williamsburg (28-2) at Armstrong. Union, the WPIAL champion, trailed, 24-14, at the half before beginning the second half on a 20-3 run. The Scotties outscored Williamsburg, 29-13, in the second half. Zoe Lepri led Union with 14 points, while Kayla Fruehstorfer added nine (all on 3-pointers) and Kelly Cleaver eight (all on free throws). Jayla Woodruff paced Williamsburg with 14 points.