For any other program, starting out the season with a 3-4 record after a tough non-section schedule might not be cause for alarm, but North Catholic isn’t like any other program.

Luckily for the Trojanettes, they have an 11-time WPIAL champion at the helm in longtime coach Molly Rottmann, who knows that December basketball is not the time to panic. Instead, it’s a time to gain valuable experience against quality competition in order to prepare for the grueling postseason grind ahead — and despite some early growing pains, Rottmann has her team looking like a bona fide championship contender once again after a 59-35 home win against Knoch (7-6, 3-3) in a Class 4A Section 1 clash on Monday night.

“We’re a different team, and we’re just working on getting better,” Rottmann said. “I kind of feel like we put those pressures on ourself, because we’ve had success.”

Losing standout senior Ava Walker to a torn ACL for the second time in her career was a major blow to North Catholic (8-4, 6-0), but the Trojanettes have received some much-needed contributions in Walker’s absence in recent games. On Monday, it was freshman guard Brady Wehner who stepped into the spotlight, knocking down five 3-pointers en route to a game-high 21 points.

“We’ve been blessed to have kids come in and play and excel as a freshman, and it is hard to do,” Rottmann said. “She has embraced that role, and she’s a tough kid. She absolutely has the ability to be a special player, and I think she’s shown that now.”

Of course, star senior Alayna Rocco was terrific as usual, registering a double-double with 17 points and 10 rebounds while draining four 3-pointers. The Harvard recruit is one of the best players in the WPIAL, but she won’t be able to take North Catholic back to the promised land without some help. Along with junior point guard Sarah Loughry, Wehner’s emergence as another reliable scoring option should provide a huge boost to the Trojanettes’ title chances.

“If you run her off of screens, she does a great job of reading stuff,” Rottmann said about Wehner. “She’ll get downhill and find the open person, and she does a great job of scoring at the rim, too. She’s all around, very solid.”

Monday’s win stretched North Catholic’s winning streak to five games in a row, but more importantly, it kept the Trojanettes undefeated in section play as they seek to earn a top seed for the WPIAL tournament. A dynasty unlike any other in Western Pa., the defending WPIAL champs are attempting to go undefeated in their section and reach the WPIAL finals for the eighth year in a row. North Catholic has now won 97 games in a row in section play dating back to Jan. 11, 2016.

“I always tell myself, we have Alayna Rocco and no one else does,” Rottmann said. “Having her on our team is always going to be a huge advantage. … I expect nothing but big things for her from the rest of her senior season. She really is an amazing player. You don’t see them very often.

“I think we’re going to go, ultimately, where Alayna takes us.”

Longtime North Catholic coach Molly Rottmann has the Trojanettes trending in the right direction after an up-and-down start to the season. (Steve Mellon/Pittsburgh Union Progress)

Other girls games

• In an anticipated battle between two heated section rivals and two of the top teams in Class 5A, unbeaten Oakland Catholic (15-0, 6-0) rallied back from a slow start to secure a 58-49 home win against McKeesport (11-2, 5-1). London Creach led all scorers with 21 points for the Eagles to go with 14 from Josie Fontana and 13 from Kaylee DeAngelo, while the Tigers were led by Rachael Manfredo with 17 as their six-game winning streak came to an end.

• Becca Goetz and Greta O’Brien scored 12 points apiece to power defending WPIAL Class 3A champion Avonworth to a 53-43 win at Seton LaSalle in a marquee Section 2 showdown. Buffalo recruit Mallory Daly finished with a game-high 21 points for the Rebels (10-4, 4-1), while Emma Obersteiner chipped in 10 for the Antelopes (13-1, 5-0).

• Avery Davis and Erica Gribble combined for 48 points to fuel Greensburg Central Catholic‘s 62-53 road win at Winchester Thurston in Class 2A Section 3. Davis led all scorers with 25 points for the Centurions (10-4, 6-0) to go along with 23 from Gribble, while Jasmine Hollis finished with 24 points for the Bears (6-7, 3-2).

• Fresh off announcing her commitment to Mercyhurst, Alena Fusetti led Blackhawk (13-2, 5-0) to a dominant 42-14 win at Beaver (6-9, 3-2) with a game-high 19 points in the Class 4A Section 2 rivalry matchup. The Cougars’ stifling defense shut out the Bobcats throughout the entire first quarter as first-year coach Greg Huston earned a one-sided victory against his former team.

• Violet Johnson helped propel Aquinas Academy (13-2, 2-1) to an impressive 53-49 non-section win against visiting Serra Catholic (10-3, 4-1), tallying a game-high 17 points along with 14 from Ellie Junker and 13 from Emma Fisher. Abby Genes finished with a team-leading 16 points for the Eagles in the defeat.

• Oliva Pepple surpassed the 1,000-point mark for her career while leading Penn-Trafford to a 51-40 victory against visiting Latrobe with a game-high 14 points. Lauren Marton added 13 points to help snap a four-game losing skid for the Warriors (8-5, 3-3), while Elle Snyder and Belle Blossey finished with 12 points apiece for the Wildcats (7-7, 3-3) in the Class 5A Section 3 collision.

• Lilah Turnbull scored a game-high 17 points for red-hot Chartiers Valley (11-2, 5-1), which bounced back from a narrow defeat against Peters Township to earn a 52-39 road win at Mt. Lebanon (7-7, 3-3) in Class 6A Section 2. Emma Reynolds added 12 points for the Colts, while Peyton Collins and Clare Cramer led the way for the Blue Devils with 11 points apiece in the loss.

• Haylie Lamonde led all scorers with 18 points for South Fayette in a 76-49 triumph at West Allegheny (5-9, 0-5) in Class 5A Section 4, while Juliette Leroux tacked on 15 and Lainey Yater added 10 for the Lions (8-5, 3-2). Ella Smith led the Indians with 13 points to go with 12 from Alexis Santucci.

Ellwood City stormed out to a 26-3 first-quarter lead and never looked back, rolling to a 64-31 verdict against Laurel in Class 3A Section 1. Four players reached double figures for the Wolverines (11-5, 3-2), who received 14 points from Elsie Sturgeon and 13 apiece from Caitlin Kreitzer and Delaney Sturgeon. Morgan Barker finished with a team-leading 14 points for the Spartans (4-11, 1-4).

• Aleaya Mercier led four players in double figures for Rochester with 16 points in a 62-55 win at South Side (9-6, 3-3) in Class 2A Section 1 action. Avah Williams added 14 for Rochester (8-5, 5-1) to go with 13 from Tia Yellock and 12 from Marque Taylor, while Bailey Strinisa finished with a game-high 21 points for South Side.

• Madison Zavasky scored a game-high 19 points and Cate Gentile added 18 for Pine-Richland, as the Rams (3-10, 2-3) built a 20-7 first-quarter lead before cruising to a 50-33 home win against Butler (3-11, 1-4) in Class 6A Section 1. Sydney Patterson scored a team-high 12 points for the Golden Tornado in the defeat.

• Kent State recruit Meghan Murray kept up her stellar play for Hampton (8-6, 4-2), posting a game-high 23 points for the Talbots along with 16 from Kathleen Milon in a lopsided 48-17 win at North Hills (8-7, 5-1) in Class 5A Section 2.

• Cecilia Christy led four double-digit scorers for Mars with 18 points in a 62-46 victory at New Castle (2-13, 0-6) in Class 5A Section 2, while Carmella McDole added 13 and Gianna DeLisio and Mya Moore tacked on 10 apiece for the Planets (7-6, 3-2).

• A 23-8 first-quarter lead provided all the cushion Greensburg Salem would need, as Kaitlyn Mankins scored a game-high 16 points and Gia Rosensteel tacked on 13 for the Golden Lions (12-3, 4-2) in a 53-31 win at Freeport (6-9, 2-4) in Class 4A Section 1.

• Emma Paul led the way with 15 points for Armstrong (10-4, 4-2), helping the visiting River Hawks roll to a 46-24 non-section victory at Franklin Regional (3-10, 3-3).

Chartiers Valley’s Lilah Turnbull delivered another solid performance for the surging Colts, scoring a game-high 17 points in a 52-39 win against Mt. Lebanon on Monday. (Alexandra Wimley/Pittsburgh Union Progress)

Three stars

*** — Lexi Ewig, McGuffey. Ewig scored a game-high 24 points to lead the Highlanders to a 65-60 victory in a Class 3A Section 4 matchup at Charleroi.

** — Shaye Bailey, Freedom. The star senior spearheaded a dominant 67-10 win at New Brighton in Class 2A Section 1 action, tallying a game-high 25 points for the Bulldogs.

* — Emma Larkin, Geibel Catholic. Larkin had another big night for the Gators, pouring in a game-high 30 points in a 55-48 win against visiting Jefferson-Morgan in Class 1A Section 2.

Hot from deep

Players with 3 or more 3-pointers: Brady Wehner, North Catholic, 5; Kaylee DeAngelo, Oakland Catholic, 4; Ellie Junker, Aquinas Academy, 4; Alayna Rocco, North Catholic, 4; Laci Bernotas, Baldwin, 3; Kaley Rohanna, Waynesburg, 3; Riley Stephans, Plum, 3.

Oakland Catholic freshman Kaylee DeAngelo knocked down four 3-pointers while scoring 13 points in a pivotal 58-49 win against McKeesport on Monday. (Pam Panchak/Pittsburgh Union Progress)

Girls scores

Aquinas Academy 53, Serra Catholic 49

Armstrong 46, Franklin Regional 24

Avonworth 53, Seton LaSalle 43

Baldwin 56, Belle Vernon 15

Blackhawk 42, Beaver 14

Burgettstown 53, Carlynton 12

Burrell 54, Deer Lakes 13

California 60, Frazier 56

Central Valley 52, Quaker Valley 43

Chartiers Valley 52, Mt. Lebanon 39

Chartiers-Houston 50, Carmichaels 16

Elizabeth Forward 70, West Mifflin 34

Ellwood City 64, Laurel 31

Freedom 67, New Brighton 10

Geibel Catholic 55, Jefferson-Morgan 48

Greensburg Central Catholic 62, Winchester Thurston 53

Greensburg Salem 53, Freeport 31

Hampton 48, North Hills 17

Highlands 77, Valley 14

Indiana 41, Plum 36

Keystone Oaks 62, East Allegheny 11

Laurel Highlands 64, Ringgold 18

Leechburg 32, Jeannette 27

Linsly School, W.Va., 61, Trinity 58 (OT)

Mars 62, New Castle 46

McGuffey 65, Charleroi 60

Mohawk 43, Riverside 28

Moon 48, Montour 45

Mount Pleasant 49, Apollo-Ridge 28

Neshannock 70, Beaver Falls 40

North Catholic 59, Knoch 35

Norwin 46, Seneca Valley 35

Oakland Catholic 58, McKeesport 49

Our Lady of the Sacred Heart 58, South Allegheny 10

Penn-Trafford 51, Latrobe 40

Pine-Richland 50, Butler 33

Rochester 62, South Side 55

South Fayette 76, West Allegheny 49

South Park 40, Yough 27

Springdale 37, Steel Valley 29

St. Joseph 70, Riverview 40

Thomas Jefferson 57, Connellsville 19

Uniontown 56, Southmoreland 39

Upper St. Clair 49, Bethel Park 46

Washington 43, Beth-Center 31

Waynesburg 49, Brownsville 41

Steve is a sports writer at the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, but he's currently on strike. Email him at

Steve Rotstein

Steve is a sports writer at the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, but he's currently on strike. Email him at