Going into a pivotal rivalry game at Seton LaSalle on Monday night, Our Lady of the Sacred Heart coach Don Eckerle told his players to treat the contest as if it were a playoff game.

It’s safe to say Morgan O’Brien got the message.

With the Chargers looking to avenge a 19-point loss against the Rebels from last month, O’Brien erupted for a career-high 21 points, including 13 in the fourth quarter — none bigger than her game-winning 3-pointer from the top of the key with 2.9 seconds remaining to lift OLSH (14-7, 5-4) to a thrilling 40-37 win. The Chargers are now tied with Keystone Oaks for third place in Class 3A Section 2 and one game back of Seton LaSalle with one game left to play.

“She’s a player who had only made a couple 3-pointers all year,” Eckerle said about O’Brien. “She took the weight of the game on her shoulders and took the big shots when we needed them. … Her signature game so far.”

OLSH stormed out to a 17-5 lead after the first quarter, but the Rebels slowly battled back to tie the score going into the fourth. The teams then traded buckets throughout a back-and-forth final quarter, with the Chargers building a slim lead before Seton LaSalle star Mallory Daly hit a tying shot with 13 seconds left in regulation. Eckerle thought about calling a timeout to set up a play, but instead decided to let his players take over — and his trust in O’Brien paid off, as the senior guard drained the biggest shot of her life to silence the stunned crowd and put the finishing touches on her career-best performance.

“The first time we played them at home was probably one of our worst performances of the year, and I knew we were going to be much more competitive,” Eckerle said. “We put together a defensive plan to try to shut Daly down some, and it kind of played out well.”

Now, with a playoff berth secured, OLSH finds itself right back in the mix for a second-place finish in the section and a potential home game in the first round of the playoffs. The Chargers would need to beat South Allegheny and hope the Rebels (12-7, 6-3) lose to Avonworth in order to create a tie for second place, but both outcomes are certainly within reason. OLSH won its first matchup against the Gladiators by 48, and Seton LaSalle lost to the Antelopes by 10 in their first meeting.

Considering how loaded the Class 3A playoff bracket will be, Eckerle knows that his team could surely benefit from a higher seed and a home game in the first round — and he couldn’t be happier with the way the Chargers are playing during their late-season surge.

“No doubt about it — it was an important game to keep us relevant and in the mix of things,” Eckerle said. “To pick up a road win against a good, solid team, that’s a good accomplishment.”

Freedom’s Olivia Henderson advances toward the basket against Aliquippa on Monday, Feb. 5, 2024 at Aliquippa High School. Aliquippa won, 40-33. (Emily Matthews/Pittsburgh Union Progress)

Other girls games

• Norwin stretched its winning streak to eight games in a row and clinched the Class 6A Section 1 title outright in the process with a 51-44 win at Pine-Richland (7-12, 4-5). Lauren Palangio scored a team-leading 15 points for the Knights (17-3, 9-0) along with 13 from Ava Kobus, while Madison Zavasky led all scorers with 22 points for the Rams.

• Caroline Henderson buried a half-dozen 3-pointers for North Allegheny while scoring a game-high 22 points, leading the two-time defending WPIAL champs to a 39-35 win at Seneca Valley in Class 6A Section 1. Emerson Peffer led the Raiders with 14 points in the loss.

Blackhawk can play defense as well as anybody in the area, and the Cougars (18-2, 9-0) proved that once again while dominating Quaker Valley on the road in Class 4A Section 2, 56-17. This is Blackhawk’s third consecutive game allowing less than 20 points and the seventh time the Cougars have done so during their 12-game win streak. Alena Fusetti led all scorers with 16 points while Mimi Thiero finished with 15 for the Quakers (4-14, 4-4).

• Just when Moon appeared to be on its way to securing a playoff berth with a top-four finish in Class 5A Section 4 after its stunning upset against Lincoln Park, West Allegheny turned everything upside down by taking down the Tigers at home, 52-50, for its first section win of the season. Alexis Santucci scored a team-high 21 points for the Indians (7-12, 1-8), while Jaedin Griggs led all scorers with 26 points for Moon (13-7, 3-5).

• North Hills (12-8, 9-2) kept pace with Armstrong for the top spot in the Class 5A Section 2 standings by dismantling Mars for a 57-31 home win. Olivia Waters led three players in double figures for the Indians with 16 points, followed by 15 from Gie Sturdivant and 14 from Jayden Arnett. Alexis Cashdollar finished with 10 points for the Planets (10-9, 6-4).

• Washington remained even with Chartiers-Houston in the race for the Class 2A Section 4 title, knocking off California at home, 60-36. Caprice Johnson and Olivia Woods scored 17 points apiece for the Little Prexies (12-8, 10-1), while Rakiyah Porter also finished with 17 for the Trojans (9-11, 6-5).

• Serra Catholic squeaked past Winchester Thurston for a nail-biting 63-62 road win in Class 2A Section 3. Bri Battles led four players in double figures with 18 points for the Eagles (16-4, 9-2), while Caitlin Cooley added 17 and Cate Clarke and Abby Genes tacked on 11 apiece. Jasmine Hollins led all scorers with 25 points for Winchester (10-10, 6-4).

• Rachael Manfredo led a trio of double-digit scorers with 13 points for McKeesport (17-2, 9-1), followed closely by 12 from Brooke Evans and 11 from Maddy Miller in a 64-37 win at Penn-Trafford in Class 5A Section 3. Olivia Pepple finished with a game-high 19 points for the Warriors (13-7, 6-5).

• Sadie Orie scored a game-high 18 points to go with 14 from Becky Gillenberger and 10 from Ella Sabatos, helping Bethel Park (8-12, 4-7) pick up its fourth consecutive win with a 49-36 victory at Baldwin in Class 6A Section 2. Katie Lucarelli finished with 10 points for the Highlanders (9-12, 2-10).

• Hailey Johnson helped Monessen remain unbeaten in Class 1A Section 2 play with a 54-35 win against visiting Mapletown (6-12, 3-6). Madison Johnson added 12 points for the Greyhounds (15-4, 9-0) and Sidney Campbell tacked on 10, while Isabella Garneck scored a game-high 19 points for the Maples.

• Gabriella Finch led all scorers with 17 points and added 7 rebounds, 6 assists and 3 blocks for host Riverside (5-14, 1-8), which earned its first section win of the season with a 42-27 triumph against Laurel (4-16, 1-8). Emma Stockman posted a double-double for the Panthers with 10 points and 10 rebounds, while Morgan Barker led the Spartans with 10 points in the defeat.

• Taelor Spencer tallied a game-high 22 points to help Ellis School (8-12, 3-8) earn a 53-30 home win against Springdale (6-15, 2-9) in Class 2A Section 3. Ashlyn Federbar finished with a team-high 18 points for the Dynamos.

Aliquippa’s Carla Brown tries to get the ball around Freedom’s Olivia Henderson on Monday, Feb. 5, 2024 at Aliquippa High School. Aliquippa won, 40-33. (Emily Matthews/Pittsburgh Union Progress)

Boys game

• Surging Greensburg Central Catholic cruised to its 10th consecutive win with a 65-27 rout at Clairton (10-12, 6-6) in a Class 2A Section 3 clash. Tyree Turner led the way with a game-high 21 points for the Centurions (19-2, 11-0), followed by 18 from Franco Alvarez.

Three stars

** — Emma Paul, Armstrong. One of the PUP’s most frequent “Three Stars” honorees, Paul put on another scoring clinic for the River Hawks with a game-high 27 points in a 58-39 win against visiting Fox Chapel in Class 5A Section 2.

** — Ruby Morgan, Trinity. Morgan had a night to remember for the Hillers, knocking down nine 3-pointers on her way to a game-high 31 points as Trinity rallied for a 52-46 home win against defending WPIAL champion South Fayette in Class 5A Section 4.

* — Megan Marston, Plum. The No. 14 scorer in the WPIAL entering the week, Marston nearly doubled her season average of 19.4 ppg by pouring in a game-high 36 points for the Mustangs in a 61-49 home win against Kiski Area in Class 5A Section 1.

Hot from deep

Players with 3 or more 3-pointers: Ruby Morgan, Trinity, 9; Caroline Henderson, North Allegheny, 6; Lydia Shaffer, Rochester, 6; Bella Antonacci, Indiana, 5; Izzy Miller, Central Valley, 5; Addie Lonergan, Seton LaSalle, 4; Greta O’Brien, Avonworth, 4; Abbie Johns, Kiski Area, 3.

Freedom’s Morgan Keller and Aliquippa’s Samiyah Ausby go after the ball on Monday, Feb. 5, 2024 at Aliquippa High School. Aliquippa won, 40-33. (Emily Matthews/Pittsburgh Union Progress)

Boys scores

Greensburg C.C. 65, Clairton 27

Propel Andrew Street 58, Propel Montour 43

Riverview 73, Perry 40

Girls scores

Albert Gallatin 56, Connellsville 32

Aliquippa 40, Freedom 33

Armstrong 58, Fox Chapel 39

Avonworth 61, East Allegheny 11

Beaver 2, Ambridge 0 (forfeit)

Beth-Center 37, Bentworth 16

Bethel Park 49, Baldwin 36

Bishop Canevin 54, Aquinas Academy 47

Blackhawk 56, Quaker Valley 17

Brashear 78, Steel Valley 23

Brownsville 68, Charleroi 45

Burgettstown 51, Brentwood 20

Burrell 48, Apollo-Ridge 17

Butler 71, Hempfield 51

Carlynton 2, Sto-Rox 0 (forfeit)

Carmichaels 65, Frazier 43

Central Valley 43, Hopewell 36

Elizabeth Forward 55, Belle Vernon 28

Ellis School 53, Springdale 30

Ellwood City 46, Beaver Falls 40

Fort Cherry 54, Northgate 17

Franklin Regional 39, Gateway 26

Freeport 43, Derry 41

Geibel Catholic 63, Avella 36

Highlands 55, Greensburg Salem 45

Indiana 44, Woodland Hills 34

Jeannette 46, Hillel Academy 23

Keystone Oaks 50, South Allegheny 17

Knoch 49, Valley 11

Laurel Highlands 60, West Mifflin 35

McKeesport 64, Penn-Trafford 37

Monessen 60, Mapletown 29

Mount Pleasant 51, Ligonier Valley 29

Neshannock 54, Mohawk 50 (OT)

North Allegheny 39, Seneca Valley 35

North Hills 57, Mars 31

Norwin 51, Pine-Richland 44

Our Lady of the Sacred Heart 40, Seton LaSalle 37

Plum 61, Kiski Area 49

Portersville Christian 53, Shenango 37

Riverside 42, Laurel 27

Rochester 49, New Brighton 9

Serra Catholic 63, Winchester Thurston 62

Shady Side Academy 76, Deer Lakes 12

South Park 53, Waynesburg 46

South Side 61, Sewickley Academy 39

Southmoreland 45, Ringgold 42

St. Joseph 79, Leechburg 11

Thomas Jefferson 42, Latrobe 39

Trinity 52, South Fayette 46

Upper St. Clair 56, Canon-McMillan 48

Washington 60, California 36

West Allegheny 52, Moon 50

Yough 27, McGuffey 26

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

Steve Rotstein

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