Consider this a friendly piece of advice to every team facing Oakland Catholic from now until 2027 — you might want to guard Kaylee DeAngelo as soon as she crosses midcourt.
Better yet, make sure you get a hand in her face as soon as she steps off the bus, or DeAngelo will make you pay — over and over again.
Host McKeesport learned that lesson the hard way Thursday night inside Neenie Campbell Gymnasium, as the sharp-shooting DeAngelo drilled seven 3-pointers on her way to a game-high 21 points in the Eagles’ convincing 63-47 victory. The win clinched the Class 5A Section 3 title outright for Oakland Catholic (21-0, 12-0) for the second year in a row, keeping the Eagles unbeaten going into their regular-season finale Saturday against North Catholic.
“I told [DeAngelo], if she’s open, let it go,” said Oakland Catholic coach Eddie Benton. “She’s arguably one of the best shooters I’ve seen in 26 years of coaching.”
A 5-foot-6 freshman guard with an impeccable stroke, DeAngelo went 7 for 9 from beyond the arc, and each of her made 3-pointers hit nothing but nylon. At one point late in the second half, she drained a step-back 3 with a hand in her face to help seal the victory, and all she could do afterward was smile.
“It’s exciting to be given an opportunity as a freshman. Not many people around here get it, but I know that I’ve earned it,” said DeAngelo, whose older sister, Alyssa, was a standout guard at Thomas Jefferson and now is starring at Fairmount State. “I think we can do some big things, so it’s special [to be a part of it].”
Another Eagles freshman making a name for herself this year, Mia LeDonne, chipped in with 10 points while doing all of her damage in the second half after sitting most of the first half with two fouls. Together, LeDonne and DeAngelo combined to score nearly half of Oakland Catholic’s points in the marquee matchup while playing with a poise beyond their years.
Needless to say, this duo is going to be one to watch for the next four years — but they’re not wasting any time making their presence felt.
“We’re a very young team, but we’re very talented,” LeDonne said. “We share the ball. It’s a lot of fun playing with these girls. … I just couldn’t wait for this basketball season. It couldn’t come fast enough. I couldn’t wait to play with these girls, and it’s real now. I’m just so happy it’s actually here.”
The only returning starter from last year’s 25-win team, junior guard London Creach has played a major role in Oakland Catholic’s impressive season, serving as the team’s leading scorer with an average of 15.9 points per game. Creach took a backseat to her younger teammates Thursday, but still tallied 7 points while facilitating open looks to DeAngelo and others. Junior guard Alayla Bivins also contributed 9 points off the bench and senior guard Raygen Hintemeyer added 5, including a buzzer-beating 3-pointer at the end of the first quarter.
Elsewhere, 6-2 sophomore Josie Fontana held her own for the Eagles while battling in the paint against Tigers star Rachael Manfredo, one of the top all-around players in the area. Although Manfredo did finish with 18 points, Fontana did a great job contesting many of her shots and making things tough for the 6-0 senior. Fontana also tacked on 12 points in addition to her key contributions on defense.
“I have confidence in all the girls,” Benton said. “Alayla Bivins stepped up and came in and played some crucial moments. It’s just ‘next woman up’ on this team.”
McKeesport actually got off to a solid start, building a 14-11 lead midway through an action-packed first quarter. But Oakland Catholic soon ramped up its defensive intensity while heating up on the offensive end, and the Eagles put together a 12-0 run capped by Hintemeyer’s buzzer-beater to close out the quarter.
The Tigers did manage to keep things interesting until the break, using a surge late in the first half to trim Oakland Catholic’s lead to six. After halftime, though, the Eagles quickly stretched their lead to double digits, and the momentum remained firmly in their favor the rest of the way as they defeated McKeesport for the sixth time in the past two seasons.
“I’m getting sick of playing McKeesport,” Benton said with a laugh. “To come in here and win another one here, two years in a row now, it’s awesome. … They’re a good team. They’re a tough team. They’re physical. Playing against them is definitely a rivalry.”
On top of winning its second consecutive section crown, Oakland Catholic likely locked up the No. 1 seed for the Class 5A playoffs with the win, coupled with Lincoln Park’s second loss of the season. The Eagles still have a tough matchup looming Saturday against defending WPIAL Class 4A North Catholic, but Benton isn’t worried about his team potentially losing its “0” going into the playoffs — and neither are his players.
“We just want to continue to win as many games as we can,” Benton said. “The most important game is our next game up. We’re worried about North Catholic now. We’ll celebrate until midnight, then get ready for North Catholic and try to take care of business on Saturday.
“I think the girls, mentally, are ready to go.”