Armstrong pulled the stunner of the season Tuesday.

Emma Paul scored a game-high 28 points to lead No. 5 Armstrong to the WPIAL final for the first time in program history following a 49-40 upset of No. 1 and previously undefeated Oakland Catholic in a Class 5A semifinal at Fox Chapel.

“It feels great,” Armstrong coach Jim Callipare said. “We’re going to celebrate tonight, but the job’s not done. It feels wonderful to get here, but we’re not satisfied by any means. We set a goal to win the whole thing and that’s what we’re going to try to do.”

What Armstrong (21-4) did Tuesday was hand the WPIAL’s only unbeaten team, boys or girls, its first loss of the season. Oakland Catholic (24-1) was trying to reach the final for the second season in a row and potentially win its first title since 2006, but was knocked off its perch one game before the title game. The Eagles played without standout junior guard and leading scorer London Creach, who suffered a leg injury in the team’s quarterfinal win against North Hills.

After thumping No. 4 Lincoln Park in the quarterfinals, Armstrong claimed its 16th win in a row after limiting the WPIAL’s most potent offense to a season-low 40 points. The Eagles entered the game averaging 63.5 points a game.

“We’ve been playing championship-level defense,” said Callipare, whose team will meet two-time defending champion South Fayette for the title at 5 p.m. Saturday at Petersen Events Center.

In what was a back-and-forth game throughout, Armstrong carried a 32-31 lead to the fourth quarter. It turned out the River Hawks saved their best for last, as Paul scored 13 of her points in a quarter that saw her team outscore Oakland Catholic, 17-9.

“Every time we tried to pull away, they’d make a little run or make a bucket or two, but our girls showed their resolve,” Callipare said. “It starts with our point guard, Emma Paul. She’s so strong with the ball and so smart. They knock her down and she gets right back up. She’s just like the Energizer Bunny for us.”

Paul, a 5-foot-5 senior guard who averages 21 points per game, made 10 3-pointers and scored a school-record 45 points in a game earlier this season. Paul was the only player to score in double-figures for Armstrong on Tuesday, but the River Hawks also got eight points apiece from Kyle Fitzgerald and Sarai Weaver.

Freshman Kaylee DeAngelo knocked down six 3-pointers among her 22 points to lead Oakland Catholic. DeAngelo, fellow freshman Mia LeDonne (9 points) and sophomore Josie Fontana (7 points) combined to score all but two of the Eagles’ points.

Callipare said he was aware of Creach’s injury going into the game, but wasn’t sure whether or not she would play. Sophomore Alayla Bivins started in Creach’s place.

“We prepared for her to be there and for her not to be there, so we were going to be ready either way,” Callipare said. “It really didn’t affect what we did defensively, but she’s obviously their best player and that did affect them for sure.”

Other Class 5A semifinal

Not only was the No. 1 seed eliminated Tuesday, but so was the No. 2 seed.

Sophomores Juliette “Juju” Leroux and Haylie Lamonde scored 16 points to vault No. 6 and two-time defending champion South Fayette (17-8) into the title game for the third year in a row following a 49-41 win against No. 2 McKeesport at Peters Township.

“For the seniors, it’s a three-peat, and for us it’s a two-peat,” Leroux said. “I’m just so excited to be back and playing on that court.”

It was the second upset in a row for South Fayette (17-8), which took down No. 3 Trinity, 53-39, in the quarterfinals after losing to the Hillers twice in the regular season. McKeesport (20-4) had been hunting its first WPIAL title since 1998 when Swin Cash led the Tigers to the top prize. But instead, they were ousted in the semifinals for the third year in a row and for a second time by South Fayette, which also beat the Tigers in the 2022 semifinals.

McKeesport jumped to a 10-4 lead Tuesday before going eight minutes without a field goal. South Fayette took advantage of McKeesport’s many misfires by going on a 13-0 run to open up a 17-10 lead courtesy of Leroux’s layup with 3:01 left in the second quarter. Maddy Miller then ended McKeesport’s long scoring drought by converting a three-point play with 1:52 left in the half.

Following a third quarter that saw the teams combine for just nine points — McKeesport outscored South Fayette, 7-2 — South Fayette started the fourth quarter strong with Yater connecting on a 3-pointer to extend the Lions’ lead to 27-22. After McKeesport’s Brooke Evans went 1 of 2 from the line to cut her team’s deficit to four, Erica Hall came up with some clutch plays. Hall, a senior and Mercyhurst recruit, scored a basket, drew a charge on the other end on McKeesport’s next possession, and then followed with another bucket to increase the South Fayette advantage to 31-23 with 5:17 left. 

“She’s come up big all year,” South Fayette coach Brian Bennett said of Hall, who finished with eight points. “We knew this was going to be a grind and that it was going to come down to the little things.”

Rachael Manfredo scored 11 of her game-high 18 points in the fourth quarter for McKeesport. Her three-point play with 2:15 left cut the South Fayette lead to 35-33. However, Lamonde responded with a 3-pointer from the corner to push the lead back to five, and following another McKeesport free throw, Hall and Leroux both went 2 of 2 from the line to give South Fayette a 42-35 advantage with a minute left. McKeesport was unable to get within five the rest of the game.

South Fayette went 17 of 21 from the free-throw line in the game. Lamonde led the way by going 8 of 9. She scored 13 of her 16 points in the final quarter.

Alena Fusetti’s 21 points propelled Blackhawk into the WPIAL Class 4A championship for the third consecutive season following a 51-32 win against Laurel Highlands Tuesday at Peters Township. (Emily Matthews/Pittsburgh Union Progress)

Class 4A semifinals

• No. 1 Blackhawk (22-2) earned a spot in the final for the third year in a row courtesy of a 51-32 win against No. 5 Laurel Highlands (20-3) at Peters Township. Alena Fusetti scored 21 points and Aubree Hupp added 16 for Blackhawk, which claimed its 16th consecutive win. The Cougars were 22 of 24 from the free-throw line, with Fusetti going 14 of 16. Miyah Harris knocked down four 3-pointers among her team-high 14 points for Laurel Highlands, which was playing in the semifinals for the first time since 1998 and was looking to reach its first final. Following a first quarter that saw the teams deadlocked, 6-6, Fusetti scored nine second-quarter points to vault Blackhawk to a 22-10 halftime lead. Hupp then scored 10 of her points in the third quarter when the Cougars grew their advantage to 39-20. The Cougars will next shoot for a ninth WPIAL title. They beat Knoch for the title in 2022 before losing to North Catholic, 51-35, in last year’s championship game.

• Lauren Reitz scored 16 points and grabbed 11 rebounds to lead No. 2 North Catholic (16-7) into the championship game for the 10th consecutive season following a 42-34 win against No. 3 Elizabeth Forward (21-3) at Fox Chapel. Harvard recruit Alayna Rocco chipped in 15 points for the Trojanettes, who have won two consecutive titles, six in the past seven years, and a record 22 overall. Kaelynn Settles scored 14 points and Alyssa Terza 11 for Elizabeth Forward, which saw its 19-game win streak come to an end. The Warriors lost in the semifinals for the third time in six years. They were aiming to reach their first title game since 2013. The Warriors won their only title in 1975. North Catholic has not lost to a Class 4A team all season, but Elizabeth Forward gave the Trojanettes a fight. The Trojanettes led just 13-11 after one quarter before using a 12-5 second-quarter advantage to go up at the half, 25-16. North Catholic then led, 31-22, after three quarters before holding on for the win.

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

Brad Everett

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