HERSHEY, Pa. — Blackhawk was getting sick of seeing silver.

The Cougars had suffered three championship defeats in the span of just over 12 months, falling in the WPIAL finals each of the past two seasons and in the PIAA finals a season ago.

But there was a silver lining to the losses, that being the motivation that grew each time they came up short.

It made the experience of finally laying their eyes on gold Saturday in Chocolatetown all the more sweet.

Aubree Hupp scored 21 points and Alena Fusetti added 18 points and 10 rebounds as Blackhawk captured its fifth PIAA title following a 56-44 win against District 2 champion Scranton Prep in the Class 4A final at Giant Center.

It was the first PIAA championship for Blackhawk (27-3) since the Cougars won back-to-back titles in 2014-15. The Cougars had lost to North Catholic in each of the past two WPIAL championships and to Lansdale Catholic in last year’s PIAA final.

“I know that when I came in here how motivated everybody was,” first-year Blackhawk coach Greg Huston said. “They lost WPIAL and state last year, so that really hurt. We lost WPIAL again this year, but it almost doesn’t even matter at this point. We’ll take this any day of the week.”

And how about this: The PIAA title came 25 years to the day that Blackhawk won its first PIAA title. Fusetti’s mom, Jodie, was a starter on that team, and Jodie’s sister, Jamie, was one of the reserves. Even more, Fusetti’s father, Mark, played on Blackhawk’s PIAA title teams in 1995-96.

“It feels amazing because they’re the reason I’m here,” said Alena, a standout senior guard who will play at Mercyhurst. “The work ethic they’ve tought me and all the extra time in the gym finally paid off. Now they don’t have it on me that they have a state championship and I don’t.”

Blackhawk’s Alena Fusetti finished off her outstanding career by helping the Cougars win a fifth PIAA championship. (Emily Matthews/Pittsburgh Union Progress)

In a game that Blackhawk led throughout, the Cougars took their largest lead, 32-17, on a Fusetti 3-pointer with 5:32 left in the third. But Scranton Prep, which was appearing in its first PIAA final, cut its deficit to nine points by the end of the quarter and pulled within 43-37 with 4:06 left. Blackhawk, though, made 11-of-12 free throws down the stretch to preserve the win. The Cougars were 19 of 23 from the line overall.

“I was definitely getting a little nervous when they started hitting all those shots and getting really close,” Hupp said. “I was nervous, but I knew we’d go out and do everything we needed to do.”

Hupp, a physical 5-foot-10 sophomore forward, was the starter and the closer. She made two 3-pointers and scored nine points early to help Blackhawk race to an 11-2 lead. But Hupp picked up two fouls less than a minute apart late in the first quarter that sent her to the bench for more than six minutes. She then picked up a third midway through the third quarter that sent her to the bench again. But despite being tagged with a fourth foul with 5:24 left in the game, Hupp played the entire fourth quarter and scored 12 of Blackhawk’s final 18 points. She was 8 of 8 from the free-throw line in the final 2:11.

“Aubree is Aubree. She’s just a beast in there,” Huston said. “She brought it again tonight. The clutch foul shots at the end, but she’s the one that got us going in the first quarter, as well. You can’t say enough about what she’s done this entire year and especially this state tournament when she’s been virtually unstoppable. She brought it on both ends of the court tonight. Unfortunately she was in foul trouble. I think if she had played the whole game, maybe it would be a little easier on us, but that’s the way it goes sometimes.”

Blackhawk’s Aubree Hupp scored a game-high 21 points to lead the Cougars to a 56-44 win against Scranton Prep in the PIAA Class 4A championship. (Emily Matthews/Pittsburgh Union Progress)

Despite giving up more than 40 points for the first time in the postseason, Blackhawk was again very good defensively. The Cougars, who gave up only 28.8 points per game on the season, limited Scranton Prep to 15-of-45 shooting (33%).

Jenna Hillebrand scored 16 points to lead Scranton Prep, which featured only one senior. 

Huston, who played on the Blackhawk boys team that also won a PIAA title 25 years ago, was in the stands at Giant Center watching last year’s final, as his daughter, Grace, plays on the team and is now a sophomore. Huston took over for former coach Steve Lodovico, who had guided Blackhawk to those titles last decade.

And after all of the championship heartbreak, Blackhawk was all smiles after Saturday’s golden performance.

“I feel like that just gave us a push,” Hupp said, “and it feels great to actually win.”

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

Brad Everett

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