No matter where you play, if you’re considered one of the best to have ever put on your school’s uniform, it’s a big honor.

But when that school is North Catholic, which is unrivaled when it comes to WPIAL girls basketball success over the years, then owning that distinction carries even more weight.

“As one of the all-time greats” is how North Catholic coach Molly Rottmann said senior Alayna Rocco will be remembered at the school.

One who saved her greatest season for last.

Rocco was a rock star, as the Harvard recruit used her talents to rank among the area’s top scorers while using a memorable performance in the WPIAL Class 4A championship game to lead North Catholic to a third consecutive title and record 23rd overall.

Due to Rocco’s success, team-wise and individually, she has been selected the Pittsburgh Union Progress girls basketball Player of the Year. All WPIAL and City League players were considered for the award picked by the PUP sports staff.

“It was definitely a great season. It was too short, but we did come out with the WPIAL championship, which was amazing,” said Rocco, whose team saw its season end with a loss to then-unbeaten Wyomissing in the PIAA quarterfinals.

Rocco, a two-time PUP first-team all-star selection, averaged a team-high 19 points a game in addition to 5.3 rebounds, 3.2 steals and 2.2 assists. She shot 35% from 3-point range and was an 88% free-throw shooter.

Alayna Rocco (11) scored 26 points to lead North Catholic to its third consecutive WPIAL championship following a 40-37 overtime win against Blackhawk in the Class 4A title game. (Emily Matthews/Pittsburgh Union Progress)

Starting in a WPIAL final for the fourth time in her career, Rocco produced one of the most impressive performances of this year’s championships, scoring 17 of her team’s final 19 points to help North Catholic squeak past Blackhawk, 40-37, in overtime. Rocco scored 26 points in the game, in addition to playing terrific defense against Cougars’ standout Aubree Hupp.

“She is very much in the mindset of making that extra pass, but she kind of realized this year that if we were going to go to the places that we wanted to go, then it would be on her shoulders to do it,” Rottmann said. “And I think she did an amazing job. And we needed it. She has the ability. Maybe she’s not an outside shooter, but she has a great mid-range game and was able to score in a variety of ways, and we needed her to do that.”

Rocco, a Trafford resident, finished with 1,716 career points. North Catholic didn’t drop a section game in Rocco’s four seasons, going 45-0 in section play and 84-21 overall. The Trojanettes reached the WPIAL championship game all four seasons and advanced to the PIAA semifinals her sophomore and junior seasons.

Rocco is quite a cerebral player. She has a 4.6 GPA and is going to Harvard, so the intelligence is obviously there, but she’s also a coach’s daughter. Her father, Jim, is a longtime high school coach with both a WPIAL and PIAA title on his resume who just wrapped his third season coaching the North Catholic boys.

“He’s been the biggest influence in my life, both in basketball and life in general,” Alayna said. “Just the conversations we have. He sees things that I don’t see, and I think that helps me a lot.”

Another of Rocco’s influences is her brother, Zach, a former standout at Penn-Trafford who just finished his career at West Point.

Following an outstanding high school career, North Catholic’s Alayna Rocco will next take her talents to Harvard. (Emily Matthews/Pittsburgh Union Progress)

The Roccos and Rottmanns have been intertwined at North Catholic these past few seasons, with Molly Rottmann coaching Alayna Rocco, and Jim Rocco coaching Molly’s sons, Max and Jude. Molly said she can see Alayna following in her father’s footsteps one day.

“Absolutely,” Rottmann said. “She studies the game. She knows the game. I can absolutely see her doing that.”

Alayna Rocco, who said she chose Harvard over Princeton and Columbia, will go into college undecided on her major. But she’s already decided on what it meant for her to put on a North Catholic uniform the past four seasons.

“It meant the world to me,” she said. “I love coach Molly and the coaching staff. They’ve been great mentors. They’re like family now, so it’s hard to leave.”

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