HERSHEY, Pa. -- Facing a five-point deficit heading into the final quarter of their high school careers, Bishop Canevin seniors Carly Forse, Erin Waskowiak and Celina DiPietro locked eyes as their team broke the huddle and walked back onto the court.
"I think we were all just looking at each other and saying, 'We need to step it up. It's for the state championship and this is our senior year. This is our game,' " Forse said.
Eight minutes later, the trio looked at each other again. This time to congratulate one another on winning the school's first PIAA basketball championship.
In an arena called Giant Center, Bishop Canevin came up huge in the clutch Friday, using a dominant fourth quarter to defeat York Catholic, 45-38, in the PIAA Class AA girls championship.
Two weeks after winning their first WPIAL title, Bishop Canevin (27-4) duplicated the feat on the state level. The Crusaders can thank a memorable final quarter for earning another gold medal.
Bishop Canevin scored the first 13 points of the quarter and went on to outscore York Catholic, 17-5. York Catholic didn't score its first points until making two free throws with 1:10 left, and made its lone field goal by banking in a 3-pointer with five seconds left. Bishop Canevin was 6 of 9 from the field, while York Catholic was just 1 of 11.
"We fell short in the beginning, but once the fourth quarter came, we knew we had to win this game," Waskowiak said.
Forse and DiPietro led Bishop Canevin with 18 points apiece, and Waskowiak played a solid all-around floor game, finishing with 5 points, 7 rebounds and 6 assists. Those three combined to score all but one of Bishop Canevin's fourth-quarter points.
York Catholic (29-3), the District 3 champion, had controlled the third quarter after the score was tied, 21-21, at halftime. When York Catholic's Morgan Klunk made a runner with two seconds left in the third, the Fighting Irish went ahead, 33-28, and had all the momentum on their side.
But York Catholic coach Kevin Bankos said he thought at the time that it was actually the calm before the storm. He figured Bishop Canevin had not yet thrown their best punch.
"It was a game of runs," Bankos said. "Their run was coming. We just didn't know when, but it was coming. And we didn't weather it. If you can weather it, the outcome could be a little different."
DiPietro's fourth 3-pointer 43 seconds into the fourth began the ambush and pulled Bishop Canevin within two points. Waskowiak's basket tied the score, and DiPietro scored on a driving layup to give Bishop Canevin a 35-33 lead, its first since the second quarter. From there, Forse had two baskets and DiPietro added another to give Bishop Canevin a commanding 41-33 advantage with 1:28 remaining.
Bishop Canevin coach Tim Joyce said he was more impressed with his team's excellent defense in the fourth quarter than their efficient offense.
"We were just making so many defensive mistakes in the first three quarters," he said.
Defense carried Bishop Canevin throughout the PIAA playoffs. The Crusaders held all five of their opponents to fewer than 40 points. York Catholic shot 35 percent (13 of 37) from the field.
There were several big runs by both teams Friday. Bishop Canevin started the second quarter on an 11-2 run to go ahead, 18-11, but York Catholic responded with an 8-0 run to quickly retake the lead.
York Catholic had a 7-0 spurt in the third to take a 29-23 lead, but Bishop Canevin's Johnie Olkosky ended it with a 3-pointer with 1:55 left. Olkosky's 3 seemed to energize the Crusaders.
"That sparked us," Joyce said. "I had a little doubt when were down five, but she hit that 3 and that kind of brought us back to life."
Morgan Klunk led York Catholic with 18 points, all in the first three quarters.
Forse credited her team ending an eight-game losing streak against section rival Seton-LaSalle -- the 2012 WPIAL and PIAA champion -- as making the Crusaders believe a state championship was possible. Bishop Canevin defeated Seton-LaSalle in the WPIAL championship and PIAA semifinals.
"Beating Seton was an amazing accomplishment," Forse. "We just realized that this is our year and we can actually win a state championship. It's amazing. This is an unbelievable feeling."
(Photo: Bishop Canevin players celebrate after defeating York Catholic 45-38 in the PIAA AA Girls basketball championship Friday at Giant Center in Hershey, Pa. Photo by Lake Fong/Post-Gazette.)