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Lockdown Defense Leads Cathedral Prep Girls to Class 5A Title Game; Chuzie Wins Game No. 300

Photo by Chris Rossetti

SLIPPERY ROCK, Pa. – There is defense. And then there is Cathedral Prep defense.

The Ramblers girls’ basketball team is currently in shutdown mode. As in, they aren’t allowing teams to even stiff scoring opportunities.

That was on display again Tuesday night in the PIAA Class 5A semifinals at Slippery Rock University’s Morrow Field House, and the end result was a 35-20 Cathedral Prep victory over McKeesport that earned the Ramblers their first trip to the PIAA championship game as Cathedral Prep and the program’s first since Villa Maria went in 2021.

“That is what we focus on, defense,” senior guard Jayden McBride, a Georgetown recruit, said. “Offense is going to go up and down. We make shots, we don’t make shots. We can always make it up on the defensive end.”


Watch McBride’s full postgame interview

Cathedral Prep (23-3) had to focus on defense because shots weren’t really falling against a tough McKeesport zone defense with the Ramblers shooting just 11 of 32 (34.4%).

“Sometimes the ball is not going to go in the hoop,” senior guard Lena Walz, a St. Bonaventure recruit, said. “We have to be able to play good defense and just kind of find our rhythm (on offense). I think we did that in the end. We knocked down some free throws, which is key.”

Cathedral Prep’s Lena Walz embraces a teammate while other teammates celebrate Tuesday. Photo by Chris Rossetti


You can win a game when you shoot 34% if the other team isn’t able to make baskets.

And McKeesport, which came into the game averaging 54 points per game while not scoring fewer than 41 in any of its previous 28 contests, couldn’t find any offense at all.

The Tigers (24-5) were 7 of 32 (21.9%) from the floor and were held scoreless in the second quarter while scoring 10 points through the first three quarters.

“We always say it starts on defense,” junior forward Addisyn Biel said. “That is what we did here. We just have to do our thing that we always do every game.”

The defense came against a team that isn’t used to not scoring.

It had been 72 games since McKeesport had been held to fewer than 40 points, 119 games since the Tigers had been held to less than 30 points, and 124 games since they had scored fewer than the 20 they put up against Cathedral Prep.

“It all starts with heart and effort,” Cathedral Prep head coach Doug Chuzie, who won his 300th career game coaching the Villa/Prep program, said. “Our girls communicate really well. They have played together for a really long time. Their attention to detail, their want to, it is heart and it is effort. I don’t think it is a special scheme.”

Cathedral Prep completely neutralized McKeesport senior Rachael Mabfredo, limiting her to six points. The Edinboro recruit came into the contest averaging nearly 16 ppg but made just two baskets and scored four of her points in the fourth quarter.

“You just do your best to stay in front of her,” Chuzie said. “You can’t stop her. She’s an excellent player, and she is surrounded by other players who are going to knock down the shot or drive it. We just tried our best to stay in front of her and tried to make her take tough shots.”

While Cathedral Prep’s defense was on lockdown mode, the Ramblers turned to Biel, the 6-2 junior who has been so key throughout the postseason, to provide the offense it needed, especially in the opening half.


Biel scored a game-high 17 points, including 12 in the first half, while dominating on the boards with 14 rebounds, including eight offensive rebounds.

“It is an amazing feeling having my teammates’ trust,” Biel said. “And they are holding my back up right behind me. It’s just an amazing feeling.”

Watch Biel’s full postgame interview

Thanks in large part to Biel’s rebounding, the Ramblers outrebounded McKeesport 31 to 19 including 13 to seven on the offensive glass. That included an insane 20-5 first-half advantage that saw Cathedral Prep grab 11 offensive rebounds and score nine of its 16 points in the half off the offensive glass. That led to a 16-6 halftime lead for the team from Erie.

“Anytime you can get extra possessions the odds are in your favor,” Chuzie said. “If you can hold a team to one and done and get a couple of extra possessions whether it’s off a press, a trap, or an offensive rebound the odds are in your favor there. It is something that we stress. If you can win the rebounding battle, you put yourself in a position to succeed.”

The Ramblers needed Biel and the rebounding effort because Walz, despite scoring 12 points mainly because of a 7 of 8 performance at the line, couldn’t get her shot to drop on this particular night, and McBride, who scored four points, played with foul trouble all game.

McBride picked up her fourth foul with 4:12 left in the third quarter forcing Chuzie to be careful with her usage over the next eight minutes.

But her absence didn’t affect the Ramblers, as they were up 11 when she went out and never saw the lead go below that until she was able to finish off the game.

“I feel like every playoff game we have had somebody in foul trouble,” Chuzie said. “That is a testament to the other kids to come in and step up. Natalie Spano started 10 games for us this year. We have confidence in the players coming in. They really stepped up with Jayden out.”

Cathedral Prep will face defending champion Archbishop Wood, a 53-30 winner over Bethlehem Catholic, in the title game at 6 p.m. Saturday, March 23, at the Giant Center in Hershey, Pa. Archbishop Wood has won three straight PIAA titles, two in Class 4A and last year in Class 5A.

“It is unbelievable,” Walz, who got to experience the title game in 2021 when Villa Maria lost to Archbishop Wood, said. “I am so excited for all of us. We have been wanting to get back here since freshman year, and we put in a lot of time and work. It paid off.”

Watch Walz’s full postgame interview

For Chuzie, this is his fifth title-game appearance as a head coach and for the Cathedral Prep/Villa Maria programs it is the 11th all-time trip to the state title game and the ninth since 2003, an average of basically one every other year.


“It is an ultimate goal,” Chuzie said. “It takes health. It takes luck. You have to play well. It’s not easy to stack those three year after year. When you see a team like Archbishop Woo, who stacks it together for three or four years in a row, that’s something impressive. You don’t take it for granted, ever. You are excited that those three things came together and now you have an opportunity to go and celebrate your season with another excellent team.”

Chuzie, who set the all-time wins mark for the Prep/Villa Maria girls program last year when he won game 267, also reflected on getting career win number 300.

Cathedral Prep players celebrate with coach Doug Chuzie after the game with a sign commerating Chuzie’s 300th win. Photo by Chris Rossetti

“It simply means I have coached great kids, been a small part of great families,” Chuzie, who is 300-49, said. “It means I have been around a long time (14 years as the head coach). That’s probably what it means. It is a testament to the program, to the school, to the community.”

Doug Chuzie. Photo by Chris Rossetti


Score by Quarters

Cathedral Prep 8 8 7 12 – 35
McKeesport 6 0 4 10 – 20


Lena Walz 2 7-8 12, McKenna Valone 0 0-0 0, Ava Lucarotti 1 0-0 2, Jayden McBride 1 2-4 4, Natalie Spano 0 0-0 0, Addisyn Biel 7 3-6 17. Totals 11 12-18 35.


Madison Hertzler 2 0-0 4, Madi Miller 0 0-0 0, Brooke Evans 3 0-0 6, Rachel Mafredo 2 2-2 6, Madeline Cherepko 0 0-0 0, Kaylee Charles 0 4-4 4, Savannah Blosser 0 0-0 0. Totals 7 6-6 20.

Three-pointers: Cathedral Prep 1 (Walz 1). McKeesport 0.


2024 – 23-3 – State Championship Game Appearance (Through March 19)
2023 – 23-2 – Elite 8
2022 – 34-3 – Final Four
2021 – 20-1 – State runner-up
2020 – 20-5 – Sweet 16
2019 – 22-4 – Elite 8
2018 – 21-5 – Elite 8
2017 – 22-6 – State runner-up
2016 – 29-1 – State runner-up
2015 – 20-6
2014 – 22-4 – Sweet 16
2013 – 22-4
2012 – 24-5 – Final Four
2011 – 8-0 (Interim Head coach) – State championship

NOTE:> Chuzie has been part of 491 wins in his time at Cathedral Prep/Villa Maria starting as an assistant coach while the program has gone 491-86 during that time


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