Photo courtesy OLSH High School.
OLSH celebrates back-to-back PIAA titles and a 68-game winning streak after beating Constitution in Hershey on March 25.
By Mike Longo Jr
HERSHEY Pa. - Hollywood couldn't have drafted a better script: Local team goes for a second straight state championship after another undefeated season and a chance to tie a long-standing state record for consecutive wins.
Fast forward to March 25, 2022 at Giant Center Hershey, OLSH Chargers versus Constitution Generals with a PIAA Gold on the line. A recreation of last year's championship game. Unfortunately for the Generals, this script had the same ending. The Chargers clenched a 92-71 victory along with back-to-back PIAA titles.
To some, this kind of success is best described as a "dynasty" in likening to the Pittsburgh Steelers teams of the 1970s. In both cases it wasn't a matter of whether they would win the game, only by how many points. It’s held true for the Chargers this season, having only one close call during the state semi-final game against Kennedy Catholic.
When all this was put to Chargers Head Coach Mike Rodriguez, he simply said "it's humbling."
Star player Jake DiMichele was less bashful.
"It's hard to say we're not the best dynasty in WPIAL history,” he said. “Name me another school that won back-to-back state titles while undefeated, Won four straight WPIAL Championships and won 68 games in a row."
Right you are Jake.
With the win today, OLSH tied the state’s longest winning streak with West Philly at 68 while becoming the first boys team in almost 60 years to claim consecutive PIAA titles with an undefeated season.
The Chargers joined Darby Colwyn from Delaware County as the only teams to win back-to-back PIAA titles while going unbeaten both years. Darby Colwyn went 25-0 in 1962 and 1963. OLSH went 28-0 this year and 24-0 last season.
OLSH's streak began in January 2020 with 16 straight wins – that was until the PIAA Playoffs were canceled due to the beginning of the COVID 19 Pandemic. One can only imagine what might have been.
With the ball tipped to start last year's championship game rematch, the Chargers’ busted loose and jumped Constitution right out the gate, racing to an 11-0 lead before things calmed down. At the quarter’s end, the Chargers held a 23-17 lead. Seemed to be business as usual for OLSH: fast and hard run-the-floor offense paired up with tight, smothering defense.
The Chargers looked less breezy in the second quarter, as Constitution elevated its game and held the scoring to 16-15. At intermission the Generals were down 7 points, 39-32.
With that in mind, the third quarter went more according to the Chargers game plan, taking charge much as they have done in the past. They began to pull away much to the delight of coaches, fans and players, besting the Generals 24-10 for the quarter and padding their lead to 63-42.
But before the Chargers could enjoy their victory, the General sput in their best quarter of the afternoon, matching OLSH point for point in the final section of the game, with each team netting 29 points. This spurt from General proved too little, too late. Their demise was sealed in the third quarter..
Rightfully so, Jake DiMichele dribbled off the final seconds off the clock as it reached all zeroes, signaling the end of his lustrous high school career. Smiles, hugs and high fives all around for the once again champions.
What may have been the difference or edge for the Chargers in this contest was the stellar play of their big men. 6' 5 Dawson Summers along with 6' 3 Bryson Kirschner took care of business on both sides of the ball. They handled their assignments down low inside the paint which in turn took the pressure off the guards.
OLSH had six players reach double figures on the score sheet, led once again by DiMichele and his 25-point effort. Summers and Kirschner added 16-a-piece, Rocco Spadafora netted 13, B. J. Vaughn Jr. chipped in 12 and Kevin Wilson rounded it out with 10 points. Those six accounted for all 92 points that the Chargers tallied to bring home the gold.