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Next stop Villanova for South Fayette's Maddie Webber

03/28/2023, 12:15pm EDT
By Sean McBryan

Sean McBryan (@SeanMcBryan)

The last play of Maddie Webber’s high school career was fitting: She swished a deep three-pointer as time expired. She’s always been a shooter but her dedication to crafting a complete game burgeoned South Fayette’s girls basketball program and created Villanova’s soon-to-be guard.

The final shot of the PIAA Class 5A girls basketball championship was from nearly the exact same spot she hit the game-winner to defeat Cathedral Prep in the state quarterfinals and is something she’d done countless times in her 1,000-point scoring, McDonald’s All-American nominated career with South Fayette.

Webber’s smooth jumper, many of the stepback and clutch varieties, produces an abundance of makes that don’t touch the rim. Not many teams could touch Webber and the Lions on the scoreboard during her four-year career in McDonald, Allegheny County.

South Fayette's Maddie Webber had her high school career end in the state title game. (Photo: Mark Jordan/CoBL)

Until Saturday night when the Lions fell 61-54 to perennial power Archbishop Wood in the PIAA Class 5A girls basketball final, South Fayette had won 22 consecutive games. It was the first state championship in program history coming on the heels of back-to-back WPIAL championships, two of the three district titles South Fayette has ever won.

Webber spearheaded the transformation of South Fayette’s program which correlated with the transformation of her own game. Her basketball career isn’t over as she’ll suit up for Villanova head coach Denise Dillon’s Wildcats, who just went to the Sweet 16 for the first time since 2003.

“It’s a coincidence but it’s awesome that I’m going there,” Webber said of Nova and South Fayette’s simultaneous success. “It’s similar and girls basketball is getting so much more support now. SF (South Fayette) girls basketball is also.”

It’s easy to see why the 5-11 Webber and Villanova were a match. She fits the versatile guard mold; only one guard on the Wildcats’ roster is under 5-9. Webber is cut from the same cloth of starting guards in 5-9 Lucy Olsen (Spring-Ford), 5-11 Brooke Mullin (Neshaminy) and 6-0 Maddie Burke (Central Bucks West).

Another Maddy — Siegrest, if you’ve been living under a rock — declared for the WNBA draft after becoming Villanova’s all-time leading scorer, but there's still some talent in the cupboard that Webber hopes to add to.

“I just love the way they play and just everything about Villanova basketball,” Webber said. “I’m actually so excited to be a part of that program and play with such incredible players. I think I fit the guard style because I’m pretty tall and have an all-around game.”

Her pure jumper is accompanied by speed, a tight handle, and length that causes problems defensively. It’s taken time and dedication to craft a Division I game.

“My confidence,” Webber said. “I started to trust myself and know what I can do. That was definitely an improvement and also being able to score in different ways. I was primarily a shooter and now I’m able to drive and pull up.”

“Her defense improved the most,” South Fayette head coach Bryan Bennett said. “She’s really taken to that end of the floor the past two years. She can suffocate someone defensively and her help side defense is just tremendous.”

South Fayette senior Maddie Webber is headed to Villanova next season. (Photo: Mark Jordan/CoBL)

Considering the Lions had only won one district championship and the furthest they went in states was to the quarterfinals in 2016, Webber’s transcendent talent undoubtedly propelled the program to new heights.

“Just her work ethic,” Bennett said. “She’s a hard worker. She started for us since her freshman year but she’s grown so much as a basketball player and a leader over the past four years. Villanova’s getting a special kid. I expect her to grow even more as both a basketball player and leader over there the next four years because of the type of person she is.”

The Lions went 9-13 in her freshman season and 14-6 in her sophomore year before bowing out in the WPIAL first round.

Oakland was the first to offer after that season and the floodgates opened.

Webber was an all-state second-team selection last year after leading the Lions to a 23-5 record and second WPIAL championship before falling in the second round of states. 

She decided between Boston, Duquesne, East Carolina, Kent State, Massachusetts, Penn, St. John’s, and Villanova before selecting the Wildcats over the summer to continue her athletic and academic careers. She plans to major in business.

The Lions finished 28-3 and Webber will likely be a first-team all-state selection this season.

Archbishop Wood highlighted Webber coming into the state final and sent an extra defender at her right when she crossed halfcourt. 

She still made plays that resulted in collective gasps from spectators such as a stepback 3, multiple crafty drives and ball fakes that nearly crumbled defenders, and disruptive defensive plays utilizing her length.

Webber finished 11 points, four rebounds, four assists, a steal, and a block while playing all 32 minutes in the loss.

A teary-eyed Webber took a deep breath before reflecting on her high school career one final time in the back corridors of Hershey’s Giant Center.

“Just all good memories,” Webber said. “I think we’re one of the closest teams ever and we’re all best friends. Definitely all the good memories and all the wins.”

Now she heads to Villanova to do more of the same.

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