Lebo ladies prepare for playoff run
Mt. Lebanon may be entering the girls’ basketball playoffs as the No. 1 seed in the WPIAL Quad-A tournament but the Lady Blue Devils are anything but the defending champions. That distinction belongs to the 2012 club.
“This is a brand new team,” assures Lebo floor boss Dori Oldaker. “It’s not the same team.
“It’s hard to put pressure on them like that. It’s such a tough position to be in and a huge target,” she added. “It’s much more fun to be the team that knocks off No. 1. I like being that team with an edge. But, we do have a tough target.”
Despite losing their three top scorers from last year’s district title team, the Lebo ladies have rebounded this winter to sport the best record in Class Quad-A. The Blue Devils have rolled up a 20-2 regular season record. When rival Bethel Park dropped a 46-38 decision to Baldwin on Feb. 8, Lebo clinched its sixth straight section title with an 11-1 mark. The Lady Hawks finished second at 10-2.
Games like BP’s upset happen, notes Oldaker, and in do-or-die situations that playoffs present, they’re more prevalent. Oldaker pointed to Lebo’s loss to Baldwin two years ago after the holiday break or last year’s state quarterfinal loss to Oakland Catholic as evidence.
“Anything can happen,” she said. “In any given game, anybody can beat you. Any team can have a bad night. Bethel is fortunate because they have an opportunity to rebound from that (loss to Baldwin) but in the playoffs, you lose, you’re done.”
Unlike BP, Lebo ended regular season play on a high note. The Blue Devils defeated rival Upper St. Clair, 64-47.
Lebo sported a balanced attack with four players in double digits. Christine Ehland led with 14 markers followed by 13 tallies from Alex Ventrone. Margie McCaffrey and Madeleine Collins pitched in 12 and 10 tallies.
The Blue Devils also feature Jordan Holmes and Amanda Frosztega, who have been affiliated with the team during its state championship run in 2011.
“To a certain extent,” Oldaker noted, having been involved in deep playoff runs will benefit this year’s club. However, she cautioned, “they have not been in pressure situations before.
“Our team is very prepared,” she said, “and we’ll continue to have them prepared but how we perform depends on who shows up. I am always amazed at coaches who say they like how their team is playing because you are only as good as your next game. I’d never say we are playing really great because how do you know? I’m never one to say, ‘we are playing great.’ You’ll never hear me say that.”
What you will hear Oldaker say is she fully expects to see section rivals like USC, Baldwin, BP or Chartiers Valley sometime down the road in the playoffs. All four qualified out of Section 4.
USC, which was led by Jordan Serio’s 15 points and Elayna Kaylor’s 13 markers against Lebo, shocked last year’s field by upsetting Gateway in the first round. The Lady Panthers proceeded to reach the district semifinals, falling to Oakland Catholic, and earned a state playoff berth. USC finished tied with Baldwin for the fourth and final playoff spot out of Section 4 with a 5-7 slate. The Panthers are 11-11 overall.
“No doubt,” Oldaker said. “We’re sure to face some of these teams that we’ve played before along the way. That’s why in section games you can’t get too high or be too low because you have an opportunity to play these teams again.
Oldaker also noted, “it’s hard to play a team more than twice. It certainly levels the playing field.”
In Class AA, Seton-La Salle has leveled the playing the field. Undefeated WPIAL and PIAA champions in 2012, the Lady Rebels are poised to make another run at those titles as evidenced by their dominance over rival Bishop Canevin, 66-58, recently.
In the regular season finale, Naje Gibson exploded for 20 points and pulled down 12 rebounds. Nicolete Newman chipped in 14 while Angela Heintz pitched in 10 tallies.
For the Lady Crusaders, who finished runners-up to SLS in last year’s district final, Carly Forse pumped in 17 points while Celina DiPietro followed with 16. Duquesne recruit Erin Waskowiak provided 13 markers while Johnie Olkosky tossed in 10 tallies.
The Lady Crusaders also tuned up for the playoffs with a 43-33 win over Hollidaysburg. Waskowiak (14), Forse (13) and DiPietro (11) all scored in double figures.
Keystone Oaks prepared for the Class AAA playoffs by defeating Montour, 74-46.
Lexi Mercuri (18), Maryssa Agurs (17) and Kayla Brownlee (15) led the Lady Eagles.
South Fayette dropped an overtime decision to Trinity, 53-52, but rebounded to beat Canon-McMillan, 52-45, in Monday’s regular-season finale.
Lauren Crites (13), Mindy Wells (11) and Caitlin McLuckie (10) led the Lady Lions against the Hillers. Crites and McLuckie tossed in 16 and 13 points against the Lady Macs. Olivica Lorusso and Danielle Parker fired in those identical numbers for CM.
Chartiers Valley halted a two-game skid with a 49-31 win over playoff-bound Oakland Catholic. For the Colts, who had suffered back-to-back losses to Lebo and BP, used double-digit performances by Mariah Wells (13), Kristin McGeough (12) and Jenna Devinney (10) to dispatch the Eagles.
The Colts also tripped up North Allegheny in double overtime, 47-42. Wells and Alexa Golden led the way with 19 and 12 points.
In BP’s loss to Baldwin, Sam Simpson pumped in 12 points. The Lady Hawks, however, recovered to beat Seneca Valley, 43-28. With eight points each were Megan Marecic, Paige Kochka-Puskar and Lizz Neal.