Lebo’s rally cannot erase cold snap
For 2.5 quarters of basketball, Mt. Lebanon experienced a polar vortex on the court and by the time the Blue Devils thawed out their dreams for a WPIAL championship melted as Penn-Trafford hung on for a 32-24 victory in a Quad-A quarterfinal playoff game at North Hills High School.
Defense and patience fueled Penn-Trafford. The Warriors shut out the Blue Devils in the second stanza. Lebo mustered just two first-half points on free throws by Margie McCaffrey and Madeleine Collins as the Warriors cruised to a 20-2 advantage.
The Blue Devils did not register a field goal until 3:59 remained in the third quarter. McCaffrey snapped the cold spell with her layup. However, the Warriors extended their edge to 19 points, 26-7, when Kaila Simcoviak buried a 3-pointer.
Anna Miller rallied the Lebo ladies. Her buzzer-beater at end of the third-quarter sparked a 12-0 run by the Blue Devils.
Penn-Trafford, however, responded. Katy Abrue scored off an offensive rebound and Casey Aunkst added a bucket to push the margin back to 30-19.
Lebo though made another run. The Blue Devils drew to within six points, 30-24 when Maura Wallace buried a 3-pointer with 1:41 remaining. With 1:04 left, freshman Athena Biondi calmly sunk a pair of free throws to seal the victory for the Warriors.
Maria Palarino paced Penn-Trafford with 11 points, eight in the first half. Abreu finished with nine, seven in the second stanza. The junior also neutralized Lebo’s taller line-up on the boards.
Collins led Lebo with eight points. Wallace followed with six tallies, all in the final frame.
With the victory, the Warriors improved to 18-6 overall and advanced to face Fox Chapel in the semifinals set for Feb. 25. Meanwhile, Lebo dropped to 16-6 overall. The Blue Devils have to hope the Warriors win the District 7 title for them to qualify for the PIAA tournament.
In other Quad-A action, Bethel Park (17-6) dropped a 56-38 decision to Hempfield at Charleroi.
Seton-La Salle and Bishop Canevin won their quarterfinal matches and will face each other in one of the Class AA semifinal games sets for Feb. 25 at a site and time to be determined.
While the Lady Crusaders topped Neshannock, 49-41, SLS dispatched Our Lady of the Sacred Heart, 69-46.
Johnie Olkosky and Gina Vallecorsa both fired in 18 points for Bishop Canevin, which improved to 19-5 overall.
Cassidy Walsh (18), Yacine Diop (15) and Naje Gibson (12) led the way for the Lady Rebels, who improved to 20-4 overall.