North Xtra: La Roche women garner another AMCC title

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The Redhawks did it again.

For those who are counting, that makes four Allegheny Mountain Collegiate Conference championships in a row for the La Roche College women's basketball team.

The La Roche women posted a convincing 91-55 victory against Mount Aloysius in the championship game at La Roche's Kerr Fitness Center on its McCandless campus March 1.

That victory qualified the Redhawks for the NCAA Division III championship tournament and they played York College on the Spartans' home floor last Friday, bowing out of the tournament with a 76-54 loss. It was the fourth year in a row La Roche (23-5, 16-2) played in the national playoffs, the first team from the AMCC to do so.

Despite the loss at York, it was a memorable season once again for coach Kamela Gissendanner and her squad.

As regular-season conference champions they played host to the AMCC tournament, welcoming Medaille College, Mount Aloysius College, Pitt-Greensburg, Pitt-Bradford and D'Youville.

After earning a bye into the semifinals, La Roche came out flat in the first half against Pitt-Bradford, allowing the Panthers to post a 29-28 lead at the half.

The change for the local squad occurred early in the second half. Its offense began to click and its defense disrupted their opponents' efforts.

The highlight of the evening though was the sterling performance of senior Casie Cygan.

A 5-foot-5 sharpshooting guard from Butler, Cygan poured in 35 points to break the school career scoring record (she only needed 18).

The La Roche side of the stands erupted in joyful endorsement of her accomplishment.

Said a joyful Cygan afterward: "I feel great. I tried not to think about [setting the record] during the day."

"I'm happy for her that she scored while in the playoffs against a good team," Gissendanner said.

The 80-67 semifinal win over Pitt-Bradford propelled the Redhawks into the main event, a title matchup against Mount Aloysius.

Again, the home team got off to a sluggish start allowing the Mounties from Cresson in Cambria County to gain an early edge.

A basket by freshman Sabrina McLin tied the score at the 15-minute mark and led to a gradual shift in momentum.

The Redhawks established their rhythm and held a comfortable 48-28 half time lead.

LaRoche showed their dominance in the second half. Shataya White scored 12, La Shauna Brothers, 12 and Cygan had 16. But it was McLin, an unheralded freshman, with 24 points who led all scorers in the 91-55 final.

"I've been here for all four years in a hard conference. But all we know is winning," said Gygan, who closed her career with a record 1,576 points.

Leslie McPherson, the only other senior on the roster along with Cygan, said she was "thrilled" with the championship. A Steel Valley graduate from Homestead, she recalled being part of "12 doubters, as freshmen, but Casie and I stuck it out."

"I'm very proud of our team but experience was the big factor for us," Gissendanner said.

With nine underclassmen on the roster, Gissendanner might expect more of the same next season.

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