North Xtra: Shaler will try again against nemesis North Allegheny

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Shaler Area is attempting to reach the WPIAL semifinals in girls basketball for the second time in the past four seasons.

To do so, the Titans will have to do something they have not done since that 2010-11 season -- beat North Allegheny.

Top-ranked North Allegheny (21-1) will meet No. 9 Shaler (16-6) in a Class AAAA Section 3 showdown.

North Allegheny has won six consecutive meetings against Shaler. The last time the rivalry has gone Shaler's way was during that 2010-11 season when the Titans swept the regular-season series and went on to stun Mt. Lebanon in the WPIAL final to claim a championship.

Current Shaler seniors Carly Harris and Paige Quinn were freshmen on the Shaler varsity that year.

Since then Shaler has not been able to get past North Allegheny or past the WPIAL quarterfinals. But Friday night's quarterfinal matchup at 8 p.m. at North Hills could be one of the most competitive in the WPIAL.

"It is the next step that we have to take," North Allegheny coach Sherri McConnell said. "At this point, everyone is going to be good. Shaler is the next one that is in our way.

"Our kids are more familiar with them than they are with a lot of the other teams. We are going to focus on us and what we have done so far this year to lead us to success. We feel that if we can do that, we are going to be tough to beat."

North Allegheny's only loss this season came at its tipoff tournament, a two-point setback against Mt. Lebanon in the second game of the season.

Shaler, however, gave North Allegheny its second-best game of the season, taking the Tigers to overtime on Jan. 9 before losing, 66-57. Shaler was the only team this season to take North Allegheny to overtime.

North Allegheny won the second meeting at home, 53-46.

"They were two different games," McConnell said. "The first game was very close, back and forth. They took a decent lead on us in the second half and we had to come from behind and tie it to put it into overtime.

"The second game, we were able to get a decent lead early on and play out in front."

The Tigers were 12-0 in the section with two of their three closest margins of victories coming against Shaler.

North Allegheny breezed in its first-round matchup, blowing past Greater Latrobe, 77-34. Junior guard Devvin LaBarge led all scorers with 25 points while sophomore guard Abby Gonzales added in 16.

"It was nice to be able to get out and get a comfortable lead early on and the girls were able to play more comfortable," McConnell said. "I think our defense bothered them. We caused some turnovers early and we were able to get out in transition and get some easy baskets. We got comfortable in the offensive and defensive ends."

Shaler pulled away from No. 8 seed Baldwin (12-9) in the second half on its way to a 48-35 win. The Titans were led by junior guard Liz Kline's 18 points.

As far as wearing the label of favorite as the No. 1 seed, North Allegheny is not too worried about it.

"We haven't really talked much about it. It is just a number," McConnell said. "We want to be there at the end. We want to make that number come alive, holding the championship trophy.

"Right now, it is just a number that doesn't mean anything. These girls have been focused all year. They just want to win and win together as a team."

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