PIAA girls basketball preview: Inspiration is all in the wrist

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The players wearing black with yellow trim and the words “North Allegheny” across their jerseys added a special piece to their look Friday.

“Bounce Back”

Each player wrote those words in marker on the inside of one of their wrists before their game, and the next 32 minutes played out exactly as the phrase indicated.

North Allegheny, the No. 1 seed in the WPIAL playoffs, was upset by Hempfield in the semifinals, but the Tigers bounced back with an uplifting. 64-39 win against WPIAL champion Penn-Trafford in a PIAA Class AAAA first-round playoff game at Baldwin.

It was North Allegheny’s first PIAA victory since 2003. The Tigers (23-2) advanced to the second round, where they will face District 6 champion State College (18-7) at 8 p.m. today at Indiana High School.

Fourteen WPIAL girls teams reached the second round, including three from Class AAAA. The three are North Allegheny, Hempfield and Fox Chapel, but Hempfield and Fox Chapel will square off tonight at Gateway.

North Allegheny coach Sherri McConnell said the message over the team’s nine-day layoff was simple: Bounce back. The Tigers had won 21 games in a row before their WPIAL playoff loss. They had not lost consecutive games since the 2009-10 season.

“I just think that they were obviously disappointed in how things finished in the WPIAL playoffs,” McConnell said. “You don’t always get a second chance. This was a chance in their lives for a second opportunity.

“We felt we didn’t show what we were capable of [in the loss to Hempfield]. ‘Bounce back’ is what we talked about. We took advantage.”

North Allegheny did it with defense and excellent shooting. The Tigers rattled Penn-Trafford by showing a multitude of defensive looks and limited the Warriors to their fourth-lowest scoring output this season. Offensively, Devvin LaBarge led the charge with six 3-pointers and a game-high 22 points. The Tigers made nine 3-pointers and 23 of 26 free throws.

The words-on-the-wrist concept was not a new one for North Allegheny, which has been doing it all season. McConnell said her players typically write a team message on one wrist and an individual one on the other.

As for the message tonight, McConnell believes it will have to do with defense.

“We talk about controlling things on the defensive end,” she said. “When we’re focused and play together for 32 minutes on defense, we feel like we can play with pretty much anybody [in the playoffs]. But, when we’re not, we’re very beatable, as well.”

Bordonaro breaks record

Another team bouncing back was WPIAL Class AA runner-up Burrell, which rebounded from its first loss this season in the district title game against Seton-LaSalle by rolling to a 55-27 win against Clarion-Limestone.

It was a memorable game for Burrell standout Sydney Bordonaro, who broke the school’s career scoring record. Bordonaro scored 17 points to push her career total to 1,158, breaking the mark held by 1990 graduate Kim Horvath.

“It meant a lot to break the record,” Bordonaro said. “There have been so many good players who came through Burrell, and it’s an honor to say I own that record. I wouldn’t have been able to do it without my teammates.”

What makes Bordonaro’s milestone more impressive is she has another season remaining at Burrell. Bordonaro, a 5-foot-7 junior point guard, is a three-year starter who averages 16 points per game. She already has committed to Division I Pepperdine University in Malibu, Calif.

Bordonaro also is half of what might be the highest-scoring “couple” in the WPIAL. Bordonaro said she has been dating Jeannette junior Julian Batts for close to nine months. Batts also surpassed 1,000 career points this season.

Rematches

There are five second-round games involving WPIAL teams that are rematches of PIAA games played last season.

Headlining that group will be the Class AAA game Wednesday between South Park (22-5) and undefeated Hickory (26-0). South Park won last year, 71-44, on its way to winning the championship. Hickory is the only remaining undefeated team in Class AAA.

The other rematches are Seton-LaSalle (23-4) vs. Greensburg Central Catholic (20-5) and Burrell (26-1) vs. Bellwood-Antis (24-3) in Class AA, and Vincentian (23-3) vs. Berlin Brothersvalley (22-4) and Serra Catholic (24-3) vs. Bishop Guilfoyle (21-5) in Class A. Seton-LaSalle, Burrell, Vincentian and Bishop Guilfoyle won the game last season.


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