High School Girls Basketball: Short-handed Tigers fall in semis

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CHAMBERSBURG, Pa. -- Usually, it's the bus ride home after a PIAA semifinal loss that's the worst.

But for the North Allegheny Tigers, it was the ride out that put a hole in their soul.

Not until the Tigers boarded their bus Tuesday afternoon did they know that sophomore point guard Abby Gonzales would not be available for their PIAA Class AAAA girls semifinal against defending champion Spring-Ford.

Too often, it showed for the Tigers.

Spring-Ford (26-5) dismantled North Allegheny, 47-32, at Chambersburg Area High School and will make its second consecutive trip to the championship.

The Rams will meet Cumberland Valley, a 61-45 winner against Bayard Rustin, for the second year in a row.

"Unfortunately, we didn't know that Abby wouldn't be available until we got on the bus today," North Allegheny head coach Sherri McConnell said of Gonzales, who has an undisclosed injury.

"But we felt we still had enough players to do what we needed to do."

While the Tigers (25-3) did not lack fight, they couldn't pull together the kind of seamless offense or transition plays that had led them to a 20-1 regular season, a fourth-place spot in the WPIAL tournament and a three consecutive PIAA victories.

"Abby usually plays 32 minutes for us, so when she's not out there, it certainly does have an effect," McConnell said.

Devvin LaBarge, Gonzales' replacement at the point, led the Tigers with 16 points, including three 3-pointers, and tried to keep the offense in drive.

But too often the Tigers found themselves shooting from 15 to 20 feet, in large measure because the Spring-Ford defense was spectacular for long stretches of the game.

"They played very well together,'' McConnell said of the Rams.

"We were very focused tonight," Spring-Ford head coach Mickey McDaniel said. "We never let up on them."

North Allegheny trailed after a period, 10-9, but an 8-0 run from the 5:45 mark started by Abbey Beyer's 3-pointer to a one-and-one by Amy Roth a little more than two minutes later put the Tigers in a 22-13 hole. Danielle Wall's two free throws 1:33 before the half made it 22-15.

The Tigers still had contact early in the third quarter after a LaBarge 3-pointer and a short bank by Taylor Lake (9 points).

"I thought we got a couple of good looks at the start of the second half, very good looks," McConnell said. "But when we missed a couple and they got that run, we were playing from behind. That's not what we like to do."

Spring-Ford, which never trailed, hit the gas with an 11-0 run in the final 3:35 of the third period that ensured another trip to Hershey.

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