South Xtra: Done with 'reruns,' Seton-LaSalle girls chase title

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For one WPIAL girls basketball team, the playoffs have become "rerun time."

For Seton-LaSalle High School coach Spencer Stefko, he has been hoping his team would not allow past success to get in the way of preparation for a foe.

"From an emotional standpoint, you start worrying about 'Are we complacent?' I was very concerned about that coming in," he said moments after his WPIAL champion Rebels had defeated Bishop Canevin, 65-44, last Friday night in a PIAA Class AA girls quarterfinal game at North Allegheny High School.

He didn't have long to wait for his concerns to be eased.

"I guess 16-0 answered that," he said, referring to the 16 consecutive points the Rebels scored to begin the game. "We were fortunate to have that kind of start."

At one point, the Rebels enjoyed a 61-32 lead, but the Crusaders outscored the Rebels 12-4 in the game's final 4:10 to trim the margin to 21 points.

The victory was the fourth for the Rebels against the Crusaders this season. Seton-LaSalle swept the regular-season series between the two section rivals by scores of 41-24 and 63-51. The two teams met again in the WPIAL semifinals, where the Rebels earned a 62-40 triumph.

Any celebration the Rebels might have conducted was short-lived, however, as the attention quickly turned to Burrrell, a team that saw its season-long winning streak end with a 55-34 loss to the Rebels in the girls WPIAL Class AA championship game on Feb. 28.

Since that tough loss, the Bucs regrouped nicely with PIAA victories against Clarion-Limestone, 55-27, Bellwood Antis, 34-29, and General McLane, 62-48. Tuesday's game meant another "rerun" for Seton-LaSalle as it was played at North Allegheny.

Seton-LaSalle (26-4) once again prevailed, 48-37. Burrell ended its season with a 28-2 record.

The Rebels advance to the PIAA Class AA championship game at noon Friday in Hershey's Giant Center against District 12 champion Neumann-Goretti, a 65-53 winner against District 2 champion Dunmore.

What hasn't been a rerun, however, for the Rebels is the person in charge. Stefko is the third coach in as many seasons for Seton-LaSalle.

He succeeded athletic director John Ashalou who succeeded Dennis Squeglia, who guided the Rebels to the 2012 WPIAL and PIAA Class AA state championships en route to a 31-0 record before stepping down.

Cassidy Walsh, a 5-foot-7 junior guard, has played for all three coaches and said the team hasn't missed a beat with Stefko at the helm.

"Every coach has a different philosophy," she said. "You have to adapt to every situation."

This season, Stefko has coached in his highly animated, energetic style that was on display when he coached previously at Chartiers Valley. At this past Friday's victory against Bishop Canevin, some of his former Chartiers Valley players came to watch Stefko coach his new team.

"He's been very positive and enthusiastic with us," Walsh said. "We've done really well with him."

And now he and his team are just one win away from their ultimate goal.


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