Trinity, South Fayette girls making the most of their PIAA second chances
March 20, 2017 12:00 AM
The South Fayette girls basketball team is in the PIAA Class 5A semifinals after losing in the WPIAL playoffs.
By Brad Everett / Tri-State Sports & News Service
Bob Miles and Matt Bacco believe in second chances.
Their teams certainly have made the most of the ones they have gotten.
When Trinity (25-3) and South Fayette (20-6) meet Tuesday in a PIAA Class 5A semifinal at Peters Township, it will be a matchup of teams who came up short in their quests of reaching the WPIAL championship. Trinity lost in the semifinals and South Fayette in the quarterfinals, both to eventual champion Chartiers Valley. But the two have surged to the PIAA semifinals and are a win away from their first final.
This kind of rebound doesn’t happen often. Since 1991, only three WPIAL girls teams who did not play for a WPIAL title have advanced to a PIAA final (Upper St. Clair in 1999, Mt. Lebanon in 2008 and Indiana in 2010). Trinity or South Fayette will become the fourth.
“[I told the girls after the semifinal loss] that we weren’t dead yet, that we’re still alive in the state tournament and I told them, too, that it’s hard to win a WPIAL title and a state title the same year. And the state title might be more prestigious,” Trinity’s Miles said.
After South Fayette lost in the quarterfinals, the Lions were not even sure they would play another game. Only the top six teams from the WPIAL earned PIAA bids, so the Lions needed Chartiers Valley to beat Trinity in the semifinals.
“To be honest with you, we told them to wait for the result, and told them we would either be giving them a practice schedule or collecting uniforms,” South Fayette’s Bacco said. “We knew that if there was a second opportunity, they would do something with it.”
These teams know each other well. They competed in the same section up until this season and South Fayette beat Trinity, 59-52, in the 2016 WPIAL 3A championship. Trinity defeated South Fayette, 50-43, Feb. 11.
“We’re pretty much on a first-name basis,” Miles joked.
Trinity is led by senior guard Sierra Kotchman, the school’s all-time leading career scorer. Kotchman averages 19 points a game and scored 18 and 19 points in the previous two meetings with South Fayette.
Meanwhile, South Fayette has been bolstered by the return of sophomore Maura Castelluci, who missed six weeks with a broken leg. She returned to the lineup in a PIAA first-round win against Obama Academy and is averaging 12 points in three games. Junior Sam Kosmacki averages a team-best 13.
WPIAL champion North Allegheny has had a couple of near-misses in PIAA semifinal games recently, but the Tigers — ranked No. 22 in the country by USA Today — have the look of a team that is ready to break through and advance to their first final.
North Allegheny (27-1) will meet Souderton (22-7) Monday night at Chambersburg. It’s the third semifinal appearance in four seasons for North Allegheny. A 2016 loss was particularly heartbreaking. Leading by a point, North Allegheny was whistled for a foul about 85 feet from the basket with 0.8 seconds left and Cumberland Valley made two free throws to pull out a 43-42 win.
This season, North Allegheny has relied on a defense that gives up just 38.2 points per game and a balanced offense led by sophomore Rachel Martindale (12 points a game) and senior Hailey Zeise (11).
“We’re so balanced right now it’s a blessing,” North Allegheny coach Spencer Stefko said. “The kids appreciate each other. We can load up on kids from other teams because they’re not as balanced. It’s hard to get a whole team to not care about their own stats and their own glory.”
Souderton is a surprise semifinalist. District 1 sends 11 teams to the PIAA playoffs and Souderton was the 11th-place team. But the Indians have beaten District 3 champion Central Dauphin and District 1 runner-up Plymouth-Whitemarsh in the playoffs. Junior Kate Connolly leads the Indians in scoring. Connolly won a PIAA title a year ago with Archbishop Wood. She has committed to Drexel.
Bishop Canevin (22-5), the WPIAL champion, will take on West Shamokin (27-2) Tuesday at North Allegheny. West Shamokin played in the WPIAL before this season and never advanced past the first round of the district playoffs, but this season the Wolves won the District 6 championship and beat WPIAL runner-up Neshannock, 38-35, in the quarterfinals.
Getting past Bishop Canevin won’t be easy. The Crusaders give up just 31.6 points per game and have allowed 30, 25 and 29 in the PIAA playoffs. They limited East Allegheny star Amani Johnson to eight points in a 51-25 second-round win. Johnson was averaging a WPIAL-best 30 points. Junior point guard Brionna Allen locked down Johnson and leads the Crusaders in scoring with 13 points a game.
“I think she’s playing as well as anybody I’ve seen in high school this year,” Bishop Canevin coach Tim Joyce said.
Bishop Canevin has advanced to the final once, winning the title in 2013.
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