South Xtra: Bethel girls will savor WPIAL title

Brad Everett's High School Basketball Notebook

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The Bethel Park girls would have loved for their PIAA playoff existence to last for more than one game, but when the Black Hawks begin to do some reflecting, they should take comfort in the fact they had a terrific season.

Fresh off their first WPIAL title, Bethel Park (23-4) saw its season end with a 37-34 loss to section-rival Mt. Lebanon in a PIAA Class AAAA first-round game last Friday at Baldwin.

Coach Jonna Burke's squad experienced a lot of highs since the season commenced in December, and Burke said she hopes her players realize how much they accomplished.

"That's the thing. The kids should take away the fact they did win the WPIAL championship and did do some great things," Burke said. "We had some ups and downs, but we played our best ball at just the right time."

Bethel Park dropped to 1-1 after losing to South Park the second game of the season, but then reeled off 15 consecutive wins, starting Section 4 play with a 9-0 record. The win streak included a huge, 60-54 triumph against Mt. Lebanon, which snapped a string of 11 consecutive losses to the Blue Devils. The victory also snapped Mt. Lebanon's 25-game winning streak against section opponents.

The Black Hawks lost two of their final three section games to finish 10-2 and in second place behind Mt. Lebanon.

As the No. 3 seed in the WPIAL playoffs, Bethel Park earned wins against Norwin, 61-31, Penn-Trafford, 43-34, and Gateway, 36-28, on its way to a championship matchup against section rival Chartiers Valley.

It was against the Colts when Bethel had its shining moment. The Black Hawks were excellent defensively, holding Chartiers Valley to 26 percent shooting (11 of 42) on its way to a 37-34 victory. The Colts had scored only 16 points through three quarters.

"It's special, it's something you work for every year. I always say it, 'Our goal is the WPIAL championship,'" Burke said afterward.

After a great regular season and WPIAL playoff run, fatigue might have finally caught up with Bethel Park in the season-ending loss to Mt. Lebanon.

"I felt like the kids were a little mentally and physically drained," Burke said. "We ran out of gas. We didn't have it [Friday]."

Bethel Park must replace only one senior starter (Mariah Penascino) and two seniors overall (Lauren Shaffer, a 5-4 guard, is the other), so the Black Hawks will have a strong chance to successfully defend their WPIAL title next season. Among those back are the team's leading scorer, junior Megan Marecic, and fellow juniors Harper Zimmer and Sami Simpson.

EF girls bounce back

A historic run in the WPIAL playoffs behind them, the Elizabeth Forward girls also made some history in its PIAA playoff opener.

Elizabeth Forward defeated Central Valley for the second time this postseason, gaining a 51-44 victory in a Class AAA first-round game last Saturday. It was Elizabeth Forward's first state playoff win since 1990.

Senior Dana Buck scored 14 of her 19 points in the second half for Elizabeth Forward, which led by just two at the half, but outscored Central Valley, 19-11, in the third quarter to pull away.

A week earlier, the Warriors lost to South Park in the WPIAL championship game. It had been Elizabeth Forward's first appearance in a title game since 1990. The Warriors upset No. 1 seed Blackhawk in the semifinals.

Elizabeth Forward (24-3) played District 10 champion Franklin in a second-round game Wednesday night. A victory would advance the Warriors into Saturday's quarterfinals against the South Park-Hopewell winner.

Serra wins PIAA game

The Serra Catholic girls had not won a PIAA playoff game since 2006, but that drought came to an end with a 67-43 victory against Cochranton last Friday in a Class A first-round game, bouncing back from their loss to Vincentian in the WPIAL title game.

Serra (24-3) faced District 6 champion Bishop Guilfyole in the second round Wednesday night. The winner will play the Conemaugh Township-Clarion winner in Saturday's quarterfinals.

Brentwood boys fall

Brentwood lost its first three section games and finished fourth in its section, but the Spartans played well in the postseason, one which finally came to an end last Saturday.

District 5 champion Conemaugh Township defeated Brentwood, 53-49, in a PIAA Class AA first-round game. It was Brentwood's first PIAA playoff game since 1994. Senior guard Jason Pilarski led the Spartans with 20 points. He averaged 19 points per game this season.

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