Late surge drives No. 1 Bethel Park past No. 2 Mt. Lebanon
Bethel Park's Mariah Penascino, right, battles for rebound with Mt. Lebanon's Gabriella Caminos Thursday at Bethel Park. Bethel Park won, 60-54.
Bethel Parks Samantha Simpson, right, and Paige Kochka-Puskar try to corral a loose ball Thursday against Mt. Lebanon.
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Down by five in the midway in the fourth quarter, Bethel Park turned to its star, Megan Marecic, to try to break the team's 11-game losing streak against Mt. Lebanon.
Marecic didn't disappoint the Black Hawks.
The junior guard scored seven of her game-high 25 points in the final 3:38 to help the top-ranked Black Hawks (9-1, 4-0) rally for a 60-54 home victory against the No. 2-ranked Blue Devils (7-2, 2-1) in a Class AAAA Section 4 showdown Thursday night.
"I think something came over [Marecic] at the end, and she thought, 'I have to take it over,' " said Bethel Park coach Jonna Burke. "She did and she found the right gaps and seams and played like the kid that she is. That's what you hope for and expect from your best kid. It's a good moment for her because she stepped up when we really needed her to."
Marecic, 5 feet 11, was mainly guarded by 6-1 Christine Ehland, and the Bethel Park star struggled to find her shot most of the night against the taller defender. She entered the fourth quarter having made 6 of 19 shots as the Blue Devils led, 43-42.
The teams were tied twice and traded the lead twice in the first three minutes of the fourth quarter before the Blue Devils went on a 7-0 run, capped off by a putback by Ehland, to take a 54-49 lead with 4:01 left.
With her team looking gassed and facing its largest deficit of the game, Burke called a timeout to prod her players for one final push.
"Coach just said that we're still in this," Marecic said.
"We just need to pick up our defense because this is not over. We knew what we needed to do."
Bethel Park did not allow another point, while Marecic hit a 15-footer, a 3-pointer and scored a basket off an offensive rebound in the final few minutes. She also had a steal and led the fastbreak, dishing to Paige Kochka-Puskar for the final points.
Kochka-Puskar had a good game off the bench, scoring six of her 12 points in the first quarter to help keep the Black Hawks level with the Blue Devils in the first half. The teams entered halftime tied, 28-28.
"Everyone off the bench knew what they had to do," Marecic said. "We all wanted this."
It was Bethel Park's first win against Mt. Lebanon since Feb. 5, 2007.
The victory also snapped the Blue Devils' 25-game winning streak over Section 4-AAAA opponents.
Mt. Lebanon has won three of the past four WPIAL Class AAAA titles, including last season, and won the state title each year from 2009-2011.
"It is a monkey off your back because they certainly have been the most dominant team in the area for the past 5, 6 years," Burke said.
"So for us to get this win, it just means a lot to the girls."
Ehland and Alex Ventrone led Mt. Lebanon with 14 points apiece.
First Published January 4, 2013 12:00 am