New Castle falls in PIAA playoffs
By Ron Poniewasz Jr.
New Castle News
PITTSBURGH — Opportunities were there for the New Castle High girls basketball team.
Unfortunately for the Lady ’Canes, those breaks were not cashed in and it came back to haunt them last night.
New Castle went scoreless for the final 1:43, committing two turnovers and missing a pair of layups as Peters Township survived for a 56-50 win in the first round of the PIAA Class AAAA playoffs at North Hills High School.
The Lady ’Canes held a 48-45 advantage with 2:48 remaining, but couldn’t hold on. They were also 0 of 4 from the charity stripe in the final frame.
“We had a lot of quality opportunities down the stretch,” New Castle coach Luann Grybowski said. “We had key turnovers late in the game, key layups missed and important free throws missed. What do you do?”
The Lady Indians (21-8), coached by 1982 Union High graduate Dennis Squeglia, will face City League champion Schenley on Tuesday. The Lady Spartans advanced with a 42-36 decision over Oakland Catholic.
“You’re in the state playoffs and everybody is good,” Squeglia said. “I think we took a major step in proving ourselves.”
The Lady ’Canes (19-7) were playing for the first time since Feb. 15 when they lost to eventual WPIAL champion Upper St. Clair, 57-45.
Peters Township won the first meeting between the schools this year, 79-60 on Dec. 27.
Nikki Wise’s jumper in the lane on a pass from Tasia Wise with 1:44 left put New Castle up 50-49. It proved to be the final points though for the Lady ’Canes.
Samantha Higgins sank a pair of foul shots with 1:22 to play to give the Lady Indians the lead for good at 51-50. New Castle’s Jazelle Dennis, making her first varsity start, was long on a 3-pointer with 1:05 to go and Emily Correal secured the rebound.
“She was a little nervous at first, but she settled down and played well,” Grybowski said of Dennis’ effort.
After Correal missed the front-end of a one-and-one, the Lady ’Canes’ Abby Allen had the ball stolen with 40 seconds remaining and Emily Matthis split a pair of foul shots for a 52-50 Peters Township buffer.
“Rebounds and foul shots win basketball games,” Squeglia said. “The last two minutes when we needed it we got it; at the end the kids stepped up and made foul shots.”
In the final 38.5 seconds, New Castle committed a turnover and missed three field goals, two of which were layups.
“They forced turnovers down the stretch,” Lady ’Canes post player Logan Hartman said. “They’re very aggressive and they pressured our guards from the moment they scored until they brought it down the court.”
The Lady Indians erased a 22-20 halftime deficit by outscoring the Lady ’Canes 21-16 in the third stanza. Alexis Kamphaus scored 10 of her 17 points in the period.
“Most of those (points) were on penetration,” Grybowski said. “You can’t go out in the third quarter and stand around. That was a crucial turning point to the game.”
New Castle got off to a better start than it had its last two games. The Lady ’Canes trailed just 13-11 after one quarter while turning the ball over 10 times in the opening half. They trailed each of the previous two contests at halftime with a total of 24 turnovers in those matchups.
Hartman, a 6-1 senior forward, scored 10 of her team-high 18 points in the opening half on 7-of-12 shooting. She was limited to just two tallies in the first encounter.
“I think Logan took that personal (the first game),” Grybowski said. “She played a great game, she played well on both ends of the floor.”
Said Squeglia, “She scored and I knew she would. She’s a good player and she understands the game. She posts up very nicely.”
Hartman, a Davidson College recruit, concludes her stellar career with 944 career points. She ranks sixth on the school’s all-time list.
“My career here has been great,” Hartman said. “Without Miss G.
(Grybowski) and coach (Jason) Rankin and Maria (assistant coach Maria Joseph), I would not be where I’m at today.
“I’m so thankful for everything (Grybowski) has done for me. It was great and I wouldn’t take back a second of it.”
Nikki Wise added 12 markers and a team-high seven rebounds off the bench for the Lady ’Canes, who shot 20 of 47 from the floor.
Correal, who had 37 points in the first meeting, led Peters Township with