Laurel girls win ‘battle’ with Neshannock
Laurel (62) Vs. Neshannock (58)
By JOE SAGER
The Laurel High girls basketball team may have had some doubt entering last night’s game at Neshannock.
After all, the Lady Spartans have struggled in close games.
They lost five games by six points or less last season and saw the trend continue this year with a one-point setback to Freeport on Dec. 14.
Last night, Laurel ended that slump as it held on for a 62-58 WPIAL Section 2-AA triumph over the Lady Lancers.
“It was a battle. We feel like we finally proved something to ourselves to actually finish a game,” Laurel coach Jenn McGarrah said. “This is a defining win for us, I think, to be able to prove to ourselves that we can do that.”
Laurel (1-1 section, 2-3 overall) barely escaped with the win. The Lady Spartans overcame a 54-51 deficit with 2:36 remaining and Becca Kerr swished two free throws with 2.5 seconds left on the clock to seal the verdict.
The visitors could have iced the game earlier as they went to the foul line 24 times in the frame, but only converted 13 of those. Overall, they made 19 of 35 free-throw attempts.
“That kept them in the game and that’s a little scary. Ideally, we want to be around 70 or 75 percent (conversion rate) as a team. That’s one goal we’re not meeting at this point,” McGarrah said. “I would have liked to have made a few more foul shots and maybe it wouldn’t have been as exciting, but I was pleased that we made then when we absolutely had to.”
Kerr’s final two free throws gave her a season-high 27 points on her birthday.
“It was a nice present for her to have a game like this. She has that ability,” McGarrah said. “She played smart and hard and I was glad to see her have a good game.”
Neshannock (0-2, 2-3) overcame a 29-28 halftime deficit to post a 45-42 edge at the end of the third quarter. The Lady Lancers increased their advantage to 50-43, but saw the buffer evaporate as Kerr made four free throws and Dalainey Meals added two freebies and a basket for a 51-50 Laurel lead with 3:58 to play.
Neshannock didn’t help its cause, either, as it converted just 24 of 71 shots from the field and only six of 12 from the foul line.
“The fact of the matter is, the calls weren’t made the same way,” Neshannock coach Luann Grybowski said. “We’re playing at home and they shot 35 free throws and we shot 12? We went to the basket just as many times as they did. It’s just ridiculous. I had three kids foul out and another kid ready to foul out with four fouls and (Laurel) had nobody close? That just doesn’t make sense to me.
“We have a seven-point lead and they go to the line four times in a row and shoot eight free throws. Four-straight possessions they went to the line — that’s absolutely ridiculous.”
Meals finished with 17 points for Laurel. Jackie Schlemmer added 12.
Chelsea Kaufman had a team-high 18 points for Neshannock. Tara Richardson had 16 and Marianne Piatek added 11.
“Too many misses, too many open shots we didn’t hit. You aren’t going to win many games shooting what we did from the floor or the line, either,” Grybowski said. “I told the kids that, defensively, they didn’t keep people in front of them and they didn’t box out. When you give people second shots and let people cut in front of your face, there’s going to be a problem.
“We’ll take it one day at a time. We just have to go back to work on the defensive end and boxing out. We’re just not getting it done defensively.”