Close call for Lady Lancers
Neshannock (42) Vs. Freeport (38)
By RON PONIEWASZ JR.
ALLISON PARK — Survive and advance.
That’s exactly what the Neshannock High girls basketball team did last night.
The Lady Lancers withstood a furious flurry of shots by Freeport in the final 40 seconds to hold on for a 42-38 WPIAL Class AA preliminary-round victory at Hampton High School.
“The girls worked real hard in the second half,” said a relieved Neshannock coach Luann Grybowski. “I thought they played with a lot of heart, they played hard and they played through a lot of things.
“Freeport played hard and they were really aggressive.”
Neshannock (16-7), which is seeded 20th, moves on to face fourth-seeded Bishop Canevin (18-4) on Tuesday at a time and site to be determined.
The Lady Yellow Jackets were just 9 of 24 from the foul line.
“Neshannock is a good basketball team, and I really believe that’s a team that could go on a run,” Freeport coach Bill Burkart said. “But shots just wouldn’t go down for us (last night).”
Neshannock won the previous matchup in the season opener at the Slippery Rock Tournament, 59-51. The Lady Yellow Jackets hit 18 of their 31 free-throw attempts in that encounter.
The Lady Lancers saw their seemingly comfortable 36-24 lead after the third quarter slowly evaporate. The 13th-seeded Lady Yellow Jackets (12-10) cut the deficit to 36-30 with 5:04 to play and to 42-38 with 54.1 seconds left.
“These girls, they like the dramatic,” Burkart said of his players. “They always seem to make runs like that. Then they come on strong and that’s what they did. There’s no quit in those girls.”
Neshannock’s Caitlin Binder misfired on the front end of a one-and-one with 45.1 seconds remaining and her team clinging to a 42-38 margin. Freeport came down and missed at least a trio of 3-pointers and three shots inside the arc before the Lady Lancers finally chased down the rebound with three seconds left to sew up the victory.
“It did feel like four minutes was on the clock,” Grybowski said of that last Freeport possession. “Then I looked up and we got that final rebound.”
The Lady Lancers held a 19-17 halftime buffer before taking charge. Neshannock’s Ericka Warvell tossed in 12 of her game-high 19 points in the third quarter as the Lady Lancers built their biggest lead of the game at 36-24.
Warvell was 5 of 11 from the floor, while snaring eight rebounds.
“The third quarter, everybody did what they were supposed to do,” Warvell said. “Everybody boxed out, rebounded; everybody just played really well.”
Freeport fouled Warvell on a 3-pointer just 1:34 into the second half. She stepped up and drained two of the three foul shots to give Neshannock a 21-18 margin.
“Ericka got hot in the third quarter for them and she hit some big 3s,” Burkart said. “She got fouled on that one 3-pointer attempt and that was a turning point I thought.”
Warvell, a 5-foot-9 senior guard/forward, punctuated the period by draining a 3-pointer just before the buzzer.
“That shot gave us a nice cushion,” Warvell said. “I think it was a lot of luck because I was really off balance on that shot. Chelsea (Kauffman) gave me the ball and I just decided to shoot it.”
Those points proved extremely valuable down the stretch.
“She had a great third quarter,” Grybowski said of Warvell. “She hit shots, she rebounded, she made her free throws; she did a little bit of everything.”
Warvell’s basket 15 seconds into the second quarter gave Neshannock the lead for good at 10-9. Despite trailing by just two points at halftime, the Lady Yellow Jackets were forced to make adjustments.
Foul trouble prompted Freeport to switch from a triangle-and-two defense against Warvell and Kauffman. Neshannock took advantage of it. The defense was working, limiting to Kauffman to just six total points.
Nicolette Blake was hit with her third foul early in the third quarter and got her fourth with 1:01 to go in the third. Blake was guarding Warvell, forcing Burkart to rotate Anna Christy, who is two inches shorter than Blake.
“We had to make a switch to a shorter girl,” Burkart said. “Nicolette was doing a great job on her, too.”
Said Grybowski, “I knew the triangle-and-two was coming,” Grybowski said. “They played it the whole first half, and then they went to a man in the second half and it worked out in our favor.”
Ashlee Patton contributed seven points and a game-high 11 rebounds for the Lady Lancers and Binder added six markers and eight boards. The Lady Lancers fired in 14 shots in 46 attempts.
Jessica Aulicino paced Freeport with 12 markers. The Lady Yellow Jackets were just 13 of 50 from the field.