Resilient McHale helps Neshannock edge Laurel
Neshannock (53) Vs. Laurel (52)
By Corey J. Corbin
New Castle News

Neshannock High’s Madison McHale is a warrior.

McHale battled through a potential shoulder injury to make 1 of 2 free throws with seven seconds left in the game to lift the Lady Lancers to a thrilling 53-52 road win over Laurel in WPIAL Section 2-AA action last night.

“She played through a lot of pain and adversity,” Neshannock coach Luann Grybowski said. “She left the game two times with that shoulder. We probably played seven or eight minutes without her.

“I thought it should have been a flagrant foul. Maddie ended up on the floor. She might have a dislocated shoulder.”

McHale took a pass with under 10 seconds left in the game and broke free for a breakaway before being fouled hard by Laurel’s Jessica Conrad.

As the players were lining up at the free throw line, the officials indicated that they had whistled an intentional foul, putting the Lady Lancers (6-0 section, 14-0 overall) in the driver’s seat.

“I was obviously a little frustrated with the call, but that’s the nature of the game,” Laurel coach Jessica Shevitz said. “We shouldn’t have been in that position to begin with.”

Laurel (3-2, 7-5) still had a chance to pull off the upset when it regained possession of the ball.

Conrad pushed the ball up the floor and just missed a 3-pointer at the buzzer.

“We were in the double bonus, so all we needed was for her to get fouled,” Shevitz said. “She just missed the shot. It just grazed off the rim.

“It’s heartbreaking. It was a great game, definitely one of the best games I’ve seen all year. It was unbelievable. We knew it was going to be close. No one was going to run away with the game. If you wanted to see good girls basketball, this was the game to be at.”

The Lady Spartans accumulated seven of their eight missed free throws down the stretch.

“I couldn’t have asked for more out of them other than to make their foul shots,” Shevitz said. “I had seniors at the line and they needed to put the ball in the hoop. I mean, it’s not like they missed them on purpose, but we needed those shots (last) night. We just needed one of seven.”

The Lady Spartans erased a three-point first-quarter deficit and entered the locker room with a 28-23 lead. They were able to extend the lead to 49-42 in the fourth quarter before Neshannock closed the game with an 11-3 run.

“We just chipped our way back,” Grybowski said. “We did some good things down the stretch. We mixed it up defensively. We’d show one thing and go to another. We mixed up some zone, some half-court trap and some man. The kids did a good job with that.

“I’m so very proud of my kids. They played through adversity. A lot of times, you get disgusted when things don’t go your way, but this will help us down the stretch.”

Neshannock had offensive issues of its own, committing a season-high 20 turnovers.

“We turned it over way too much,” Grybowski said. “It wasn’t like we weren’t prepared. We just didn’t execute. We really didn’t. They were very aggressive. They went full-court man and hassled us. Then, they went half-court man. We had a lot of ‘fumbles’ dribbling the ball. We had 11 bad passes and six travels. Our passing just wasn’t good tonight. They took us out of our rhythm by pressuring the ball. We didn’t make good cuts, either.

“Sometimes, you have to play ugly and win. I’d rather play ugly and get the win than play beautifully and lose. The kids learn lessons in wins like this. They played hard to come back. Even though I wasn’t pleased, there were some good things that happened in the end.”

They Lady Lancers emerged from the first half of section play unscathed, but they hit the road for a showdown with second-place Mohawk on Thursday.

“It’s a great spot to be in,” Grybowski said. “Ideally, this is where you want to be. Realistically, I didn’t know we’d be (undefeated). The way the girls are responding, we definitely deserve to be (undefeated). It, by no means, will get any easier. The more you win, the bigger the target gets and the harder everyone plays against you. We’re extremely fortunate to be where we are and hopefully, we keep it going.”

The loss keeps Laurel in third place behind Neshannock and Mohawk (5-1, 11-1) in the section.

“The loss doesn’t hurt us,” Shevitz said. “They’re undefeated, so everyone else in the section has that same loss, so it’s not detrimental as far as the playoffs go.”

McHale led all scorers with 18 points and added seven rebounds, four steals and three assists. Cassidy Burrelli finished with 11 points and six rebounds, while Tayler Grybowski, the coach’s daughter, had seven points, eight rebounds and five assists.

“We wanted to keep Tayler and Maddie as low as we could,” Shevitz said. “Tayler was below her average. Our goals were to keep them both around 12 to 15 points. Outside of foul shots, we definitely did our job on Maddie. They’re both good players and they’re going to find ways to score.”

Conrad paced Laurel with a 16-point, 12-rebound double-double, while Ellen Shaffer recorded 11 points and nine rebounds. Kristin Dicks contributed seven points and five assists.

“It was a total team effort,” Shevitz said. “Everybody laid everything they had on the line. Jessica Conrad was carrying us emotionally. Any time, we needed to regroup Jessica was the one pulling everyone together.

“We’ll get back in the gym and move on. We have to shake this off, because we play Riverside (tomorrow). We have one day to pick ourselves up and get ready to play.”
Game Scoreboard
Neshannock 13 10 18 12 0 53
Laurel 10 18 13 11 0 52
Box Scores
Stephanie Paras 2 0-0 5
Cassidy Burrelli 5 1-2 11
Erin Warvell 1 0-0 3
Tayler Grybowski 3 0-0 7
Madison McHale 5 6-10 18
Regan Moorhouse 3 3-4 9.
Totals: 19 10-16 53.

Rachael Baker 1 2-2 4
Jessica Conrad 6 2-4 16
Brooke Dicks 1 5-9 8
Ellen Shaffer 4 3-4 11
Maddison Deinert 3 0-0 6
Kristin Dicks 3 0-1 7
Diana Pontius 0 0-0 0
Nicole Wade 0 0-0 0.
Totals: 18 12-20 52.
NESHANNOCK 13 10 18 12 — 53
LAUREL 10 18 13 11 — 52
3-point goals — Neshannock 5 (McHale 2, Paras 1, Warvell 1, Grybowski 1), Laurel 4 (Conrad 2, B. Dicks 1, K. Dicks 1).
JV score: Neshannock 35, Laurel 31. High scorer: N — Anna Warvell 11, Stephanie Paras 11; L — Diana Pontius 17.
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