Thrice is nice
Neshannock (62) Vs. Laurel (45)
By Andrew Koob
New Castle News

The anticipation on the Neshannock High girls basketball team's bench grew as the seconds ticked away from the game clock.

The program has found itself at this point previously in the past two seasons. But with a team as green as the Lady Lancers were entering the season with only three healthy upperclassmen, there was no guarantee they would return to that peak.

Thursday night proved that Neshannock matured quickly as the season proceeded and made it known that the Lady Lancers were right back where they belonged.

Neshannock's 62-45 victory over visiting Laurel clinched the WPIAL Section 1-AA title outright, the third time in as many years the Lady Lancers have held at least a share of the section championship.
“It’s tremendous," Neshannock coach Luann Grybowski said. "If you told me at the beginning of the year we would do this, I don’t know if that could happen. Did I think we were capable of playing the way we have played at some points this year? Absolutely.

"I can’t say they’re young anymore, they’ve played a whole year now. I expect them to do what we need to be done in a game situation," Grybowski continued. "This has been an enjoyable year. I’ve coached a lot of teams and this has been one of the most rewarding years. They’re young, they listen, they strive to be better and work hard. They’re the epitome of a team. With these kids, there is no drama and it’s been tremendous."

Ally Zarilla scored 13 of her game-high 22 points in the second quarter and added four steals for the Lady Lancers (10-2 section, 17-3 overall). Stephanie Paras added 12 points in the winning effort.

“It seemed to all be falling," Zarilla said. "Everyone was excited, it was a big game. Whenever I get excited like that, everything seems easier and seems to fall. So I just try and go for that every game.”
Laurel countered with 15 points from Caroline Gibson and 11 points from Kristin Dicks.

The Lady Spartans (4-8, 8-13) came out fighting in the opening eight minutes, taking a slight lead over Neshannock.

Neshannock would not let Laurel hold onto that lead for long, scoring the first six points in the second quarter. The Lady Lancers used two separate runs of 6-0 and 7-0 in the quarter to expand their lead to 10 points at the half.

Overall, Neshannock outscored the Lady Spartans 23-9 in the second quarter as Zarilla took over the bulk of the scoring load.

“Zarilla played exceptionally well in the second quarter," Grybowski said. "She just really gave us a spark and sometimes she plays like that in a zone. And sometimes she plays the opposite way, but that’s all a part of growing. Tonight, she did a great job.”

The Lady Lancers extended their lead in the third, taking an 18-point advantage into the final quarter.

Laurel refused to quit, trimming the deficit to 11 points thanks to a 7-0 run midway through the fourth quarter. Neshannock, however, answered by going 6 of 7 from the free-throw line to effectively end the contest.

Paras, the lone healthy senior for Neshannock with Cassidy Burrelli sitting out the year with a torn ACL, was tasked with being the leader of the Lady Lancers on and off the court. It may not have been a simple assignment, yet Paras credited the entire team for its season-long fortitude.

"We just have players on our team that can hold their own," Paras said. "At times, it was a little hectic but we were composed and never gave up. I think we kept that up throughout the season and hopefully carry that through the playoffs.”

Added Grybowski, "I’ve seen her grow as a player She ran the point when Aidan (Noga) was in foul trouble and she did a great job. Got us some easy baskets and made good decisions with the ball. She has stepped up and really led these kids. She’s done everything I’ve asked and more and been a real pleasure to coach.”

Game Scoreboard
Neshannock 8 23 18 13 0 62
Laurel 12 9 10 14 0 45
Box Scores
Kristin Dicks 4 3-3 11
Makenna Collins 0 1-2 1
Marlee Bell 0 1-2 1
Diana Pontius 1 0-0 3
Janna Conrad 2 4-4 8
Caroline Gibson 6 3-6 15
Megan Reeher 2 2-4 6
Brianna Reeher 0 0-0 0
Totals: 15 14-21 45

Stephanie Paras 4 2-5 12
Aidan Noga 0 0-0 0
Regan Moorhouse 3 2-4 8
Bella Burrelli 1 0-0 2
Ally Zarilla 7 6-6 22
Brie Dean 0 0-0 0
Hannah Haswell 4 2-2 10
Caitlyn Benson 0 0-0 0
Carmie Matarazzo 3 2-2 8
Totals: 22 14-19 62

LAUREL 12 9 10 14 — 45
NESHANNOCK 8 23 18 13 — 62

3-point goals — Laurel 1 (Pontius 1), Nesahnnock 4 (Paras 2, Zarilla 2).
JV score: Neshannock 57, Laurel 42. High scorers: N — Ally George 16, Ally Zarilla 13; L —Caroline Gibson 16.
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