WPIAL SEMIFINALS: Preview of Lady ’Canes matchup with Indiana
Mar 02, 2010
By RON PONIEWASZ JR.
rponiewasz@ncnewsonline.com

Two high-powered offenses will duke it out Wednesday at Fox Chapel High School.

The New Castle High girls basketball team averages 68.3 points a game, tops in the WPIAL, regardless of classification. The Lady ’Canes will get a test from Indiana, which averages 61.3 markers a contest, ranking seventh across the district.

The teams will square off at 6:30 p.m. in a WPIAL Class AAA semifinal playoff matchup.

“They’re a good team; experienced and deep,” first-year Lady ’Canes coach Jason Rankin said. “They’re very offensive-minded; a crisp offensive team.

“They won’t make a lot of mistakes. You have to force the errors — and they communicate on defense.”

Second-seeded New Castle (19-3) is ranked No. 2 in the WPIAL in Class AAA by the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.

“They’re very athletic and quick,” said Dave Woodall, who is in his 14th season at the helm. “This will be a great test for us.”

The Lady Little Indians (21-1), ranked third by the Post-Gazette, won the Section 3 title with a 12-0 mark. Their only loss (60-58) came against District 10-member Mercyhurst Prep.

New Castle reached the semifinals with a 65-44 verdict over Hampton, while Indiana topped Uniontown, 60-41.

The winner advances to meet the survivor of the Hopewell-Chartiers Valley contest Saturday at Duquesne University’s A.J. Palumbo Center. New Castle dropped both Section 2-AAA matchups with the top-seeded Lady Vikings by a total of three points. Chartiers Valley is seeded fourth.

New Castle’s up-tempo attack will pose a challenge to Indiana. According to Woodall, the Lady Little Indians didn’t face many teams in the regular season that push the ball up the floor the way the Lady ’Canes do.

“Better teams tend to push the ball more,” Woodall said. “We played against two teams (West Mifflin and Uniontown) that like to get out and run.”

Indiana is making its third straight appearance in the semifinals. New Castle, the defending WPIAL Class AAA champion, is competing in the semis for the second straight season.

However, the Lady Little Indians are looking to reach the level the Lady ’Canes are accustomed to. New Castle has claimed three WPIAL championships, all in the past seven years.

Indiana lost in the semifinals each of the past two seasons, by identical 54-50 counts. Last year, West Mifflin topped the Lady Little Indians, before falling to the Lady ’Canes in the WPIAL title tilt. In 2008, Indiana dropped an overtime decision to Hampton, the eventual WPIAL Class AAA champion.

A win would send Indiana to the program’s first WPIAL championship game.

“I think getting to this point repeatedly can help us,” Woodall said. “Those were two really close losses, and two tough losses.

“We talk about how hard it is to get back, but now we want to go an extra step. It’s a real motivating factor.”

Going through the champion doesn’t concern Woodall.

“I don’t consider anyone a champion this year,” Woodall said. “That was last year’s team. We don’t talk about our team from last year, and we were in the semifinals. We don’t talk about the 2008 team, either.”

Rankin knows similar outcomes this deep in the playoffs can be a trend.

“You see it in all sports. Teams are trying to get over the hump all the time,” Rankin said. “The Minnesota Vikings lost four Super Bowls in the 1970s. The Buffalo Bills lost four Super Bowls in the 1990s.

“The mindset coming in is everyone expects to win. There’s no doubt that there’s some doubt that creeps into your mind at certain points. We’ll have to see if they’re mentally tough enough to climb this hurdle.”

Leslie Stapleton, a 5-foot-10, junior guard/forward, paces the Lady Little Indians at 17.5 points a game. Stapleton connected for 17 points in the quarterfinal win over the Lady Red Raiders.

“Stapleton does a little of everything,” Rankin said. “She’s long and she can get to the basket and shoot from 3.

“Stapleton can put you on your heels from anywhere on the floor. She’s aggressive and defends well, too.”

Tiara Stossel, a 5-7 senior guard, is next at 12 points a game. Stossel led the way against Uniontown with 19 markers.

“She’s a very good player,” Rankin said. “She’s a tremendous shooter and she puts it on the floor and handles it well.

“Stossel may be their best overall player. She does a lot of things well.”

Kaylynn Waters, a 5-7, sophomore guard, guides the Lady ’Canes’ attack, scoring 18 points a game with 39 3-pointers to her credit, along with 3.5 rebounds.

“She’s a real good player,” Woodall said. “She’s a good shooter and she plays hard.”

Waters went to the hospital following the Hampton game and was diagnosed with a touch of pneumonia. Rankin expects her to be in the starting lineup.

LaShauna Brothers, a 5-10, junior forward, is next at 16 markers and 7.7 boards a game.

“Brothers is a tough, inside/outside player,” Woodall said. “She prefers the outside a little more; she can shoot the ball.

“She and Waters do the bulk of the scoring, but they all play very well on that team.”

JaNia McPhatter, a 5-8, junior guard/forward, also is in double figures at 11.1 points a game, to go along with seven rebounds.

“New Castle can flat-out play; that’s why they’re ranked and seeded where they are,” Woodall said.

Sophomore starter Christina Talbert is just out of double figures for the Lady ’Canes, notching 9.8 points a contest.

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