Lady ’Canes meet Mercyhurst Prep in PIAA opener
Mar 12, 2010

One prize already is in hand for the New Castle High girls basketball team.

On Saturday, the Lady ’Canes begin pursuit of a second one.

Fresh off claiming a second consecutive WPIAL Class AAA championship, the Lady ’Canes are setting their sights on a state championship.

New Castle will embark on a quest for the program’s first state gold medal at 5 p.m. Saturday at Ambridge High School when it squares off against Mercyhurst Prep in the first round of the PIAA Class AAA playoffs. The Lady ’Canes are ranked No. 3 in Class AAA in the state poll by the Patriot-News of Harrisburg.

“We’re excited for the upcoming challenge and we’re looking forward to getting started,” Lady ’Canes coach Jason Rankin said. “We’re definitely worried about a WPIAL championship hangover, not because we won it, but how we won it.”

New Castle (21-3) topped Hopewell in the WPIAL championship, 66-61, after trailing 31-12 in the second quarter. The Lady ’Canes avenged two regular-season losses to the Lady Vikings by a combined three points.

“Coming back against a team that beat us twice, the girls have been saying the right things up to now,” Rankin said. “But until the ball is thrown up, you won’t know.”

The Lady Lakers (22-4) advanced to the state playoffs with a 50-42 win over Franklin in the District 10, Class AAA consolation game. They claimed a 53-37 verdict over Punxsutawney in a PIAA play-in game Tuesday. Lindsay Stamp paced Mercyhurst Prep in that game with 14 points, including four 3-pointers.

“Mercyhurst Prep is a young, hard-nosed team,” Rankin said. “They do what they do very well. They’re disciplined and they will be a formidable opponent for us.”

Mercyhurst Prep coach Dan Perfetto, in his fourth season at the helm, welcomes the challenge of competing against the WPIAL champions.

“They’re a very good basketball team,” Perfetto said. “They’re playing with a lot of confidence and it should be a good game.

“We’re excited about this test. State playoff games are always fun. No matter who you play, the teams are always good and we’re happy to be a part of it. I’ll use the fact they’re the WPIAL champions to motivate them, but I want to keep them focused, too.”

Mercyhurst Prep is appearing in the state playoffs for the third straight season. Last year, the Lady Lakers advanced to the state quarterfinals, and they were the runner-up in 2008. Mercyhurst Prep has four state championships total, the last one coming in 2005.

This year’s edition of the Lady Lakers resembles the Lady ’Canes. Mercyhurst Prep starts just one senior, while New Castle has none in the first five.

New Castle was upset last year in the opening round of the playoffs by the third-place representative out of District 10, Franklin, 52-46.

“The girls understand the magnitude of history,” Rankin said. “With winning the WPIAL championship last year, the newness of winning it again this year is kind of wearing off; they’re hungrier for the next step.

“I told the girls ‘do you remember crying last year in the locker room? Do you remember crying last year on the floor? Don’t just remember what happened a couple weeks ago, keep things in your memory.’ ”

Stamp, a 5-foot-10 junior guard, paces Mercyhurst Prep with 21 points and 7.4 rebounds a game.

“She’s a tremendous scorer and she can shoot it from deep,” Rankin said. “Stamp does a lot of things for them. She can drive. She can put it on the floor.”

Autumn Anderson, a 5-11 senior forward, is next at 11.6 points and 8.1 rebounds a game.

“She’s a post player with good size and she looks like a good free-throw shooter, too,” Rankin said.

The Lady Lakers average 57.3 points a game, with nine games of 61 points or more. They are surrendering just 36.7 markers a matchup.

“They’ll push it when they have to, but not very often,” Rankin said. “They like to set it up more and look for a good shot.

“Defensively, they play man and halfcourt man and they’ll extend it with the point guard. They’re very help conscious and strong away from the ball.”

Kaylynn Waters, a 5-7, sophomore guard, paces the New Castle attack, netting 18.3 points a game with a county-high 42 3-pointers. She has 3.4 rebounds, 2.6 assists and 2.5 steals a contest as well.

“She’s a very good guard,” Perfetto said. “She’s shown the ability she can score and control the game.

“Waters is their leader. We’ll have to contain her.”

Waters poured in a career-high 33 points for the Lady ’Canes in the WPIAL championship win over Hopewell.

LaShauna Brothers, a 5-10, junior forward, is next at 15.9 points, 7.5 rebounds, and 3.8 steals a game.

She’s a good player and she’s been around,” Perfetto said of Brothers. “She’s a good post player and a strong kid.

“Brothers and Waters are a good 1-2 punch.”

JaNia McPhatter, a 5-8, junior guard/forward, also is in double figures at 10.8 points a game, along with 7.4 rebounds and three steals a contest.

Christina Talbert, a 5-7 sophomore guard, contributes 10.1 points a matchup. She posted 53 points in New Castle’s four WPIAL playoff games.

“We’ll have to do what we’ve been doing all year. That’s work hard, defend and see what happens,” Perfetto said. “New Castle has a good group of kids and they’re athletic.

“They’re not new to this, they’ve been around and we’re going to have to be ready.”

New Castle is putting up 67.8 markers a contest, while allowing 47.9 points a tilt.

“They’re solid; they like to go and run the floor,” Perfetto said. “They’ll mix it up defensively, playing some man and zone.”

The winner will meet the survivor of the Indiana-Sharon matchup Wednesday at a time and site to be announced. New Castle knocked off Indiana in the WPIAL semifinals, 58-45.
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