Neshannock girls hold on for win over Everett
Neshannock (49) Vs. Everett (44)
Mar 11, 2017
By Shawn Fox
New Castle News
BUTLER — The season of firsts continued for the Neshannock High girls basketball team.
One week after their first appearance in the WPIAL final, the Lady Lancers made more history Saturday afternoon.
WPIAL runner-up Neshannock notched the first state playoff victory in program history by knocking off District 5 champion Everett, 49-44, in the first round of the PIAA Class 3A playoffs at Butler High School.
“We’ve been making history this year, so might as well make more,” Neshannock sophomore Bella Burrelli said with a laugh. “Everett is very good. They’re very fast. They hustled more than us in the first half. But in the second half we came out and were more aggressive.”
Neshannock’s only other trips to the state playoffs came in 2016 (lost 55-29 to Bishop McCort in Class AA), 2014 (lost 68-47 to General McLane in Class AA), 2000 (lost 71-26 to Karns City in Class AA) and 1982 (lost 39-32 to Union in Class A).
“It feels great to get that first state win,” Neshannock coach Luann Grybowski said. “It wasn’t pretty. We had a lot of turnovers, a lot of missed shots. Everett really outhustled us, at least early on. In the second half we played a little bit better. We weren’t our typical selves, but we did enough to win and that’s what counts.”
The Lady Lancers (24-2) will face District 9 champion Karns City in the second round at 7:30 p.m. Wednesday at Slippery Rock. The Lady Gremlins (19-5) advanced with a 61-49 victory over District 10 runner-up Seneca on Saturday.
“Karns City is very good,” Grybowski said. “We’re going to have to play better than we did today, for sure.”
Neshannock, which trailed by as many as eight points in the first half, rallied in the third quarter and entered the final eight minutes tied at 35-35.
The teams traded leads through the first five and a half minutes of the fourth quarter before Burrelli’s old-fashioned three-point play gave the Lady Lancers a 45-41 lead with 2:14 remaining in the contest. It was a lead they would not relinquish.
“I think we were able to stay with them defensively in the fourth quarter,” Grybowski said. “They weren’t able to get as many easy looks as they got in the first half. And, they didn’t get transition baskets in the fourth quarter, which they did against us in the first half. I think that was the big difference.”
Burrelli scored off an in-bounds play with 39 seconds remaining to hike Neshannock’s lead to 47-41 before Cammie Jenkins hit a free throw for the Lady Warriors.
But, Aidan Noga’s two foul shots with 13.6 seconds remaining gave the Lady Lancers a seven-point edge to seal the victory and a second-round date with Karns City.
“We need to keep playing aggressive defense,” Burrelli said of the game with the Lady Gremlins. “That’s definitely our strong suit. We just have to play our game.”
Burrelli led Neshannock with 20 points, 10 rebounds and three blocks.
“The effort she gives game in and game out on both ends of the floor — defensively, rebounding and scoring — is second to none,” Grybowski said.
Ally Zarilla came off the bench to chip in with 11 points, including three 3s for the Lady Lancers.
“Ally has a tendency to do that,” Grybowski said. “She can play, but I’ve got to stay on her. At times she doesn’t shoot when she should. She’s such a bright kid that she overthinks things some times. She just needs to play.”
Kaitlyn Maxwell led a trio of Everett players scoring in double figures with 12 points. Sydney Reffner and Kristen Mills added 11 and 10 points, respectively.
The Lady Warriors, who wrapped up the season with a 20-8 mark, used a 10-2 run midway through the first quarter to grab a 14-9 lead after one.
“Everett was very physical,” Grybowski said. “They were bumping us in there, and we couldn’t get an easy shot.”
The Everett lead grew to eight points, 24-16, with 2:15 remaining before the half on a layup by Hannah Prather.
But, Neshannock rallied late as a 3-pointer from the right wing by Zarilla ignited a quarter-closing 9-1 run. Carmie Matarazzo, Brie Dean and Noga each added baskets during the final spurt.
“It was important,” Grybowski said. “I didn’t want to go in at halftime down. But, we made the run to tie it, we were supposed to hold for the last shot, but we turned it over and fouled them. We were down two at halftime, and it wasn’t a big deal.”
Neshannock held a slim 10-8 edge in the third quarter to set up the decisive final stanza.