Neshannock girls fall short against West Shamokin
Neshannock (35) Vs. West Shamokin (38)
Mar 18, 2017
By Shawn Fox
New Castle News
WEXFORD — An eight-minute scoring drought, a two-point quarter, foul trouble for three of five starters.
Any one of those situations would make it difficult for a team to overcome.
For the Neshannock High girls basketball team, it faced all three obstacles in Saturday afternoon’s PIAA Class 3A quarterfinal game against West Shamokin.
But despite that “terrible trio”, the Lady Lancers were right there until the final buzzer.
However, Neshannock’s historic season came to a heartbreaking end as the Lady Lancers dropped 38-35 decision to the District 6 champion Lady Wolves at North Allegheny High School.
“My kids never quit,” Neshannock coach Luann Grybowski said. “They left it on the floor. They go all out all game, it doesn’t matter what the score is. They never think they’re behind too far to come back and win. That’s a testament to them in how much they trust each other and believe in each other. I’m proud of them for the effort they gave today.”
The Lady Lancers got off to a fairly good start, grabbing a 5-3 lead three minutes into the contest on Bella Burrelli’s old-fashioned three-point play.
West Shamokin built a four-point lead late in the stanza, before Burrelli’s lay-in with 18 seconds remaining cut the deficit to 11-9 at the end of one.
Burrelli’s bucket would be the Lady Lancers’ last until Ally Zarilla hit a jumper with 10 seconds remaining in the first half.
“Early on, we executed our defensive plan,” West Shamokin coach Frank Nagy said. “When we were fresh, we were able to jump to the ball a lot. We were able to overplay and front their bigs. That really helped us in the first and second quarters.”
The Lady Wolves used Neshannock’s scoring woes to build a 21-11 lead at the half.
“There were so many things that I talked about that we had to do that we didn’t do,” Grybowski said. “We turned it over early, we only had 14 shot attempts in the first half. We took away 12 possessions in the first half with turnovers, and we were down 10 at the half. We didn’t shoot the ball well and didn’t get into any offense. But, that’s a testament to their defense. They are a really good defensive team.”
The Lady Lancers cut into the deficit in the third quarter, and trailed 26-20 after three on Aidan Noga’s baseline jumper.
“I told them at halftime they had nothing to lose,” Grybowski said. “We went to our open motion offense and tried to get some people cutting to the basket. Which is something we hadn’t run. And, we went to our half-court trap.”
Neshannock twice got to within four points early in the fourth quarter. Burrelli’s three-point play made it a 29-25 game with 5:38 remaining.
On the next trip down the floor, Burrelli fouled Oliva Fusaro on a 3-pointer for her fifth foul. Fusaro sank the trey and hit the ensuing free throw to give the Lady Wolves a seven-point lead with 5:24 remaining.
“To lose Bella hurts us,” Grybowski said. “I still don’t think that was a foul. But, I had to put her back in because we had to press. I thought it was disrupting them. And, I thought that was our only shot to make a run.”
Fusaro’s three-point play two minutes later built West Shamokin’s lead to 35-26.
Neshannock got it back to a five-point game with 1:16 remaining on Carmie Matarazzo’s free throw and had a chance to draw even closer, but Brie Dean’s jumper rimmed out with under a minute to play.
Following a Katie Glover free throw for the Lady Wolves, Matarazzo drove the baseline and scored with 21.6 left to trim the deficit to 36-32.
A pair of Fusaro free throws on the next trip down the floor made it a six-point game.
Zarilla gave the Lady Lancers one last gasp, as she drained a 3-point from the top of the key with six seconds remaining. West Shamokin did not inbound the ball following the triple as time ran out on the game and Neshannock’s season.
“It’s amazing,” Nagy said. “I’m so happy for the girls. This is something we’ve pushed for all year long. We knew we had the capability, we just had to play good basketball. They find a way to get it done.”
Burrelli, despite being in foul trouble from late in the second quarter on, paced the Lady Lancers with 14 points. Matarazzo, who picked up her fourth foul late in the third quarter, had 11 points and 10 rebounds. Noga, the Lady Lancers’ point guard, was whistled for her fourth foul with 6:42 remaining in the game.
Fusaro led the Lady Wolves with 18 points, including scoring her 1,000th career point early in the fourth quarter. Jasah Huth added 12 points.
Neshannock wrapped up its season with a 25-3 mark. It was a campaign that saw the Lady Lancers capture the Section 3 crown, reach the WPIAL championship game for the first time and win the first PIAA playoff game in the program’s history.
“I’m so proud of this group of kids,” Grybowski said. “I just told them if somebody told me we would be 25-3 at the end of the year, I’ll take it every year. I know it hurts, but they are such a joy to be around and such a joy to coach. They don’t care who scores, and they root for each other. That is so, so rare today. It makes my job easy.”
Saturday’s game marked the final one in red and black for seniors Regan Moorhouse and Ally George. The Lady Lancers complied an 87-17 mark in that duo’s four years. Neshannock also won four section championships during that span.
According to Grybowski, that duo will be missed.
“They meant a lot to the program,” she said. “Regan was just such a defensive force for four years. She started for four years. She never cared about scoring. She’s just worked on defense. Ally George didn’t play as a freshman, then came back as a sophomore and really worked her way into some minutes this year.”
West Shamokin (27-2) will face WPIAL champion Bishop Canevin (22-5) in the semifinals at 6 p.m. Tuesday at North Allegheny. The Lady Crusaders advanced Saturday with a 53-29 victory over WPIAL’s No. 3 seed Carlynton. It was Bishop Canevin’s fourth win against the Lady Cougars this season.