Lady ’Canes spread the wealth in impressive win
New Castle (68) Vs. Mount Pleasant (47)
Feb 21, 2009
By JOE SAGER
WEXFORD — Luann Grybowski coaches one of the WPIAL’s top girls basketball teams.
She also does one of the district’s best balancing acts.
Three different New Castle High players reached double figures — and a fourth fell just short — last night as the Lady ’Canes upended Mount Pleasant, 68-47, in a WPIAL Class AAA quarterfinal game at North Allegheny.
Freshman Kaylynn Waters and sophomore LaShauna Brothers both tallied 19 points for top-seeded New Castle (22-2), which is ranked No. 1 in the WPIAL by the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette and eighth in the PIAA poll by the Patriot-News of Harrisburg. Sophomore JaNia McPhatter added 12 points, while senior Shelby Rodgers checked in with nine for the Lady ’Canes.
That balance is nothing new, though, as that quartet has been consistent all season. Rodgers (15.1 points per game), Brothers (12.7), Waters (11.4) and McPhatter (9.7) give New Castle a formidable attack.
“I didn’t know that coming into this year — I never expected us to have three girls average double figures in scoring and one close behind,” Grybowski said. “If someone told me we were going to have basically four girls averaging double figures, I would have been ecstatic.”
She was ecstatic last night as the Lady ’Canes earned a ticket to the WPIAL semifinals against South Park, a 63-52 winner over Hampton, at a time, date and place to be announced. The triumph also secured a PIAA tournament berth for New Castle, its fourth straight and sixth in the last seven years, but first in Class AAA after dropping down from Quad-A this season.
“Ah, it’s a sigh of relief,” Grybowski said. “It wasn’t pretty with the way it started. There were way too many fouls. The difference between Quad-A and Triple-A is you can’t play as aggressively. We’re just not going to tone that down. We’re just going to play man-to-man the way we know how until we do it and (the officials) let us or they call fouls.”
Early on, the officials were calling plenty of fouls on both squads. The Lady Vikings (18-6), who will advance to the PIAA tournament if New Castle wins its next game, felt the brunt of the calls as three of their starters got in foul trouble quickly. Renee Jones and Nicole Malara were whistled for two personal fouls, while Ashley Renze picked up three in the opening stanza.
New Castle posted a 20-12 lead after the first and carried a 38-26 edge into halftime, mainly thanks to the effort of Brothers, who scored 14 of her points in the half. She added 15 rebounds and three assists on the evening.
“She had a great game,” Grybowski said. “She rebounded well, scored and played some defense. That’s what we need from her every game.”
The Lady ’Canes received a boost in the third when McPhatter scored the first three baskets of the frame to push New Castle’s lead to 44-26.
“That’s what we talked about at halftime. We needed to step up in the third quarter and make a statement,” Grybowski said. “We needed to get out and get a couple baskets.”
Following a Mount Pleasant 3-pointer, Rodgers swished a pair of treys, the second of which pushed her over the 1,000-point mark in her career. She now has 1,001 points.
“It’s exciting. I am just happy we won. That’s all that matters,” she said. “Once we got the jitters out, we were OK. We were all a little nervous. We are real excited. We’ve been waiting for this all year and we want to get the big one, but we’re focusing on our next game.”
A 10-0 run cut the Lady ’Canes’ lead to 52-39 with 7:01 to play, but they held on and put the game out of reach from that point.
“They kept their composure, which was important,” Grybowski said. “They get comfortable and they don’t do the things they need to do as well as if the game was tight — the passes are a little softer. That’s what happened.”
Malara led the Lady Vikings with 15 points. Kelsey Porter had 12 points off the bench, while Shelby Way added 10.
Jazelle Dennis had four points and nine assists and Waters contributed four steals and three assists for New Castle. Rodgers had seven rebounds.