Lady ’Canes reach WPIAL championship
New Castle (63) Vs. South Park (29)
Feb 25, 2009
By RON PONIEWASZ JR.
WEXFORD — The first postgame reaction from New Castle High girls basketball coach Luann Grybowski said it all.
“That was great defense!,” she yelled to her players in the locker room last night after the top-seeded Lady ’Canes stifled South Park, 63-29, in a WPIAL Class AAA semifinal at North Allegheny High School.
“We made a little adjustment with a little different trap in another area,” Grybowski said. “I can’t say enough about the defense and how well they played on that end.”
The win propels New Castle into the WPIAL championship game for the third time in the program’s history. The Lady ’Canes, who won WPIAL AAAA titles by beating Oakland Catholic in 2004 and 2007, will compete for their first crown in Class AAA.
“Winning never gets old,” Grybowski said.
New Castle (23-2), ranked No. 1 by the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette and eighth in the PIAA poll by the Patriot-News of Harrisburg, will take an 11-game win streak against third-seeded West Mifflin (19-6) in the championship game at 3 p.m. Saturday at Duquesne University’s A.J. Palumbo Center.
West Mifflin defeated Indiana, 54-50.
South Park (19-6) will compete in the PIAA playoffs as either the No. 3 or No. 4 seed, depending on how the Lady ’Canes fare. The first round of the state playoffs begins March 7.
“We came out flat,” South Park coach Reggie Wells said. “If you don’t play with intensity, you’re going to get smashed.
“They kind of took us out of it, too, and they took it to us.”
New Castle forced 24 turnovers and held the Lady Eagles to 13-of-40 shooting.
“We weren’t even coming close with our shots,” Wells said. “It’s a game you’d like to throw away, but this isn’t early in the season. It came at a critical stage.”
Nicole Doria was held to just four points while Laurel Lindsay netted a team-best 11 markers for the Lady Eagles. They were averaging 32 points a game combined.
“Coach told us to play hard and get after it,” New Castle senior guard Jazelle Dennis said. “She told us we couldn’t let Doria and Lindsay do whatever they want.”
South Park, which claimed the WPIAL Class AA crown last year before moving up, hung with the Lady ’Canes early, trailing 22-13 after one quarter. However, the swarming New Castle defense was dominating.
Freshman guard Kaylynn Waters helped New Castle control in the first quarter. She buried a 3-pointer with 1:43 to play for an 18-11 lead and then made a steal under the basket, turned and sank a layup 10 seconds later.
“Waters got them off to a great start; she’s an excellent player,” Wells said. “She plays with a lot of poise.”
The Lady ’Canes forced 14 first-half turnovers in building a 35-17 lead.
“Our defense helped us start strong,” Waters said. “We did what we were supposed to do.”
Said New Castle’s LaShauna Brothers, “We communicated well and played defense the way we know how.”
New Castle had success against South Park’s tricky defenses, which started in a 1-3-1 and developed into a 2-3 halfcourt trap.
“We practiced for it the last couple days,” Rodgers said of the halfcourt trap. “We knew it was coming and we were ready.”
New Castle put the game away with a 7-0 run to open the third quarter as players on South Park’s bench watch in stunned silence.
“If you get off to a good start, it makes things easier in the second half,” McPhatter said.
Rodgers paced all scorers with 19 points for the Lady ’Canes. She also had 11 rebounds and three steals.
“Rodgers is tough; she played an excellent game. She’s definitely a player you can’t lose track of,” Wells said.
Waters contributed 13 points on 5-of-12 shooting to go along with seven rebounds and seven steals. McPhatter added 12 points and four boards.