Lady ’Lopes can’t get past Neshannock

After battling their way through the first round of the state playoffs, there were probably more than a few groans in the Avonworth locker room when they found out they would face Neshannock in the second round. The Lancers have been a thorn in Avonworth’s side this whole season, beating the Lady ‘Lopes in two regular season and one post season games. Pictured above in Tuesday’s game are Alexa Davis at right with the ball, Kat Goetz at left, and Harris Robinson at rear. Photo by Tom Steiner for The Citizen

By JIM RUMBLE

For the Avonworth girls’ basketball team, it would be their fourth attempt at knocking off section rival and recently crowned WPIAL champion Neshannock when the teams met in the second round of the PIAA playoffs at Hampton High School this past Tuesday.

Avonworth made it to the second round by emerging victorious in the first round over Fairview High School at the Hagherty Family Events Center in Erie last Friday 49-39.

The Lady ‘Lopes were able to utilize their height advantage to work the basketball inside the Tiger defense and also capitalized on second chance opportunities on offense.

Avonwoth led 23-17 at the half and were leading 42-38 with with just over three minutes remaining but the 'Lopes spent a considerable amount of time at the free throw line and converted 7-18 from the stripe in the fourth quarter to secure their victory.

Anastasia Heinold led Avonworth scorers with 11 points followed by Harris Robinson with 10 points and Hayden Robinson and Kat Goetz each with nine points.

That victory moved them back onto the court with Neshannock, which has proved a major problem for the Lady ‘Lopes in both regular season and WPIAL play this year.

The Lady ‘Lopes stood up to the Lancers through the first half of play but were out-scored 35-17 in the second half as they fell 60-37 to end their season.

"They [Neshannock] started to wear us down a little bit," said 'Lopes coach Mark D'Alessandris. "We had some breakdowns defensively a little bit here and there and just couldn't put the ball in the hoop."

Neshannock opened the scoring from long range in the first quarter, but Heinold answered with a three-pointer off the left side to draw the teams even. Lancer star forward Bella Burrelli drove the lane for a basket and Avonworth's Harris Robinson converted a free throw to complete a three-point play after being fouled while scoring inside to give the 'Lopes a 6-5 lead. The Lancers scored on their next possession only to have Hayden Robinson regain the lead with a coast to coast transition basket that put the Lady ‘Lopes in front 8-7 with 4:16 left in the first quarter.

Goetz added three points to the Avonworth offense in the period but Neshannock scored seven points including 5-5 from the free throw line to lead 14-11.

The Lancers opened the second quarter with a 6-2 run that included a put-back basket by Hayden Robinson but the Lady ‘Lopes were 2-7 from the free throw line and that enabled Neshannock to lead by eight at 25-17 with 1:29 left in the half.

Lexi Mankey knocked down a three-pointer and that sent the teams into halftime with Avonworth behind 25-20.

The Lady ‘Lopes answered a three-pointer by the Lancers to start the third quarter with two consecutive put-back baskets by Goetz and a pair of free throws by Hayden Robinson to trail 28-26. Neshannock freshman Neleh Nogay followed with a pair of three-pointers and a basket off of a fast break to move the Lancers ahead 36-26.

The Robinson sisters both scored in transition down the stretch but Neshannock added a basket and went 4-4 from the free throw line to lead 42-30 at the end of the third quarter.

Alexa Davis got on the scoreboard with a jumper in the fourth quarter but the Lancers still led comfortably at 49-34. They would continue to build on their lead until Emma Ronk's free throw put the final score at 60-37.

Hayden Robinson led Avonworth scorers with 12 points, followed by Goetz with seven points and six points each by Mankey and Harris Robinson.