WPIAL knock-out sends Lady ’Lopes to state playoffs

Semifinal photo by Tom Steiner for The Citizen

By JIM RUMBLE

Playing in their first WPIAL semifinal game since the 2009-10 season, the Avonworth girls’ basketball squared off with a familiar foe in the Neshannock Lancers when the two teams met at Moon High School this past Wednesday. Having lost to the top-ranked Lancers twice in section play this season, the Lady ‘Lopes had hopes of turning the tide, but that didn't happen as they fell 47-37.

"We couldn't convert at the line and we couldn't get the calls," said Avonworth coach Mark D'Alessandris. "Best of luck to them [Neshannock] but we'll still be playing next Friday."

Avonworth's appearance in the semis locked them in for a spot in the PIAA playoffs with the match-ups, dates and sites to be determined.

The Lady ‘Lopes made a game of it for the better part of three quarters against the Lancers but missed opportunities to finish off plays at the rim offensively and turn-overs, 19 in all, took their toll against a team that will be headed for their second WPIAL championship game in the last three years.

Anastasia Heinold scored four points in the first quarter, while Alexa Davis and Kat Goetz each added baskets, but Neshannock knocked down a couple of three-pointers late in the period and that enabled them to move ahead 15-8.

Davis highlighted the Antelope offense in the second quarter with a couple of three-balls, while Hayden Robinson and Lauren Pflueger added baskets. Avonworth trailed 22-13 when Davis hit on a shot from beyond the arc in the right corner and Hayden Robinson scored on a spin move in the lane to put the score at 22-18 at the half.

A put-back basket by Goetz with just under two minutes gone by in the third quarter had the Lady ‘Lopes trailing 22-20, but they weren't able to move in from there. Hayden Robinson provided the rest of Avonworth's offense with four points, but missed opportunities at the offensive end allowed Neshannock to extend their lead at 32-24 to end the third quarter.

The deficit for the Lopes became double digits and that was due in large part to Lancers’ superstar Bella Burrelli, who scored 13 of her game-high 24 points in the fourth quarter.

Hayden Robinson and Heinold combined for nine points but Avonworth was out-pointed 15-13 in the final period to fall 47-37.

Hayden Robinson and Davis finished with 10 points each, followed by Heinold with nine points and Goetz with six points.

Avonworth made it to the semifinals after defeating Carlynton in a quarterfinal game played at Sewickley Academy last Saturday, 48-38.

"I told the girls it was going to come down to foul shots and that we learn from our mistakes and we got better at it today." said D'Alessandris.

The Lady ‘Lopes implemented their full court press defensively from the start and that created problems for the Cougars that allowed Avonworth to take the early lead.

Harris Robinson put the 'Lopes on the board quickly with a drive to the hoop off of the tip-off, and Goetz converted a three-point play after being fouled on a put-back basket. Harris Robinson followed with a baseline drive for a score and the Antelopes went ahead 7-0 with a little over three minutes gone by in the first quarter.

Goetz added another basket in transition but Carlynton was able to get going offensively as they trailed 9-8 when the quarter ended.

The Cougars took their only lead on a basket from underneath to start the second quarter but the Robinson sisters combined for eight points and Alexa Davis converted a pair of free throws that gave Avonworth a 10-6 point advantage and a 19-14 halftime lead.

Transition baskets by Anastasia Heinold, Hayden Robinson and Lexi Mankey came in a 6-0 run that had the Lady ‘Lopes ahead 25-17 in the third quarter. Goetz converted a put-back on a fade away shot and Hayden Robinson converted a pair of free throws and scored on a put-back to increase the 'Lopes’ lead 31-21 to end the third period.

The teams traded scores through most of the fourth quarter but Carlynton made a move towards the lead after scoring from the lane and then converting on a three-point play to trail 40-36 with just under two minutes remaining in the game.

Avonworth converted 13 of 19 from the free throw line in the fourth quarter, including 6-8 from the stripe down the stretch to nail down their 48-38 victory.

The Robinson sisters finished with 12 points each, followed by Goetz with 10 points and Mankey with seven points.