Lady Indians end three-year WPIAL playoff drought
The Penn Hills Lady Indians might have lost their first-round playoff game to Norwin, but for coach John Tate, it's hardly a reason to hang their heads.
Norwin put its height to good use and broke the Lady Indians' pressure defense, as 14th-seeded Norwin advanced with a 68-56 win over Penn Hills at Gateway High School in their WPIAL Class AAAA playoff game Feb. 15.
Tate, in his first year as head coach, said he's satisfied with his team's turnaround this year, which saw the Lady Indians end a three-year playoff drought.
“We looked back at it overall, and for the most part, we're happy,” Tate said.
“There were some games we thought we should have won that we didn't, but we didn't lose to one team that didn't make the playoffs.”
Jade Ely led all scorers with 26 points for Penn Hills (9-14), and Gloria Schifino had 11 points and six assists for the Indians, who reached the playoffs as a fourth-place team by going 7-3 over their final 10 regular-season games.
Penn Hills caused some early troubles for Norwin with its full-court press, and Ely had a big first quarter with eight points in the opening five minutes.
The Indians led, 12-10, but that was their final advantage of the game.
By halftime, the Knights had a 44-23 lead, but Penn Hills put up more resistance in the second half.
The Indians put together a 10-4 run of their own and ended the third quarter with two baskets in the final minute to close the lead to 52-41.
But Norwin answered with an inside basket by Rachel DelleFemine and a 3-pointer by Gribble to start the final quarter and effectively put the game out of reach.
While the playoff loss was a disappointment, Tate was focused on the positives strides his team made throughout the season.
“We won more games this year than the last two seasons combined, and we're very proud of that,” he said.
“I think we've turned the page on Penn Hills girls basketball not being taken seriously. We're very confident that we've turned that corner.”
The squad will lose two senior starters: leading scorer Gloria Schifino and Ryan Glaze, who Tate said is the team's best post player.
“It's a credit to those young ladies that they'll be hard to replace,” Tate said.
“They spent three years playing with a totally different philosophy, and I think a lot of our success can be credited to those two ladies buying in and helping to lead our underclassmen.”
Matt Grubba is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-388-5830 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Trib Total Media Editor Patrick Varine contributed to this story.