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Blairsville falls to the stall in District 6 Class AA playoffs

| Thursday, March 1, 2012

The Blairsville girls basketball team's run to the District 6 Class AA championship game stalled Wednesday in the semifinals at Bishop Carroll High School.

Led by coach Ralph McGinnis, who coached at Blairsville and still lives there, Richland slowed it down in the fourth quarter for a 54-43 win.

Richland (19-6) will play Forest Hills in the championship game at 6:30 p.m. Saturday at St. Francis (Pa.). Blairsville (20-4) still can make the PIAA playoffs, but it must defeat Westmont Hilltop on Friday in the consolation game.

"I'm not a good loser, so I don't have much to say," first-year Blairsville coach P.J. Vrankovich said. "I was surprised (McGinnis) went to the stall so early. It's a scared strategy. It showed us that they couldn't keep up with our pressure. I would have loved to see a shot clock."

Richland successfully slowed Blairsville in the second half after trailing, 27-21, at halftime. Blairsville used a 14-0 run and forced 12 turnovers in the second quarter to erase a 17-9 deficit. Richland finished with 25 turnovers.

"They had the momentum and we needed to get it back, so we spread them out," McGinnis said. "We were able to get a couple buckets behind their defense."

Richland used a 3-pointer by Katie Gehlmann in the third quarter during an 8-0 run to grab a 29-27 lead. A basket by Blairsville senior Molly McGuckin tied the score, but Gehlmann's second 3-pointer of the quarter gave Richland the lead for good.

Late in the third quarter, Kaija Holtzman got loose and converted three consecutive baskets in the final 1:20 of the period, which pushed the lead to 38-33. That's when McGinnis called for the stall.

Blairsville was able to stay within three points for much of the game, but it struggled from the field in the final quarter, making only 3 of 16 when it did get a shot.

"That was Kaija's best game of the season," McGinnis said. "She really wanted this game."

Holtzman finished with 12 points and seven rebounds. Richland was led by Sarah Pfeil, who had 23 points and nine rebounds, and Gehlmann's 16 points. Freshman Chelsey Koren paced Blairsville with 15 points, and junior Mackenzie Livingston had 10.

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