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Kotchman carries Trinity girls into state title game

| Tuesday, March 21, 2017, 10:21 p.m.

Sometimes a player is just on her game. That was the case Tuesday night with Sierra Kotchman.

The senior guard from Trinity handled all the pressure and different looks South Fayette threw at her in a PIAA 5A girls basketball semifinal, scoring 30 points to lead the Hillers to a 61-51 come-from-behind win and their first state final appearance.

She knew she would be the main focus for the opposition, but all that attention didn't matter.

“I was just shooting my open shots,” Kotchman said. “And I had to make them because I wanted to win.”

When South Fayette (20-7) changed up its strategy at various points in hopes of containing her, often by having two or sometimes three defenders marking her, Kotchman just went and found a different pocket of space, however small.

“Kotchman was just in another world tonight,” South Fayette coach Matt Bacco said. “I mean it was like she was possessed… You just have to tip your hat to her.”

Though Trinity (26-3) trailed for all of the first half and most of the third quarter, it never seemed out of the game, responding well after the Lions went on a 12-2 run to open the contest.

Trinity coach Bob Miles called a timeout at that point to focus the team, telling players to just play and stop standing around on defense. They got the message, holding South Fayette to six field goals in the second half after closing the deficit to 32-28 at half.

Kotchman said and her teammates knew they would complete a comeback because of the trust and belief they have in each other.

Such persistence paid off when Jayme Britton made her second free throw, her only point in the game, with one minute, 28 seconds remaining in the third quarter, which resulted in a brief 38-37 lead. South Fayette would go back ahead fewer than 30 seconds later, though it finished that quarter with just seven total points.

Trinity, of course, answered back, and this time it was for good. Alayna Capelli drained a baseline 3-pointer to put Trinity up 40-38 with around half a minute left in the quarter.

While her teammates played key roles in gaining the lead, Kotchman was the catalyst. She led all scorers at the break with 17 points, 12 of which came from 3s.

Her distance from range would lead to the game's most electric moment.

After South Fayette senior Carlee Kilgus made a free throw with 3.3 seconds remaining in the third quarter, Kotchman received the baseline inbounds and straight-lined her way to the left wing, where she banked in an angled 3-pointer at the buzzer. The triple added to the Hillers' sudden lead and sent the sizeable student section decked out in blue and white into a frenzy.

Kotchman and Miles said the team runs through late-clock offensive situations at the beginning of every practice, so there was a level of comfort when she had to execute it in a game.

“I knew once it left my hands it was going in,” Kotchman said. “And I banked it, too. I called the bank.”

She would continue her hot streak when the final quarter began, hitting a 3-pointer to restart the scoring and adding another to maintain her team's lead.

“When we pulled away, we knew we were going,” Kotchman said. “I just knew I had to step up and hit my shots and get my teammates rolling.”

The Hillers will face Archbishop Wood (27-3) at 6 p.m. Saturday in Hershey for the state title.

Jasper Wilson is a freelance writer.

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