Lady Planets edge Kittanning
When Kittanning's Emily Knepshield needed a buzzer-beating 3-pointer the most, she missed a little to the left.
The junior guard sank a shot from behind the arc just before time expired during each of the first three quarters in a 50-46 loss at Section 1-AAA foe Mars (6-4, 2-0) on Thursday night.
Knepshield, who finished with a team-high 19 points for Kittanning (5-5, 3-1), nearly did the inconceivable with less than 10 seconds left in the game, but her off-the-mark attempt allowed the Lady Planets to hang on and beat the Lady Wildcats for the ninth time in 11 meetings.
“She gave me 100 percent all night,” Kittanning coach Janelle Kotyk said. “It should never come down to a last shot, though. That's nothing I want to ever put on a kid. That happened because of missed opportunities throughout the entire game.”
Knepshield fueled the offense in the first half with 14 points. She also anchored a fierce man-to-man defense that contributed to Mars' 18 turnovers, as she locked down the Lady Planets' star sophomore guard, Sarah Getsy, for much of the game.
But Knepshield's weakness in the contest, free throw shooting, became contagious among the Lady Wildcats, who made just 12 of 24 from the foul line.
“It's something that we work on every day,” Kotyk said. “It's a matter of focus and execution when you get in a game situation.”
Knepshield made the only two of her six free throws with 2:53 left in the game to put Kittanning ahead, 44-43. But Mars answered with its go-to forward, sophomore Ali Goetz, whose putback allowed the Lady Planets to reclaim the lead.
A bucket in the paint by Sydney Cloak with 2:23 left gave Kittanning a one-point lead, but Mars went back ahead with two free throws by Daniella Paras, and it extended the lead with more foul shots.
“We've been in some close games earlier this year,” Mars coach Tony Howard said. “We fell behind again tonight. I think they kind of took it as a challenge upon themselves.”
Paras and Goetz, the Planets' best inside players, stepped up their scoring in the second half. They also helped Mars finish with a 30-24 edge in rebounding.
Getsy, meanwhile, finished with 14 points.
Kittanning continued to explore solutions for the absence of its two injured starters, seniors Frankie Religa (knee) and Taylor Patterson (wrist).
Sophomore guard Alaina Thomas provided an acceptable alternative Thursday with 11 points, all of which came in the second half.
Thomas made three 3-pointers as part of a 6-for-14 performance from that range by the Lady Wildcats.
“We've gone over the fact that whatever five are on the floor, it's the same expectations and the same concepts,” Kotyk said. “We feel comfortable with whoever we put out there.”