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Girls basketball takes first section loss

| Wednesday, Jan. 9, 2013, 8:55 p.m.
Penn-Trafford's Taylor Cortazzo leads a fast break as Hempfield Area guard Mary Burns trails her during their January 3, 2013 contest in Hempfield Township. Eric Schmadel | Tribune-Review

For the second straight year, Penn-Trafford is looking up at Hempfield early in the girls basketball season.

Monica Burns scored 21 points to help the Spartans hand P-T its first section loss of the year, 55-44, in the first game of a girls/boys doubleheader on Friday at Hempfield.

Last season, the loss to Hempfield (10-2, 5-0) was the only one for Penn-Trafford (8-2, 4-1) in Section 1-AAAA, as the Warriors won the rematch and finished 11-1 to claim the section title.

This year will have to be more of the same for Penn-Trafford, which finished play on Monday in a three-way tie for second with Norwin and Latrobe.

“We know we have to take it one game at a time, but we've seen this before,” Penn-Trafford coach John Giannikas said. “There's no room for any error.”

Maria Palarino was the lone Warrior to score in double figures with 13, and Penn-Trafford fell behind early to a Spartans team that was the preseason pick to challenge the Warriors for the section crown.

“It was a good game. We just had a little trouble getting into a flow early,” Giannikas said. “They got a little cushion on us, and every time we made a run, they did a good job answering.”

Hempfield led by nine points at halftime, and while Penn-Trafford repeatedly pulled closer, the home team kept them at bay, in part because of 21-for-25 shooting from the foul line.

The loss was P-T's second straight after seven consecutive wins to open the season, but close regular-season road losses at North Allegheny and Hempfield could provide teaching moments that benefit the Warriors later in the season.

“We went to two tough places to play on the road and had a chance to win both games,” Giannikas said. “I told the kids there's nothing to be ashamed of. Hopefully, it will help us play longer in the playoff this year.”

The Warriors came back with a vengeance on Monday night by hammering Albert Gallatin (4-6, 1-4) at home, 76-16.

The Colonials had no answer for P-T's defense and fast-break game, which Palarino led with a game-high 28 points. Casey Aunkst and Taylor Cortazzo both added 10 points for Penn-Trafford.

“We played tremendously on offense and got out on the fast break in the first half,” Giannikas said. “What I liked is that we didn't try to do too much after the losses. We played our game.”

The schedule only gets tougher in the next three games for Penn-Trafford, which could have sole possession of second place in less than a week.

The Warriors travel to Latrobe on Thursday at 7:30 p.m., and after a nonsection game Saturday at 1 p.m. against Greensburg Central Catholic at Seton Hill, Penn-Trafford hosts Norwin in the opener of another girls/boys doubleheader at 6 p.m.

“The game Thursday is huge; we take every nonsection opponent seriously; and Norwin, that's always a big game for both teams,” Giannikas said. “We still have a lot of work to do, and it starts Thursday if we want to keep pace in the section.”

Matt Grubba is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-388-5830 or

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