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Connellsville girls basketball team bows to Albert Gallatin

| Monday, Jan. 14, 2013, 11:02 p.m.
Connellsville's Saiah Mickens (center) looks for an open teammate while being stopped by Albert Gallatin's defense during the first half of Connellsville's contest against Albert Gallatin held at Connellsville Area High School on Monday, january 14, 2013. Evan R. Sanders | Daily Courier

After beating Laurel Highlands, 53-34, last week for its first Section 1-AAAA win of the season, the Connellsville girls basketball team had hoped to ride that momentum into Monday's section showdown against visiting Albert Gallatin.

But despite a second-half rally from a seven-point deficit, the Falcons couldn't find a way to make it two section wins in a row, losing to the Colonials in overtime, 45-39.

“We always fight, but it's just finishing,” Connellsvillle coach Shawna Little said. “I had higher expectations. The team that pummeled Laurel Highlands didn't show up.”

Connellsville didn't finish, but it may have been a slow start that proved to be the ultimate culprit in the Falcons' defeat. Connellsville managed just six points in each of the first two quarters.

“We have to score early and score often to win games,” Little said. “We didn't do that.”

The Colonials (6-7, 2-5) weren't much better through the first two quarters, but they held a 14-12 lead at the half.

Then at the start of the third quarter, the Colonials scored on their first four possessions to build a 22-15 lead. Courtney Haines, Taylor Spence and Diamond Madison each scored in the quarter and each finished with eight points.

But after a timeout, the Falcons (6-9, 1-6) finally began to find their game. Ashton Grimm, Saiah Mickens and Maria Merendino each started to produce. And when Merendino hit a basket with just under three minutes remaining in the game, Connellsville had taken a 34-33 lead. Merendino led Connellsville with 10 points. Mickens and Grimm each had nine points.

The Colonials were able to tie the score on a basket by Casey Parsons with 25 seconds left. Then in overtime, Albert Gallatin's Ally Rudolph took over.

Rudolph scored eight points in the first half but was held scoreless in the second half. However, in the extra frame, she hit a 3-pointer and helped seal the win with four foul shots on her way to a 15-point effort.

“She stepped up,” Albert Gallatin coach Dawn Spence said. “She understands she has to be patient, and she hit the big 3. She can also make big free throws, and she did that. I thought both sides played well, and I think we are finally being a little more patient on offense.”

For the Falcons, the offense is still very much a work in progress.

“They shoot and shoot and shoot in practice and they knock them down,” Little said. “But (in games) you have to step up and believe you'll make it. Showing more discipline on offense will help.”

Jason Black is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach him at jblack@tribweb.com.

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