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Steel Valley struggles with fast-paced style in loss to Seton-La Salle

| Thursday, Jan. 10, 2013, 10:44 p.m.

Steel Valley got a bit of good news when the team found out that Seton-La Salle would be without senior center Natalie Piaggesi for their meeting Thursday.

As it turned out, the Rebels had more than enough offense to compensate for the loss of her 11.3 points per game.

In fact, by the time Seton-La Salle's leading scorer Naje Gibson hit a putback 1:48 into the game, Steel Valley was already down 11. And it only got worse as Nicolete Newman scored a game-high 21 points to lead three players in double figures and pace the defending WPIAL and PIAA Class AA champion and Trib Total Media Class AA No. 1 Rebels (10-1, 5-0) to a Section 4-AA 83-34 romp over the visiting Ironmen.

“It's very important because we wanted to take tempo, and we wanted to impose our will,” Seton-La Salle coach John Ashaolu said. “Getting up on them early, we wanted to kill their spirit and have them play our game.”

Playing an up-tempo, fast-break transition game was exactly what Steel Valley didn't want, yet Seton-La Salle was able to force turnovers and run the floor from the outset. By the time Steel Valley called timeout to slow things down, the Ironmen were already on the ropes.

“When they went on that 11-0 run — and we've seen it happen many times when Seton plays teams — I just tried to calm them down, and I told them that we had to breathe,” Steel Valley coach Kelly Sabo said.

“We were out there, our heads were down, and at that time, we were trying to play at Seton's pace, and that's definitely not what we wanted to do. We wanted to slow the pace down and have them get into our rhythm, and we ended up playing right into their hands.”

Newman hit Angela Heintz on a 2-on-1 that she converted into a layup for two of her 12 points with 5:31 left in the third quarter to make it 60-19 and put the 40-point mercy rule into effect. It is the second time this season Steel Valley has been the victim of a running-clock loss.

The Ironmen trailed, 51-14, at halftime.

“We didn't like how we played defensively in the first half because, no matter who you play, 51 points in the first half is unacceptable,” Sabo said. “The girls knew that, and they came out and played much better defensively in the second half.”

Even after this loss, Steel Valley (7-4, 3-2) remains in solid position to qualify for the WPIAL Class AA playoffs and might be one of the top six or seven teams in the classification. The Ironmen scored more points against Seton-La Salle than any Class AA team this season and have a solid enough cast to win a playoff game or two and make a return trip to the state tournament.

“We ran into the same thing last year because our section is so dominant, but like I told them last year and this year, by playing all those good teams when we went on our run last year, you could tell that we were used to the speed and that intensity,” Sabo said.

Keith Barnes is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach him at kbarnes@tribweb.com or via Twitter @KBarnes_Trib.

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