Late rally can't shake Shady Side Academy girls basketball team

South Allegheny's Abby Dranko drives for a layup against Shady Side Academy's Gab Harchelroad (32) and Audrey Koi (15) on Tuesday, Jan. 22, 2013.   Ronald Vezzani Jr./Daily News
South Allegheny's Abby Dranko drives for a layup against Shady Side Academy's Gab Harchelroad (32) and Audrey Koi (15) on Tuesday, Jan. 22, 2013. Ronald Vezzani Jr./Daily News
| Tuesday, Jan. 22, 2013, 11:54 p.m.

South Allegheny has been in close section games all season, only to have its inexperience show up at the most inopportune times.

Shady Side Academy (6-9, 4-4 Section 3-AA) became the latest team to expose that key weakness in the Gladiators as the Indians held off a late flurry to come away with a 37-32 victory.

“We definitely had some good looks at the end, but the ball just wasn't falling for us,” South Allegheny coach Ashleigh Hays said. “We didn't want to have it come down to one possession again.”

South Allegheny (7-9, 2-6) trailed, 35-30, with a little more than a minute remaining, but appeared to have Shady Side Academy on the ropes. The Gladiators forced a pair of turnovers but missed two layups that could have made it a one-possession game.

Finally, South Allegheny forward Allison Couch was able to convert on a Shady Side Academy miscue when she converted a two-shot foul to cut the deficit to 35-32 with 38.9 seconds remaining. The Indians failed on the front ends of two one-and-ones that would have closed it out, so the Gladiators still had hope on their final possession.

South Allegheny got the ball to its leading scorer, Jaylee Patterson, for three attempts at 3-pointers, but the first was blocked out of bounds from behind and the other two caromed off the rim. Shady Side Academy finally corralled a rebound with 0.6 seconds remaining and, after a failed free-throw attempt, Audrey Koi hit a putback at the buzzer to close it out.

“We survived,” Shady Side Academy coach Audrey Scott said. “Defensively, we were trying to challenge their outside shots and not give them any threes. Once we got under a minute and they weren't getting threes, I figured we'd hit our foul shots and we'd be OK.”

Considering that both teams were on the outside looking in at the WPIAL Class AA playoffs coming into the game, both knew the necessity of a key win Tuesday night. They also knew their how much their desperation had been magnified after Riverview pulled off a dramatic upset of first-place Jeannette on Monday.

“I knew that South Allegheny had improved tremendously because I'd been looking at their scores in the paper, and I saw they beat Springdale, and I knew this was not going to be an easy game,” Scott said. “I told my kids before the game that every single game is a playoff game and we're not in the playoffs (yet), and it's just about surviving these next few games.”

Though the game came down to its last possession, South Allegheny had an opportunity to put the game away in the first half. The Gladiators shrugged off an early Shady Side Academy lead and went on an 11-2 run to take a 17-11 lead as Patterson, who led the team with 11 points, scored seven in that tear and capped it with her only 3-pointer with 2:05 remaining in the first half.

That was also where Shady Side Academy turned the game completely in its favor. The Indians closed the half on a 7-0 run aided by four Gladiators turnovers, then scored the first six of the third quarter for a 24-17 lead.

“I think the end of the second quarter is where we lost momentum a little bit and never really got it back,” Hays said. “I think we kept fighting to get it back after that. We've had it where its coming down to one possession, but we want to get it to where it's not coming down to one possession and keep the momentum and keep the lead.”

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

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