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Belle Vernon takes advantage of technical, stuns West Mifflin

| Monday, Jan. 28, 2013, 11:18 p.m.
West Mifflin's #2 Taylor Thomas drives past Belle Vernon's #40 Jessica Slagus at Belle Vernon.
Jim Ference |  The Valley Independent
West Mifflin's #2 Taylor Thomas drives past Belle Vernon's #40 Jessica Slagus at Belle Vernon. Jim Ference | The Valley Independent

West Mifflin had a series sweep of Section 4-AAA rival Belle Vernon all but clinched Monday night with 0.7 seconds remaining in the fourth quarter.

Clinging to a three-point lead, Alyssa Cairns grabbed a rebound off a desperation Leopards' 3-pointer and got to midcourt before she was fouled.

She headed for the line to shoot two free throws to put it away.

Then everything changed.

West Mifflin was called for a technical foul for a player leaving the bench in celebration, which allowed Belle Vernon forward Jessica Slagus to hit a game-tying layup at the end of regulation and propelled the Leopards to a stunning 64-58 overtime victory over the Titans.

“There were a lot of questionable calls all night, and I even thought I heard a buzzer. We were all excited,” West Mifflin coach Rob Yeschenko said. “I had five people on the court. It was a mistake. People are going to make mistakes, and a mental mistake hurts. We had the game won.”

West Mifflin (7-10, 6-3) came from nine points down with six minutes remaining in the fourth quarter to take the lead, 49-48, on Cairns' layup with 28 seconds left.

After Taylor Thomas made two free throws with 11.6 seconds remaining to give the Titans a three-point lead, Belle Vernon needed a miracle shot to tie it and send it to overtime.

Instead of one, it got three.

After Cairns made one of two from the line to give West Mifflin a 52-48 lead, Meaghan Murphy came off the bench to hit both free throws from the technical to move Belle Vernon (13-4, 7-2) within two. On the ensuing possession, Phaedra DeWitt inbounded the ball from midcourt and found Slagus for the layup that tied the score.

“If someone would have told me that being down four with 0.7 seconds left that we would come back and win, I would never have believed it,” Belle Vernon coach Lisa Fairman said. “I have a class act of girls on the bench that never quit, they kept their composure and … we have a no-quit mentality and they gave me everything they had.”

West Mifflin had an opportunity to put it away early in overtime after taking a 54-52 lead on a pair of Cairns free throws.

But the team made just 2 of 8 from the line in the extra period.

Scoring from the floor was especially difficult for West Mifflin, considering that Jessica and Kaitlyn Slagus dominated the Titans in the paint.

The Leopards had a 61-24 rebounding edge; Kaitlyn finished with 17 points and 22 boards, and Jessica had 15 points and 20 rebounds.

Cairns led West Mifflin with 15 points and eight rebounds, but the team also received a much-needed spark. Junior guard Ciara Patterson played her first game this season after missing the first 16 contests with what the team called a medical condition. Patterson came off the bench with 2:45 remaining in the first quarter and scored 10 points before fouling out with 3:46 left in regulation.

“I had heard that (Patterson) was dressing and that she was going to play junior varsity. I knew this was a big game, and she was a big player,” Fairman said. “I already had in my game plan what we were going to do with her when she came in.”

Patterson was one of five players — three for the Titans and two for the Leopards — to foul out in a game that featured 52 fouls and started with a team technical on West Mifflin (Its scorebook was one short of the required players needing to be listed.) Despite that, none of the fouls was bigger than the technical at the end of regulation.

“There were fans on the court and it was a questionable call, but it is what it is,” Yeschenko said. “At that point, we're up four … and I knew the game was pretty much sealed. They got the ball down for a layup and it was a mental mistake, and there were a lot of mental mistakes at the end.”

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

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