Serra Catholic girls reclaim section title
Before leaving the school for a Section 4-A game at Clairton, Serra Catholic coach Bill Cleary took a look at the girls basketball banners hanging in the gym and could think of only one thing.
“Boy, it's been that long,” Cleary said. “I couldn't believe it was that long ago.”
Well, when you win nine consecutive section championships from 1999-2007 and have a 57-game section winning streak within that period, four years sure can seem like an eternity.
However, the wait is over.
After handing the section reins over to Fort Cherry for a year and Monessen the past two, Cleary can add a “2013” to the the championship banners following a 60-24 shellacking of Clairton that clinched the Section 4-A title with two games left. Monessen's 49-47 win over Winchester Thurston on Thursday helped clinch the outright title for the Eagles.
It was Cleary's 12th section title in 26 seasons and 13th since the school started playing basketball in 1977.
“We may have taken the section titles for granted back then because our goal was always a little loftier,” Cleary said. “It is always nice to win the section. Every team comes out and says that is definitely goal No. 1. We accomplished that, and now we have another week of section games and want to close it out on a good note.
“It's been a rough couple years getting the program back where we wanted it, but it is nice to get there,” added Cleary, who has 516 career wins. “I told the girls that we can hang another banner, and nobody really responded. I guess we just have other things we want to accomplish.”
Serra (16-2, 8-0) put together a balanced scoring attack led by Leslie Hoye's 13 points. Jessie Manfredi and Katie Sieg added 10 each, while Nicole Pero chipped in with nine points and nine rebounds.
Clairton (6-11, 3-5) got nine points from Kamara Townes and eight from Justice Hall, while Taleese Ogletree added 10 rebounds.
Despite beating Clairton by 45 three weeks ago, the Eagles struggled early against an aggressive Clairton team.
Serra led only 11-7 after the first quarter in large part because of poor shooting. It hit only 3 of 12 shots from the floor.
“We were sleepwalking,” Cleary said. “You have to give Clairton credit; they came out and were ready to play. They were very aggressive in their zone, and they caught us off guard a little bit.”
But after that, Serra showed why it is one of the top teams in Class A.
Over the next 15:53, Serra would outscore Clairton, 31-3.
The Eagles went on an 18-3 run to end the second quarter and started the second half by scoring the first 12 points to open a 41-13 lead with a minute left in the third quarter.
“Once we started to generate a little pressure in the second quarter and got some transition baskets, we took control of the game,” Cleary said.
Clairton could muster only two field goals — a Townes 3-pointer in the third and a Hall jumper in the fourth — the entire second half.
“You have to be aware of Townes and Ogletree,” Cleary said. “Ogletree can get to the basket pretty well, and Townes can bang the threes. We just played some solid defense and wore them down a little bit.”