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Monessen puts dent in Frazier's playoff hopes

| Wednesday, Feb. 6, 2013, 10:36 p.m.
Monessen's Mariah Ward (center) puts up a shot through the defense of Frazier's Kaley Barota (left) and Cassidy Guiser (right) during the third quarter of Monessen's match up against Frazier held at Frazier High School on Wednesday, February 6, 2013.

When the Frazier girls basketball team took the floor Wednesday night for its Section 4-A home game against Monessen, the Commodores knew they controlled their own destiny for a spot in this year's WPIAL playoffs. But despite a fast start, the Commodores couldn't overcome some early foul trouble and were defeated by the Greyhounds, 45-39.

The loss left the Commodores' playoff hopes in peril. Frazier can still get into the postseason with a win tonight against section champion Serra. If Frazier loses, it will have to rely on Monessen beating Clairton on Saturday. Given Monessen's surge in recent weeks, some help from the Greyhounds is a real possibility.

Monessen has won four in a row and has climbed from fifth place to second in the section. The Greyhounds can clinch second place with a win against the Bears. Monessen's turnaround has been led by Mariah Ward and Chelsea Szakal.

Against the Commodores, Ward (19 points) and Szakal (16 points) were keys in helping Monessen clinch a playoff spot.

“Mariah and Chelsea had 35 points between them, and they have done their jobs as seniors,” Monessen coach Gina Naccarato said. Naccarato also mentioned that many of the young players on the team have gained confidence throughout the season, which also has helped the Greyhounds continue to improve.

Frazier (9-10, 4-5) is also a team looking to improve, and it was the better team in the first quarter. Lauren Timko knocked down three shots to help Frazier build an 11-5 lead. But Timko got into foul trouble, and with the Commodores leading, 16-13, she picked up her third foul midway through the second period and was forced to sit. With Timko on the sideline, the Greyhounds went on a 7-0 run and held a 23-21 lead at the half.

In the third, both teams tightened up defensively, but Cassidy Guiser kept Frazier in the game by knocking down two of her six 3-pointers. Guiser finished with a team-high 18 points, and Timko scored 14 points.

Heading to the fourth, Monessen (8-11, 5-4) held a slim 29-28 lead, but that's when Ward took over. Ward hit three baskets in the fourth, including two 3-pointers. She also knocked down four free throws to help the Greyhounds gain some breathing room.

“Ward is a good leader, and she sets the tone for them,” Frazier coach Shara Zupanc said.

Frazier continued to battle, but two more 3-pointers from Guiser were the only baskets the Commodores could muster in the decisive fourth quarter.

“We've struggled offensively,” Zupanc said. “We knew it was going to be a tough battle, and it was. I thought we played much better than we did against Clairton (a 48-44 loss to the Bears on Tuesday). We needed to play better, and I'm happy that we did that, but it wasn't enough to get the job done.”

For the Commodores, a chance to clinch a playoff spot was lost, but there is still plenty of hope for a spot in the postseason.

“I know they are disappointed,” Zupanc said. “But it takes time to build a program, and we've come a long way. All we can do now is get back to work.”

Jason Black is the Local Sports Editor of the Daily Courier. He can be reached at jblack@tribweb.com.

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