Heinle lifts St. Joseph past Avella
St. Joseph girls basketball coach Dan Slain is no stranger to metaphors when it comes to describing his team's play.
On Saturday, he pulled a new one out of the garage.
“Sometimes, we have slow starts,” Slain said. “We're like a car on a January morning. Chug, chug, chug. Once we get that motor running, we can kick it into gear and roll.
“And Mallory Heinle is our engine.”
Heinle, the Spartans' 6-foot-1 junior forward, scored 20 of her game-high 24 points in the second half to lead 12th-seeded St. Joseph to a 45-30 upset of No. 5 Avella in a Class A first-round playoff game at North Hills.
St. Joseph (11-12) advances to the quarterfinals, where it will face No. 4 Quigley (17-5) on Feb. 23 at a time and site to be determined.
Quigley, which beat St. Joseph, 49-43, earlier this season, advanced with an 81-38 win over California.
“We just need to get into a groove and keep it going,” said Heinle, who also pulled down eight rebounds. “We started slow, but a lot of people stepped up to keep us in the game.”
Avella (13-9) played without its leading scorer, 5-9 senior center Olivia English, who missed the game with a neck injury.
“When we saw her with the neck brace on, my heart sank,” Slain said. “You hate to see something like that happen. But I lost two of my girls in the same game on Jan. 7. It's never easy.”
Heinle and 5-10 junior forward Nikki Mielecki have missed extended time with ankle injuries. But with both in the lineup, the Spartans are looking to make noise.
Mielecki also had eight rebounds and four assists Saturday.
“We're not 100 percent yet, but at least we know we'll get some rest (before the second round),” Heinle said.
St. Joseph had only eight turnovers, and, as Slain pointed out, moved to 10-1 when committing 12 or fewer.
“We're 1-11 when we go the other way,” Slain said. “Our kids played hard today. We stress defense, rebounding and sharing the ball. Everybody got into the book.”
St. Joseph led, 15-12, at halftime but wasted no time pulling away in the second half. A 10-2 run pushed the lead to 26-14 and nine straight points by Heinle helped St. Joseph take a 39-19 lead. Heinle hit two 3-pointers in the third, showing she is more than a post player.
“We're glad to be moving on,” Heinle said. “We know Quigley well, so we think we can definitely give them a game.”
Heinle has 869 career points despite missing 10 games due to injury.
Bill Beckner Jr. is the local sports editor of the Valley News Dispatch. Reach him at email@example.com.