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Dixon's big second half leads Steel Valley to preliminary-round win

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By Keith Barnes
Friday, Feb. 15, 2013, 9:15 p.m.

Avonworth came up with a solid game plan to contain Steel Valley senior CeCe Dixon when the two teams faced off Friday in the preliminary round of the WPIAL Class AA playoffs.

Well, for a half anyway.

Dixon, the Ironmen's leading scorer, scored 21 of her game-high 23 points in the second half as Steel Valley (15-7) rolled to a 59-34 victory over Avonworth (13-9) at Peters Township.

“Everyone just picked their game up, and it's really great that we have the players that can do that,” said Steel Valley senior forward Melissa Cerda, who had seven points and nine rebounds. “It just shows everyone that we have other people, as well.”

Dixon was held to only two points in the first half as she spent considerable time on the bench with two fouls.

Despite that, things started well for Steel Valley as Cayley Labishak, who scored 11 of her 13 in the first half, hit a 3-pointer from the right side of the arc 17 seconds into the game.

But it was nearly seven minutes before the team scored again.

Steel Valley went 0 for 11 from the floor with four turnovers over the next 6:56.

“In the first half, they were putting two girls on CeCe ,and it opened things up for our guards, and a lot of people don't realize that we have some good-shooting guards,” Steel Valley coach Kelly Sabo said. “We have some girls that can really stick it, and we have some girls underneath that battled. (We) won the game on the boards, and it was just a matter of time until CeCe gets hot.”

It was a golden opportunity for Avonworth to take control of the game, but the Lopes were having their own problems. They missed their first four shots from the field and turned the ball over four times before Mackenzie Mayernik hit the team's first field goal on a putback to give them a 6-3 lead with 2:36 left in the first quarter.

They had scored their first four points on 4 of 4 shooting from the line.

Neither team shot well in the first half as Steel Valley made only 8 of 30 (26.7 percent) and Avonworth converted just 7 of 23 (30.4), but the Ironmen were helped out by five threes — three by Labishak and the other two by Lacey Gori, who finished with 11 — as they took a 26-22 lead into halftime.

After that, it was all Dixon as she scored six points in the third quarter and dominated inside with nine of her 13 rebounds after thalftime.

Considering this was a preliminary-round game, however, the challenge for Steel Valley will increase.

The Ironmen will take on fifth-seeded Jeannette (15-6) and the WPIAL's leading scorer, Charlotte recruit Ciara Gregory (30.4 ppg).

And these teams have a history as the Jayhawks knocked the Ironmen out of the WPIAL Class AA playoffs in 2011 with a 70-66 victory at Gateway.

“For me, it's about the battle with Jeannette, not her,” Cerda said. “They beat us in the playoffs two years ago, and we still remember that.”

Keith Barnes is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at or via Twitter @KBarnes_Trib.

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