Keystone Oaks girls basketball overcomes slow start in Class AAA playoffs
Keystone Oaks girls basketball coach Nikki Presto wasn't exactly pleased with her team's performance against Mt. Pleasant in the preliminary round of the WPIAL Class AAA playoffs.
But when your team is in the postseason, the second-year coach said a win is a win.
“We find ways to win these close games,” Presto said. “You can't ask for much more than that.”
The Golden Eagles downed the Vikings, 45-39, after trailing by three at halftime and by as many as six points at other points in the game.
The Vikings jumped out to a 13-8 lead thanks to Alexa Szelong, who accounted for nine of her squad's early points. A late Maryssa Agurs basket cut the deficit to 15-10 at the end of the first quarter.
“They did a good job of breaking our full-court press,” Presto said. “They threw those long vertical passes and that kind of killed us. We also got in foul trouble which limits what we can do on defense and even offense because they called five charges.”
Mt. Pleasant maintained the lead until midway through the second quarter when Keystone Oaks made a run as Kayla Brownlee hit back-to-back jump shots and an Agurs driving layup put the Golden Eagles up 21-19.
Mt. Pleasant responded and Szelong hit two free throws with 14 seconds left to send the Vikings into half-time with a 25-22 lead.
Presto said her staff switched from a full-court press to a 2-2-1 half-court press during the break to try and stop the Vikings offense.
“It has been our go to in the second half if our press is struggling,” Presto said. “We wanted to try and force them to dribble the ball more and trap the ball once it got over half court.”
The third period saw the team's trade the lead or tie it up four times. Holly Kendall used a layup to tie the score at 32-32 and Brownlee hit a 3-pointer from the corner to put Keystone Oaks up at the end of third period. The Golden Eagles would not trail the rest of the game.
Brownlee led Keystone Oaks with 18 points – 12 of which came in the second half. Lexi Mercuri scored 12.
Mt. Pleasant was carried by Szelong's 25 points and Casey Zelenak's 10.
“We knew (Szelong) was their best guard and (Zelenka) would be a present inside,” Presto said. “We knew what we would be facing match up wise and we didn't do a good job of shutting them down. Our team managed to come through though.”
Keystone Oaks faced Burrell on Wednesday in the Class AAA first round. Results were unavailable at press time.
Nathan Smith is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-583-6847 or firstname.lastname@example.org.