Penn-Trafford girls top Plum, advance in WPIAL playoffs
Taylor Cortazzo made sure history wasn't going to repeat itself in the opening round of the WPIAL Class AAAA playoffs.
Last year, Penn-Trafford lost, 42-41, to Shaler in the first round.
On Tuesday, the Penn-Trafford senior guard made her team's first three shots, including two 3-pointers, in the first quarter to help Penn-Trafford to a 50-40 victory over Plum at Woodland Hills.
Penn-Trafford will play Bethel Park, which defeated Norwin, 61-31, in the quarterfinals Friday at a time and site to be determined.
Cortazzo scored a game-high 16 points, and sophomore forward Maria Palarino added 15 as Penn-Trafford raced to an 18-7 first-quarter lead.
“The feeling in my head from last year hasn't gone away,” Cortazzo said. “I said, that's not happening again. I felt if I could make the shots, we'd relax.”
Penn-Trafford's quick start ruined Plum's game.
“Cortazzo hit two shots that were daggers in the first quarter,” Plum coach Bernie Pucka said. “With our size and their five guards, it's a tough matchup for us. We had a game plan of high-low. We were looking to attack underneath. Things didn't go quite as planned. Penn-Trafford is a scrappy team and well-coached. That neutralized our height.”
Penn-Trafford's defense forced 18 turnovers, and Plum only made 14 of 48 shots. Penn-Trafford was 19 for 38 from the field.
“We came out very focused, very patient and poised,” Penn-Trafford coach John Giannikas said. “We shot the ball very well, and it loosened them up defensively. I couldn't be prouder; we executed how we wanted them to.”
Cortazzo added: “We started out really strong, but it was our defense that kept us in the game. When it came down to the end, we had to finish. Even though we committed a couple fouls, we were able to finish.”
Cassie Patterson's basket pushed Penn-Trafford's lead to 20-9 early in the second quarter, but it was Palarino's layup at the buzzer that gave Penn-Trafford a 27-18 lead at halftime.
Early in the second half, things started going Plum's way. It held Penn-Trafford scoreless for more than five minutes, but Plum scored only two points to cut the lead to 27-20.
That's when Cortazzo drained a 3-pointer and Casey Aunkst converted a steal into a layup to push the Penn-Trafford lead to 32-20.
“When I shot the ball, I knew it was going in,” Cortazzo said. “As a captain, it's my job to get my team to relax.”
Krista Pietropola led Plum with 13 points. Courtney Zezza, a 6-foot-3 sophomore, had 11 points and five blocked shots.
Paul Schofield is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.