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Penn-Trafford girls top Plum, advance in WPIAL playoffs

| Tuesday, Feb. 19, 2013, 10:18 p.m.
Penn-Trafford's Taylor Cortazzo pulls down a rebound as Nicole Hyland clears out Plum's Alyson Weifenbaugh during their WPIAL first-round playoff game Tuesday, February 19, 2013 at Woodland Hills High School. Eric Schmadel | Tribune-Review

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 pschofield@tribweb.com.

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