Bethel Park girls survive quarterfinals test from Penn-Trafford
Bethel Park's patience was tested in its WPIAL quarterfinal, but a fourth-quarter surge was enough for the Black Hawks to advance.
Megan Marecic scored 22 points, and third-seeded Bethel Park limited No. 6 Penn-Trafford to five points in the final quarter to reach the WPIAL Class AAAA semifinals with a 43-34 win Friday at Baldwin High School.
Samantha Simpson added 10 points for Bethel Park (21-3), which advances to face No. 7 Gateway on Tuesday at a site and time to be determined. Bethel Park also clinched a berth in the PIAA tournament with the win.
Taylor Cortazzo scored 14 points to lead Penn-Trafford (19-5), which will need Bethel Park to win the WPIAL title to qualify for the state tournament and have its season continue.
Penn-Trafford came into the game with the intention of playing a methodical, half-court game, and the strategy worked to limit Bethel Park to a 30-29 lead at the end of the third quarter.
“(Penn-Trafford is) a patient kind of team. They work the ball around a lot, and that was a concern for us,” Bethel Park coach Jonna Burke said. “Sometimes we play good defense for 30 seconds, but in the last five seconds, we foul or break down.”
The Black Hawks picked up the defensive intensity to force two Penn-Trafford turnovers early in the fourth quarter, and back-to-back hoops by Paige Kochka-Puskar and Simpson extended the lead to 35-29.
Penn-Trafford cut the lead to two, but Bethel Park would not allow a field goal in the final four minutes and never relinquished the lead.
“It was very important for us to hold onto the lead,” Burke said. “They have many offensive weapons that can score at any time, so to be able to get a few buckets was big, just to give us a little more confidence and room to breathe.”
Marecic only scored four points in the final quarter, but as the Penn-Trafford defense extended, Bethel Park's top scorer had two key assists to Simpson to help her team pull away late.
“That was a great game between two good teams. They just made a couple more baskets and a couple more plays down the stretch,” Penn-Trafford coach John Giannikas said.
Bethel Park looked as though it might pull away early in the game, when it pushed out to a 20-9 lead. Penn-Trafford rallied with 3-pointers from Cortazzo and Maddy Mossellem to finish the first half on a 9-0 run.
The Warriors continued into the third quarter with momentum and twice took the lead, the second time at 27-25 on a layup by Cortazzo. Marecic answered with a 3-pointer on the other end, and P-T never lead again.
“When we gave up that 9-0 run at the end of the second quarter, we felt like we had given the momentum back to them,” Burke said. “It was close the rest of the way, but we made shots at the end, and we made our foul shots.”
Giannikas added: “We felt real good about where we were throughout the game. I thought defensively, we played hard, and on offense, we got some good looks. Hats off to (Bethel Park) for making their shots when they needed them.”
Matt Grubba is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.