Jeannette girls move forward in WPIAL playoffs
Down 14 midway through the second quarter of their WPIAL Class-AA quarterfinal matchup with Deer Lakes, a team that beat them by 20 in the regular season, the Jeannette girls basketball team faced an uphill battle.
They turned to their best hill climber, and in a span of four minutes, Ciara Gregory had scored 15 points and led her team back to a 35-33 halftime lead.
The Jayhawks surged in the second half to dispatch of the Lancers, 64-56 to set up a semifinal matchup with top-seeded Seton-LaSalle.
That game was held Tuesday and ended too late for this edition.
Jeannette head coach LuAnn Mills was quick to praise her superstar, but did not contain her compliments to Gregory alone.
“They all played great. They never gave up and played great,” said Mills.
The Jayhawks' coach was not nervous about a repeat of the regular season outcome because her team had a purpose in this matchup.
“The first game was a non-section game. This game meant something to them.”
Games that mean something have traditionally brought out the best in Jeannette in recent history, and, in particular, in Gregory. Jeanette's all-time leading scorer averaged just over 26 points per game in her career — more than 30 this season — but is well over 30 per game in her playoff career.
“Ciara always comes through when we need her most,” said Mills.
“I heard a coach from another team screaming at his players to not allow Ciara to get the ball. I'm not sure how they could do that because I don't think I have ever seen anyone who wants the ball more.”
Besides advancing to the WPIAL semis, the Jayhawks secured a spot in the PIAA Class-AA playoff tournament.
Should the Jayhawks have gotten past Seton-LaSalle, they will play for the WPIAL Class-AA championship Friday at the A.J. Palumbo Center in Pittsburgh against the winner of the Burrell and Bishop-Canevin semifinal game.
Dave Moio is a freelance writer.