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Lady Highlanders look to 'work to get better' in offseason

| Wednesday, March 6, 2013, 9:00 p.m.
South Hills Record
Baldwin's Taylor Letender drives to the hoop as Greater Latrobe's Anna Ayers defends during their WPIAL Quad A preliminary round playoff game at Penn Trafford High School in Harrison City on February 15, 2013. Baldwin defeated Greater Latrobe 54-39. Barry Reeger | Tribune-Review
South Hills Record
Baldwin's Kayla Eberst and Greater Latrobe's Rachael Kollar chase a rebound during their WPIAL Quad A preliminary round playoff game at Penn Trafford High School in Harrison City on February 15, 2013. Baldwin defeated Greater Latrobe 54-39. Barry Reeger | Tribune-Review
South Hills Record
Baldwin's Amanda Larkin shoots over Greater Latrobe's Kaity Finley during their WPIAL Quad A preliminary round playoff game at Penn Trafford High School in Harrison City on February 15, 2013. Baldwin defeated Greater Latrobe 54-39. Barry Reeger | Tribune-Review
South Hills Record
Baldwin's Taylor Letender battles Greater Latrobe's Emma Kate Womack for a loose ball during their WPIAL Quad A preliminary round playoff game at Penn Trafford High School in Harrison City on February 15, 2013. Baldwin defeated Greater Latrobe 54-39. Barry Reeger | Tribune-Review

The Baldwin girls' basketball team perhaps saved its best for last.

In their final game of the regular season, the Lady Highlanders upset Bethel Park, 46-38, behind the offensive antics of junior guards Mandi Johnston (18 points) and Nikki Corcoran (12 points).

Bethel Park, which was tied for first place with Mt. Lebanon in Section 4-AAAA, ended up second in the section standings.

The Lady Black Hawks (23-3) won the WPIAL Class AAAA championship game as the No. 3 seed in the tournament.

And the dramatic late-season win lifted the Baldwin girls into the WPIAL playoffs, as the local squad tied for fourth place in the section with Upper St. Clair.

The Lady Highlanders' varsity roster was comprised of seven juniors, two sophomores, five freshmen, and no seniors.

“This year was a learning experience for most our our girls,” Gavin Prosser, Baldwin's second-year head coach, said. “We were a young team, having only two players with extensive experience at the varsity level.

“I thought we were pretty inconsistent, something we addressed throughout the year, and will continue to address throughout the offseason.”

Baldwin defeated Latrobe in the WPIAL Class AAAA preliminary round, 54-39, then lost to North Allegheny in a first-round matchup, 56-33.

Three players attained double figures for Baldwin, led by Corcoran's game-high 15 points. Johnston and sophomore guard Amanda Larkin added 12 points apiece.

The Lady Highlanders finished with an overall record of 11-12.

Mt. Lebanon won the section championship with an 11-1 record, followed by Bethel Park (10-2), Chartiers Valley (8-4), Upper St. Clair and Baldwin, both at 5-7.

Canon-McMillan (3-9) and Peters Township (0-12) rounded out the standings.

Three of the four teams that advanced to the WPIAL Class AAAA semifinals were from Section 4.

“We play in the toughest section in the WPIAL,” Prosser said, “and in order to accomplish our goals of winning a section title and a WPIAL title, we simply need to work to get better in the offseason.”

Baldwin's starting lineup consisted of the 5-foot-5 Johnston, 5-8 Corcoran and 5-9 Larkin, and a pair of 5-10 junior forwards in Taylor Letender and Liz Spegar.

Johnston led the team in scoring in 2012-13, while Letender and Spegar provided a solid rebounding tandem.

Top players off the bench included the likes of Taylor Duchon, a junior forward; Carly Lutz, a freshman forward; Kayla Eberst, a freshman guard; and Tori Johnston, a junior guard.

Other key reserves included junior guard Kalyn Low, sophomore forward Natalie Gazzam, plus freshmen backcourt prospects Alex Barr, Khori Weaver, Kayla Eberst and Ashley Brady.

Baldwin opened the 2012-13 season with wins over Keystone Oaks and Indiana in a tip-off tournament, then lost four consecutive games in December.

Some of the team's leading individual performances were turned in by Mandi Johnston, with 27 points against Peters Township and 20 against Thomas Jefferson; Letender, with 18 points against Upper St. Clair; and Corcoran, with 17 points against TJ. Johnston also netted 18 points versus Keystone Oaks in the season opener.

The Lady Highlanders defeated Peters Township twice in section action, and split decisions with Bethel Park, Upper St. Clair and Canon-McMillan.

Ray Fisher is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-388-5820 or rfisher@tribweb.com.

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