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Penn-Trafford bounces District 6 champ Hollidaysburg

| Friday, March 8, 2013, 10:21 p.m.

Penn-Trafford needed some good fortune to get a spot on the state bracket, but there's no doubt now the Warriors were deserving qualifiers.

Physical defense sparked a 13-0 run in the third quarter that allowed Penn-Trafford to pull ahead for good in a 50-41 win over District 6 champ Hollidaysburg in the first round of the PIAA Class AAAA girls basketball playoffs at Altoona High School.

Penn-Trafford (20-5) will face Mt. Lebanon, which knocked off Bethel Park on Friday, in the PIAA second round on Tuesday at a site and time to be determined.

Casey Aunkst led the Warriors with 12 points, including 6 of 6 free throws in the fourth quarter, while Maddy Mossellem and Nicole Hyland each scored 10 for P-T. Morgan Griffith scored 12 to lead Hollidaysburg (22-3).

The Warriors qualified as the WPIAL's fifth team for the state tournament by being the quarterfinalist to lose to eventual champ Bethel Park and played the game without its second-leading scorer, Taylor Cortazzo, who was held out for what was called a “team decision.”

“We played a lot of good teams this year. We've won some close ones, and we've lost some close ones,” Penn-Trafford coach John Giannikas said. “The one thing we did know was that we could compete. We'll go play anyone, anywhere, and we came up here expecting to give our best effort.”

The biggest challenge facing Penn-Trafford was Griffith, the Golden Tigers' 6-foot center and a Shippensburg recruit. In the first half, Griffith was able to maneuver inside to score 10 points, and that allowed her team to go to halftime holding a 20-17 lead.

Penn-Trafford increased the pressure and started sending all five players to the defensive glass in the second half, and results came almost instantly, as the Warriors took a 23-22 lead on a transition layup by Aunkst.

“We rebounded much better, and that led to some fast breaks,” Giannikas said. “We were more patient on offense and converted on our looks. We told the kids at halftime, just let it fly, and we finally got a little run going.”

Aunkst's go-ahead layup was the second basket of the 13-0 run, which was capped by Hyland's three-point play to give P-T its largest lead, 32-22.

Hollidaysburg snapped the run with a 3-pointer by Susie Ellis, but for the most part, P-T did a good job of closing out the Golden Tigers' outside shooters and limiting them to just four 3-pointers in the game.

“When it's a state playoff game and a team gets a lead on you, the kids get anxious, and the shots fall short a little bit,” Hollidaysburg coach Deanna Jubeck said.

“(Penn-Trafford) got the hustle plays in the second half. They got the loose balls, got some rebounds and made a couple and-1s.”

Hollidaysburg made a run in the fourth quarter to cut the lead to 38-37, but the Warriors converted 10 of 14 foul shots in the final quarter and caused Griffith to foul out with 1:59 remaining in the game to hold on to the lead.

Matt Grubba is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach him at mgrubba@tribweb.com.

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