Penn-Trafford knocks off Hollidaysburg
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 on Friday.
Penn-Trafford (20-5) advanced to face Mt. Lebanon, which knocked off Bethel Park on Friday, in the PIAA second round on Tuesday, after this edition's deadline. The winner of that game was scheduled to play this Friday in the quarterfinals against the winner between Chartiers Valley and Gateway, 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. The big offensive days from Hyland and Aunskt were just what the Warriors needed without Cortazzo, who normally provides much of the team's scoring from the guard spots.
“These kids can all do it. We have our depth, and today it showed,” Giannikas said. “I knew they were ready for the challenge, and I'm not surprised one bit. There was no let-down.”
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 pushed the lead right back to four on Hyland's second three-point play of the game. The foul on that play was the fifth on Griffith, which left the Golden Tigers without their leader for the final 1:59 of the game.
With Griffith out and the outside shots not falling for Hollidaysburg, P-T slowly pulled away over the final two minutes by converting 10 of 14 foul shots in the final quarter.
“I'm just so proud of the way the kids defended today. They communicated well, got hands in the passing lane and rebounded their tails off,” Giannikas said.
“(Hollidaysburg) is a good team, and they're going to score points. This isn't soccer; we're not going to shut anybody out. We just wanted to make sure we limited their runs and made them earn everything.”
Matt Grubba is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-388-5830 or firstname.lastname@example.org.