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Balanced Kittanning girls take down Highlands

| Thursday, Jan. 16, 2014, 11:03 p.m.

The second half of the section schedule started with the Kittanning girls basketball team putting on a balanced offensive display.

Emily Knepshield had a double-double with 10 points and 10 assists, and three other Wildcats scored in double figures Thursday to give Kittanning a 66-42 win over Highlands in a Section 1-AAA home game.

Taylar Wolfe led all scorers with 18 points for Kittanning (9-5, 5-2), Tiffany Montgomery scored 17 and Alaina Thomas added 10. Emily Klingensmith had nine points for the Wildcats, who moved the ball well to finish with 17 assists on 23 field goals.

“Offensively, I was pleased with what I saw today,” Kittanning coach Janelle Kotyk said. “I think Emily (Knepshield) does a great job of distributing the ball evenly, and we have a few different kids with the ability to score. I think they're all starting to find their own way on the offensive side, which is great.”

The Wildcats pulled away in the second half, but Highlands (2-11, 0-7) gave Kittanning a test as the Rams sought their first section win. Nicole Boda scored 17 points, and Ashlyn Jonczak added 15 for Highlands.

Highlands had an early 6-2 lead and stayed within six points for most of the first half, but Kittanning extended the lead to 33-24 by halftime.

The game also had 38 free throws attempted on 41 fouls, and an offensive foul late in the second quarter against the Rams had a deflating effect after a solid first half.

“We were holding the ball for the final shot, and they called a make-up call I still don't understand,” Highlands coach Ron Lang said. “(The referee) said our girl pushed (on a screen), but she was the person being picked for. She was standing still waiting for someone to set a pick.”

At the same time, Highlands was disappointed it couldn't pull closer than nine at halftime, Kittanning's coaches had their own frustrations at the number of fouls committed and points allowed by their own team.

“I wasn't pleased with the amount of fouls we were committing, and that's something we've been trying to work on each day in practice,” Kotyk said. “We definitely want to continue to improve on the defensive end of the court and play defense without fouling.”

The Wildcats did a better job on defense in the second half to hold Highlands to just 18 points.

The continued focus on defense for the Wildcats will go on as they try to improve on a strong start to the section season. Trailing only Mars and Hampton, the Wildcats have themselves in prime position to once again claim a playoff berth and possibly earn a better seed than the past two years.

“The second round of (section) games, we want to be competitive with Mars and Hampton,” Kotyk said. “We're away for both of those the second time, but we're going to keep working hard every night. You can't take a night off because there's no easy nights in our section.”

Having been the first coach to face the Wildcats twice this year, Lang said Kittanning has the ability to make a second-half push by defending well and continuing to move the ball.

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

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