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Latrobe girls clinch playoff berth with victory over Connellsville

| Thursday, Jan. 30, 2014, 10:12 p.m.
Lori Padilla | For the Daily Courier
Latrobe's Emma Kate Womack (left) and Connellsville's Saiah Mickens fight for control of the ball during a Section 1-AAAA game n Thursday, Jan. 30, 2014, at Connellsville High School.

When Latrobe defeated Connellsville in a Section 1-AAAA girls basketball showdown last Saturday, the Wildcats dealt a tough blow to the Falcons' playoff hopes. On Thursday, in the rematch at Connellsville, Latrobe delivered the knockout punch.

Taley Dunaway scored a game-high 23 points to lead Latrobe to a 59-39 victory over the Falcons and, in the process, eliminated Connellsville from playoff contention.

The win also clinched no less than a share of the fourth and final playoff spot in the section for Latrobe (9-7, 6-5).

“I thought we were focused and determined, and we knew what this game meant to us,” Latrobe coach Luann Mills said.

In the first meeting, Latrobe had to rally and eventually pulled away for a 65-48 win.

In the rematch, no such rally was necessary as Latrobe got off to a fast start and never looked back.

Dunaway, Madison Kollar and Hannah Mears each hit three first-quarter baskets as the Wildcats built an 11-2 lead. Kollar finished with 10 points.

Connellsville (7-12, 4-8) stayed in the game thanks to a strong first quarter from Saiah Mickens, who scored eight of her 13 points in the opening quarter.

However, the Falcons never could make a serious run thanks to a combination of strong defensive play by the visitors and their own shooting struggles.

“We missed layups and foul shots,” Connellsville coach Kenny Johnson said after his team turned in a 9-of-17 effort from the line. “We gave maximum energy and heart, but we're missing layups and foul shots. They made layups, and we missed layups. They made foul shots, and we missed foul shots. It's tough to compete with that.”

The Falcons scored 10 or fewer points in each quarter, which allowed the Wildcats the opportunity to continue to extend their lead.

In the second quarter, Dunaway knocked down a pair of 3-pointers as Latrobe took a 31-19 lead into the half.

The Falcons' Ashton Grimm scored nine points in the second half and finished with 12 points, but Connellsville could never seriously threaten Latrobe's lead in the final two quarters. Dunaway scored six points, and Emma Kate Womack added nine points in the fourth quarter to help seal the win. Womack scored all 12 of her points in the second half.

The playoffs are on the horizon for the Wildcats, and they will look to finish the regular season with some momentum. For Connellsville, the object also is to finish strong with an eye toward building for the 2014-15 campaign.

“We've had ups and downs, and we've fought all season,” Johnson said. “We just have to get in the gym in the offseason. This is a process.”

Jason Black is the local sports editor of the Daily Courier. Reach him at jblack@tribweb.com.

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