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Surging St. Joseph girls cruise past Jefferson-Morgan

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By George Guido
Saturday, Feb. 15, 2014, 7:12 p.m.

St. Joseph's Sally Ackerman didn't imagine her first playoff game as a head coach would be such a breeze.

The Spartans scored the game's first 25 points and blasted Jefferson-Morgan, 61-14, on Saturday in a first-round WPIAL Class A game at Elizabeth Forward.

St. Joseph forced 17 turnovers in the first quarter, including five in the first two minutes of play.

Full-court pressure resulted in a number of Rockets mistakes, which ranged from St. Joseph steals to a five-second call near midcourt.

St. Joseph's Mallory Heinle, the leading scorer in Class A, netted 23 points, all in the first three quarters.

The No. 4-seeded Spartans (19-4) won their 11th consecutive game — 10 of those by at least double digits — and earned a WPIAL quarterfinal date with No. 5 Quigley on Saturday at a site and time to be determined.

“We knew we could pressure them from what we saw in the two films we had,” Ackerman said. “That is something that in our section happens all the time. We play at a fast pace and score a lot of points in the hopes that the other team can't hang with us.”

St. Joseph shut out the Rockets over the final 14:23 of the game.

“It was a fun game,” Heinle said. “We've been working really hard on our defense. We work well together. We have girls who force the bad passes and girls who are quick enough to steal them. Our defense makes for some fun games.”

St. Joseph's Amanda Klawinski, playing her fourth game since returning from an injury, came off the bench to hit a 3-pointer with 1:25 left in the first quarter to give the Spartans that 25-0 lead.

Erin Confortini finally got Jefferson-Morgan on the scoreboard with 1:01 to go in the opening quarter.

St. Joseph also used its height advantage, tipping and slapping away at low Rockets passes.

Propelling the Spartans to their late surge was the Feb. 3 victory over longtime nemesis North Catholic, the most successful girls basketball program in WPIAL history.

“We felt like after the North Catholic game, we were peaking at the most opportune time,” Ackerman said.

“It was our goal to beat North Catholic at one point,” Heinle said. “We should have had them our first game, and we've played with a chip on our shoulder ever since. That was the last game we seniors would ever play on our (home) floor.”

Jefferson-Morgan managed just five field goals, three of the 3-point variety.

Julie Hetu scored 11 points and freshman Lizzie Celko had nine, all in the first quarter, for the Spartans. Senior Nikki Mielecki added seven points and eight rebounds.

St. Joseph took a 55-14 lead with 3:36 left in the third quarter. At that point, the PIAA's continuous clock rules came into play.

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