Hempfield girls topple No. 5 Upper St. Clair
TribLIVE Sports Videos
Hempfield senior guard Monica Burns sported a bloody lip after Tuesday's WPIAL Class AAAA first-round game at Bethel Park, and she was smiling about it.
“I'm wearing it to school Wednesday,” Burns said after leading Hempfield to a 65-56 upset over No. 5 Upper St. Clair. “I know it's the first round, but this definitely was an accomplishment. I couldn't have done it without my teammates.”
Burns scored 19 points, Lexi Irwin 17 and Leah Knizner 16 to lead Hempfield to its first victory against Upper St. Clair in the past three seasons. USC won 44-42 in a quarterfinal-round game in 2012 and 53-48 in the first round in 2013.
Hempfield (15-8), the third-place team from Section 1, wouldn't be denied this season, though it almost blew a big lead late.
Hempfield will play No. 4 Bethel Park on Friday at a site to be determined. Bethel Park defeated Seneca Valley, 36-29.
The Spartans raced to a 20-13 lead after one quarter and increased their lead to 35-18 by halftime. The lead went to 50-30 with 3:51 left in the third quarter.
Irwin and Burns led the first-half charge. Burns scored 11 points in the opening half and Irwin nine, all coming in the first quarter.
“It was the best first half of basketball since I began coaching 10 years ago,” Hempfield second-year coach Aaron Epps said. “I don't think we could have played any better. We only had two turnovers.
“We knew they'd come out in a box-and-one or a triangle, and we told the others girls they had to make shots. We were focused all week. I had a good feeling about this game.”
Irwin hit two 3-pointers, Burns a 3-pointer and Knizner scored six points to help Hempfield build the lead to 20, but Constance Raftis, Madison Serio and Rachel Mazzie led the Panthers' second-half charge.
“We knew that Burns was a very good outside shooter, but their other two girls (Knizner and Irwin), we didn't bank on that,” USC coach Ernie Koontz said. “In a playoff game like this, the team that gets the upper hand at the beginning gets that momentum and confidence rolling. They had us playing defense on our heels.”
Raftis finished with 19 points, Serio 15 and Mazzie 14.
Upper St. Clair (14-7), which tied for second in Section 4, turned up the defensive pressure and closed the Hempfield lead to 57-52 with 1:53 left.
But a basket by Knizner with 1:04 left keyed a 6-0 run, and Hempfield walked away with an impressive victory.
“It was a big accomplishment for us to beat them,” Epps said. “We strengthened our schedule this year, and we've been in these types of games. We started to panic a little bit, but we came through when we needed to.”
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- Bordonaro boosts East girls to 79-72 victory in Cager Classic
- Teams set mark for 3-pointers as East boys nip West, 110-109, in Cager Classic
- Kittanning senior Kunst shoots lights out at Cager Classic skills event
- Cager Classic notebook: Highlands, Mars players bury hatchet for the weekend
- High school basketball notebook: A-K players, coach, picked for Roundball Classic
- HS highlight reel: PIAA spring sports season underway
- Tough seasons to end on high note for girls at Cager Classic
- High school basketball notebook: Aliquippa motivated by loss in PIAA title game
- PIAA committee wants to revive western final