Serra Catholic girls roll, edge closer to goal

| Sunday, Feb. 23, 2014, 10:21 p.m.

The Serra Catholic Eagles are on a quest to avenge their WPIAL title game defeat from a season ago. Aliquippa found itself in the way of that mission Saturday, and the result wasn't pretty for the Quips.

Serra dominated the WPIAL Class A girls basketball quarterfinal game from start to finish, sailing to a stress-free 65-15 victory at North Allegheny. The win puts No. 2-seed Serra in a semifinal date with third-seeded California (19-3) on Wednesday, when the two teams will meet for the right to appear in the championship game at Palumbo Center on March 1.

“We played very well today,” Serra coach Bill Cleary said. “Defensively, we did what we wanted to do in terms of the game plan. We wanted to put pressure on the ball and create turnovers, which we did. We wanted to rebound. We had to keep them off the boards.”

And, of course, the Eagles (22-2) had to score. Senior Megan Sieg led the team with 14 points as Serra won its sixth in a row. Senior Nicole Pero and freshman Aaliyah Coleman finished with 11 each, while six other players scored.

Serra Catholic made 17 of 21 foul shots and shot 47 percent from the field, including 53 percent from inside the 3-point line.

“I hate to single anyone out,” Cleary said. “It's a team effort. It has been with these kids for a couple years.”

Serra scored the game's first 10 points and took a 35-9 lead into halftime against Aliquippa (13-11). The Eagles built on it during the third and fourth quarters, when a running clock was instituted.

Aliquippa second-year coach Mark D'Alessandris admitted Serra provided a difficult matchup for his players, a young group that showed some early nerves in the face of Section 4-A's top team.

“We didn't shoot the ball that well,” said D'Alessandris, whose team got in foul trouble and struggled with turnovers.

Still, the coach is “very proud” of his team, which went 3-18 last season. The Quips might have a chance to strengthen their record this season, as a berth in the PIAA Tournament is still possible. For that to happen, Serra Catholic must win the WPIAL Class A Tournament.

“We're still growing,” D'Alessandris said. “I got all five starters back next year. And, down the road here now, we're going to cheer for the Eagles and hopefully they win this WPIAL and we can keep on playing a couple more games and let the girls get a feel.”

Serra Catholic will undoubtedly appreciate that support. The Eagles locked up a spot in the PIAA Tournament, but they aren't focused on that just yet. Right now, they're concerned with winning a WPIAL title, something Vincentian denied them in 2012-13.

Cleary believes his team played better against Aliquippa than it did against Eden Christian in the tournament's opening round. That illustrates how dangerous Serra Catholic can be, considering that leading scorer Danielle Dindak scored just six points in Saturday's rout.

“She'll be all right,” Cleary said. “Nobody's angry. We're all about the winning.”

Mark Emery is a freelance writer.

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