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Carlynton girls basketball team hopes for 2nd chance

| Wednesday, Feb. 26, 2014, 9:00 p.m.
Randy Jarosz | for the Signal Item
Conor Richardson scored 25 poins in Carlynton's 63-61 loss to Greensburg Central Catholic in the WPIAL Class AA second round.

Despite falling to Greensburg Central Catholic, 63-61, in the second round of the WPIAL Class AA playoffs, Carlynton girls basketball coach Tim Bonner had nothing but praise for his team.

“They showed a lot of character,” Bonner said. “They played with a lot of heart. They are so close, and when it looked like all was lost, they pulled together.”

Carlynton led 33-31 at halftime, but the Centurions closed the third quarter on an 8-0 run that they built to a 12-point lead in the fourth quarter.

The Cougars trailed 56-44 with just more than five minutes to play but started a dramatic comeback thanks to three 3-pointers from Richardson and a jumper from Alexis Kowal.

Abigail Greiner brought Carlynton towithin one after a free-throw with 20.6 seconds left before a Carolyn Appleby free throw put the Centurions up 63-61.

A Richardson 3-point shot before the buzzer rimmed out. The Cougars may look back on the game and wondering how two calls by the officials may have changed their fate.

Late in the third quarter, Carlynton was hit with a technical foul for an illegal substitution. Then in the fourth quarter, Richardson stole the ball at halfcourt and scored an uncontested layup. It was nullified by a double-dribble call.

“These things happen,” Bonner said. “We're not blaming the officials. Calls happen in games, and they went against us. Greensburg is a very strong team and played well. You can't take that away from them.”

Richardson led the Cougars with 25 points. Jazmyn Meredith added 13, and Jordan Melko had 12.

There is still hope for Carlynton's season to continue. The Cougars need Greensburg Central Catholic to make the Class AA title game or Burrell — the Centurions' opponent in the semifinals — to win the title.

The loss dropped Carlynton to 19-4 in a season filled with adversity. Senior and four-year starter Hannah Murray tore her ACL six games into the season, forcing the coaching staff to throw freshman Ashleigh Wilson into the lineup.

“We could have packed it in then losing (Murray),” Bonner said. “But we pulled together and continued towards our goal. We put a number on the wall, which was our No. 1 goal. It had been a long time since we won the section.”

In fact, it had been eight years since the Cougars captured a section crown. The team's Section 6-AA championship should prove helpful in the future.

Underclassmen Wilson, Kowal and Greiner had increased roles this season.

“(Wilson) replaced Murray in the lineup when (Murray) went down,” Bonner said. “She played 17 games. Instead of losing a starter, we will be returning one next season.”

But finding a way to replace seniors Murray and Meredith won't be easy.

If the 63-61 setback was the final game of their senior season, it also was the end of an era.

“They are four-year starters and captains of the team,” Bonner said. “They were the inspirational leaders of this team. We will miss them greatly.”

Nathan Smith is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach him at nsmith@tribweb.com or via Twitter @NSmith_Trib.

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