Cal hopes to play giant killer again

| Tuesday, Feb. 25, 2014, 12:26 a.m.

If California Area's girls' basketball team is going to continue its improbable run to the WPIAL Class A title game, the Lady Trojans will have to play giant killer again Wednesday night.

California (19-3) takes on Serra Catholic (22-2) at 6 p.m. at Baldwin.

Serra comes into the game as the No. 2 seed in the playoffs.

But beating good teams is nothing new to California, as the Lady Trojans are coming off a 45-43 win over perennial power Cardinal Wuerl North Catholic in the quarterfinals.

In Serra, Cal will face a team that is no stranger to the WPIAL playoffs and is certainly deserving to be where the Lady Eagles are today.

Serra is led by a lineup that features all five players averaging in double figures, including Danielle Dindak (13.9 points per game), Leslie Hoye (13.0), 6-0 center Nicole Pero (12.7), Megan Sieg (11.9) and Katie Sieg (11.1).

“Just like our last game when we played North Catholic, Serra is used to being in this position,” California coach Chris Minerd said. “One big advantage they have over us is that they start four seniors and they are more prepared for this.

“But, after (beating North Catholic), I kind of think our girls are ready for anything.”

Cal will counter with a youthful lineup that includes just one senior — Tristen Conaway (8.8) — and two freshmen, 6-1 Kylie Huffman (15.8) and Jenna Miller (9.4). Rounding out the Lady Trojans' lineup will be Kat Pankratz (3.6) and Olivia Helmick (2.1) or Dominique Gaston (2.5).

California has been winning with defense all season, allowing just 30.5 points per game. However, that defense will receive a test from Serra, which scores at a 65.4 clip.

“To be honest, they play a very similar style that we do,” Minerd said of the Lady Eagles. “What they will do is pressure us all over the court, and we have to be prepared for that pressure. That's why they beat teams by 40 or 50 points, because of their in-your-face pressure.”

Minerd says he is confident that his team will come in relaxed.

“These girls weren't supposed to be doing this right now,” he said of his team. “We were supposed to one and done in the playoffs. But we are surprising a lot of people and we have nothing to lose.”

EF, South Park in rematch

In a girls' Class AAA semifinal Wednesday, Elizabeth Forward (20-3) meets South Park (20-4) 6 p.m. at Chartiers Valley.

The game is a rematch of a contest played Feb. 10 in which South Park came away with a 65-48 win.

EF is led by a balanced lineup that features five players scoring in double figures. Kylie Owoc (14.0) leads the way, followed by Abigail Sporio (13.8), Allison Pastore (12.8), Olivia Barkley (11.9) and Natalie Fekula (11.5).

South Park is led by the one-two punch of Allison McGrath (17.2) and Halie Torris (16.4). Teammate Lindsay Noss averages 9.0 points.

In their earlier game, the Lady Eagles got 24 points from Torris, 15 from McGrath and 12 from Noss, while Fekula and Sporio scored 12 for EF with Pastore adding 11.

South Park has won 14 straight games, while EF's only defeat in the last eight games came against South Park.

Jeff Oliver is a sports editor for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 724-684-2666 or

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