Lady Trojans run out of gas
With 10 seconds left in the first quarter, California's Kylie Huffman scored from under the basket to give the Lady Trojans a 15-6 lead against Serra in Wednesday's WPIAL Class A semifinal game at Baldwin.
Good news for California, right?
The next time the Lady Trojans scored a basket was by Huffman with 5:21 left in the third quarter.
In between, Serra outscored California 15-2 to take a 21-17 lead and the Lady Trojans never led again, bowing 60-40 to come up one game short of reaching the WPIAL championship.
California managed just two free throws over the 10:49 span.
Still, Cal was in the game.
But the drought seemed to knock the Lady Trojans (19-4) out of their game and they struggled mightily in the second half. Serra (23-2) outscored Cal 43-23 in the last two quarters after a 17-17 tie at halftime.
“The second quarter hurt us and then the second half hurt us,” said California coach Chris Minerd. “Our defense let us down (in the second half). We kept putting them on the line and they were deadly from the line.
“Then we started turning the ball over too much. We handled the pressure pretty well in the first half. And we just didn't handle it in the second half.”
Minerd was right about the Lady Eagles' prowess at the foul line as they made 15 of 19 in the game.
Megan Sieg, who made all five of her free throws, finished with 16 points for Serra. Katie Sieg scored 12 points and Nicole Pero and Lauren Czerwien added 10 each.
California got 14 points from Huffman, who also grabbed nine rebounds and blocked three shots.
Teammate Brooke Clements scored eight points and senior Tristen Conaway grabbed a team-high 10 rebounds.
The Lady Trojans, who saw their 13-game winning streak snapped, had one good run left.
Trailing 27-19, Cal went on a 14-8 run to cut the margin to 35-33 when Huffman scored to open the fourth quarter. But Serra salted the game away with a 20-5 run that opened a 55-38 lead with 2:20 to play in he game.
“We had them 15-6 the first quarter and the nerves should have been out the window,” said Minerd. “But we just didn't have enough today.”
Now, the Lady Trojans will await their fate in the PIAA playoffs.
Serra will meet top-seeded Vincentian (21-3) in the championship game Saturday at Duquesne's A.J. Palumbo Center. Vincentian beat Quigley, 65-41, in the other semifinal.
If Serra wins, Cal will be the third seed from District 7 (WPIAL). If Vincentian wins, the Lady Trojans will go in as the district's fourth seed.
Although his young team's improbable run in the WPIAL playoffs came to an end, Minerd says he has no regrets.
“I'm disappointed today, but nothing can take away the great season we had,” he said. “It was a great ride.
“I couldn't be happier with the season. Obviously, only one person is going to be happy at the end. I love my team. The girls played hard. How many times we were down and we came back and came back. We just didn't have that one comeback in us tonight.”
Jeff Oliver is a sports editor for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 724-684-2666 or firstname.lastname@example.org.