Serra Catholic turns page after WPIAL title-game loss
Bill Cleary has coached nearly 700 girls basketball games at Serra Catholic. Six have come in the first round of the state playoffs after losing in the WPIAL championship game.
In those six games, Serra is 6-0.
So, if anybody knows how to get his players refocused following a devastating loss, it's Bill Cleary.
But, he admitted, this one is going to be tough.
Serra fell to Vincentian Academy for the second consecutive year in the WPIAL Class A championship game Saturday at Palumbo Center. The 66-46 defeat was Serra's worst loss in 54 games and the seventh consecutive time it has lost to Vincentian.
Cleary has a week to get his senior-laden team ready for the state playoffs.
“We are going to need a couple of days,” Cleary said. “We are still a good team who had a great season. Maybe we can come out of this and put together a great state run.”
Serra (23-3) will take on District 10 runner-up Cochranton (19-5) on Saturday at a time and site to be determined. Serra beat Cochranton, 67-43, a year ago in the first round following a WPIAL championship game loss to Vincentian.
“We have been in this position before,” Cleary said. “We are just going to have to deal with it.”
Serra had a tough time dealing with top-seeded Vincentian and superstar forward/guard Brenna Wise on Saturday.
Wise scored 15 of her game-high 25 points during a five-minute span of the third quarter, including 11 in two minutes, as Vincentian claimed its third consecutive WPIAL Class A championship.
“I just kind of realized that it is time to turn it up,” said Wise, who added 13 rebounds and six blocks. “It was time to come ready to play and leave it all out there.
“We didn't want to live with any regrets, and this victory kind of represents itself.”
It was the first three-peat in Class A in more than 20 years and the eighth WPIAL title for Vincentian in the past 19 years. No WPIAL team — boys or girls —had won more championships over the past two decades than Vincentian.
“We are just trying to build a tradition and a powerhouse at Vincentian,” coach Ron Moncrief said.
Vincentian (22-3) will be the top seed out of District 7 in the PIAA playoffs and will play District 9 consolation game winner Port Allegany (22-1) on Saturday.
Wise put together her typical game against Serra — she has averaged 23.5 points and 16.5 rebounds in four meetings — but got plenty of help from some hot-shooting teammates. Torrieonna Cash and Maia Joiner scored 11 points each as Vincentian shot 53 percent (8 of 15) from 3-point range. The Royals came into the game shooting 35 percent from long range.
“I have watched them on more than one occasion and have videotaped them, and no doubt this is the best they've shot,” Cleary said. “They have always been good, but I never saw them shoot like that.”
Serra, who got 14 points from Katie Sieg and 11 rebounds from Nicole Pero, battled to get within striking distance early in the third. Danielle Dindak and Sieg hit shots 27 seconds apart as Serra trimmed the lead to 34-32.
“At 34-32, I thought we were in perfect great shape,” Cleary said. “It was like, OK, we got our legs underneath us and now we are making a run back at them. It turned out to be the opposite.”
Moncrief called a timeout, and Vincentian took over after that. Vincentian went on a 25-5 run that turned a two-point lead into a 59-37 advantage late in the quarter.
“I don't think they missed a shot when they came out of there,” Cleary said.
“We went ice cold and they didn't miss one, and that's how you secure championships. My hat is off to them. They did what they had to do and pulled away from us.”