North Allegheny girls enjoy 'bounce back' win over WPIAL champion Penn-Trafford
Members of the North Allegheny girls basketball team wrote “BOUNCE BACK” on the bottom of their right wrists, a nod to a 60-44 loss to Hempfield in the WPIAL Class AAAA semifinals.
“DEFENSE” would've fit, too, as North Allegheny's defense smothered Penn-Trafford, the WPIAL champion, in a 64-39 victory in a PIAA Class AAAA first-round game at Baldwin on Friday night.
“Our offense comes from our defense,” junior guard Devin LaBarge said. “Cracking down on our defense is what made us win.”
Senior guard Taylor Brennan took it a step further.
“Letting someone score 60 points is not how we play,” Brennan said. “It feels good to hold teams under 40.”
North Allegheny (23-2) advances to the second round of the PIAA tournament and will play District 6 champion State College Tuesday at a time and site to be determined.
LaBarge led all scorers with 22 points. Brennan added 13, and point guard Abby Gonzales scored 10. Gonzales and Meg Morningstar had four steals apiece, and Morningstar blocked a pair of shots.
North Allegheny held an opponent to fewer than 40 points for the 10th time this season by forcing the Warriors into 18 turnovers.
“We dictated,” North Allegheny coach Sherri McConnell said. “We kept them off-balance with different defenses that we used.”
After erasing a second-half deficit in the WPIAL final, the Warriors (20-7) found no such mojo this time. Leading scorer Maria Palarino had 11 points — almost eight below her average.
“They moved well,” Penn-Trafford coach John Giannikas said. “They forced us to do some things quicker than we wanted to.”
North Allegheny jumped out to a 13-8 lead after one, getting a pair of 3-pointers from the left corner from LaBarge.
Penn-Trafford got 3-pointers from Emma Mull and Kaila Simcoviak late in the second quarter and trailed 25-17 at halftime.
LaBarge hit two more 3s — she had six total — early in the third quarter to push the Tigers ahead 33-20 at 5:48.
Palarino made a pair of free throws, but North Allegheny scored the next 14 points to pull away and led 52-28 after a Brennan 3-pointer at 6:33 of the fourth.
Most important, the Tigers' defense found its comfort zone.
“We wanted to get it back after last game,” LaBarge said. “We were disappointed, but our motto was, ‘bounce back.' I think we did a great job of that.”