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Serra Catholic's PIAA path and foe familiar

| Sunday, March 9, 2014, 11:21 p.m.

If this all looks too familiar to the Serra Catholic girls basketball team, it is.

For a second consecutive season, the Eagles opened the PIAA Class A playoffs with a victory over District 10 Cochranton to advance to a second-round game against District 6 Bishop Guilfoyle Catholic.

This time they're hoping for a different result against the Marauders.

“They were very strong last year,” Serra Catholic coach Bill Cleary said. “They got to the Western final,” where Bishop Guilfoyle was beaten by Vincentian Academy,45-40.

Along the way, the Altoona school eliminated Serra Catholic 62-50.

“They seemed to have reloaded,” Cleary said of the Marauders (21-5), who will face Serra Catholic (24-3) at 7 p.m. Wednesday at Johnstown Richland High School after both teams survived first-round tests on Saturday.

Serra Catholic beat Cochranton 60-52 at Hempfield, while Bishop Guilfoyle Catholic topped District 9 Venango Catholic 49-40 at Altoona.

“Each year has its own characteristics,” Cleary said. “We will not be going down memory lane when we look at Bishop Guilfoyle coming up. How that translates, we'll have to find out.”

Serra Catholic's victory over Cochranton translated into a confidence-booster for the Eagles, who survived a late rally by the Cardinals.

“That game had to be won with rebounding and defense,” Cleary said. “We were able to pick it up in both areas in the second half.”

Megan Sieg scored 18 points to lead Serra Catholic, the WPIAL runner-up. Danielle Dindak added 13 points and Nicole Pero had 10 for the Eagles, who rebounded from a 20-point loss to Vincentian Academy in the WPIAL championship game one week before.

“We came in with confidence, even after that loss,” Serra Catholic senior guard Lauren Czerwien said. “We just wanted to keep going.”

Serra Catholic overcame deficits in the first and second quarters by outscoring Cochranton 18-5 in the third to take the lead for good.

The Eagles were ahead by as many as nine points in the fourth before the Cardinals cut the margin to 53-52 with 1:52 left while holding Serra Catholic scoreless for 4 minutes, 30 seconds.

After missing five consecutive free throws, Serra Catholic made 8 of 9 down the stretch to pull away.

Czerwien came off the bench to give Serra Catholic a spark after starter Leslie Hoye reinjured a sprained knee and did not return. Czerwien converted a three-point play after a steal, then again stole the ball on the next possession.

She scored all eight of her points during the decisive second half.

Bishop Guilfoyle Catholic, the District 6 champion, won behind freshman Lili Benzel's 19 points. The Marauders converted 14 of 18 free throws in the fourth quarter, including 7 of 8 by Benzel.

Dave Mackall is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach him at dmackall@tribweb.com.

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