Serra loses heartbreaker in PIAA second round

| Thursday, March 13, 2014, 11:21 p.m.

JOHNSTOWN — Layups, midrange jumpers, 3-pointers — it didn't matter what type of shots Serra Catholic attempted in its PIAA Class A second-round game against Bishop Guilfoyle. It was more than likely going to find its way through the basket.

So, wouldn't you figure the easiest shot of all proved to be Serra's undoing.

If Nicole Pero's missed putback off a Katie Sieg jumper late in a two-point game wasn't bad enough, Pero's potential game-tying basket off her own miss that would've sent the game to overtime came a tick after the final buzzer.

Serra lost for the second consecutive year in the second round of the state playoffs, falling to Bishop Guilfoyle, 65-63, at Richland High School.

Serra coach Bill Cleary, who has coached 699 games in 27 years, called it one of the worst losses of his career.

“Right now it's bad,” he said as his voice trailed off. “I've won some at the buzzer and lost some at the buzzer, and this one is bad.”

Bishop Guilfoyle (20-5) will take on Clarion, a 41-33 winner over Quigley Catholic, on Saturday at a site and time to be determined.

Freshman Lili Benzel scored a game-high 33 points while fellow freshman Macy Adams added 16 for Bishop Guilfoyle.

Serra got 22 from Megan Sieg, 16 from Katie Sieg and 10 from Leslie Hoye as the Eagles' season ended mostly because of a poorly played fourth quarter.

After hitting 23 of 30 shots from the floor in the first three quarters, the Eagles missed their first four shots of the fourth and made only 3 of 10 from the floor.

“We were getting to the hoop and knocking our shots down,” Cleary said. “There is nothing much to say other than we were knocking our shots down. We just didn't finish the job.”

Serra missed only four shots from the floor midway through the third quarter.

“We gave them too much in the paint,” Bishop Guilfoyle coach Mark Moscella said. “The shots that they made were high percentage shots but to their credit, they are a tough team to defend.”

Serra led by as many as eight in the second half before Guilfoyle rallied to take a 60-56 lead early in the fourth on the strength of a 10-0 run.

“We could've really blown this open in the first half, we could've really blown this open in the third quarter,” Cleary said.

But Benzel refused to let that happen.

Benzel scored 19 second-half points including 16 of BG's 18 points that propelled the Marauders even with the Eagles at 60-60 with 3:18 left.

“We tried to everything and couldn't stop her,” Cleary said.

Cleary even resorted to a junk defense that he hasn't used in more than two years.

“She made plays to get them going,” Cleary said. “Give them credit. They stepped up and boom, they hit the shots. Give them credit.”

With the score tied at 60-60, the veteran coaches decided to match wits. Moscella wanted to get the ball into Benzel's hands, and Cleary didn't.

“We wanted to be patient, and we wanted a good shot,” Moscella said.

Moscella called three timeouts over the final three minutes to get Benzel a shot. Benzel got her shot with a running one-hander with less than a minute left, but missed.

Serra was set to take the last shot to win the game.

However, Pero turned the ball over near midcourt on an errant pass 10 seconds later. Hoye fouled Benzel with 15.1 seconds left, sending her to the foul line where she hit the first and missed the second. The second was rebounded by Adams, who then hit one of two foul shots to give BG a 65-63 lead and set up Serra for its fateful ending.

“We had good looks down the stretch to send it to overtime,” Cleary said. “Turn the ball over and miss some layups and (that's the) ballgame.”

Mark Kaboly is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach him at or via Twitter @MarkKaboly_Trib.

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