North Allegheny girls avenge WPIAL semifinals loss to Hempfield
When the WPIAL basketball committee announced the pairings for its tournament a month ago, North Allegheny was awarded the No. 1 seed in Class AAAA.
But upstart Hempfield, which was seeded No. 12, upset the Tigers in the semifinals.
North Allegheny showed why it was the No. 1 seed Friday in the PIAA Class AAAA quarterfinals at Gateway. The Tigers (25-2) generated two dominant runs in the first half and breezed to a 73-47 victory over Hempfield (19-10).
The win puts North Allegheny in Tuesday's semifinals against District 1 runner-up Spring-Ford (25-5), time and site to be determined.
Throughout the playoffs, Hempfield was able to jump on its opponents early. That's how it defeated North Allegheny, 60-44.
But North Allegheny was a lot different this time around — its defense was strong and the offense aggressive.
“They beat us in all phases,” Hempfield coach Aaron Epps said. “They did a great job taking the ball out of (Monica Burns') hands with the trap. They were flat out better than we were. They came out more aggressive and we didn't.”
Hempfield opened a 4-0 lead on baskets by Leah Knizner and Burns, but North Allegheny scored the next 16 points. Danielle Waller scored six of her game-high 20 points during the run. North Allegheny led 16-9 after one quarter.
“We played more characteristic of how we played all year at the defensive end,” North Allegheny coach Sherri McConnell said. “Our rotation was much better. We had much more focus.
“We did a good job keeping them off-balance and frustrated. It's been the rhythm throughout the playoffs.”
Hempfield, led by Burns' 13 second-quarter points, pulled to within 22-21 with 3:51 left in the first half. North Allegheny then finished on a 16-4 run to grab a 38-35 halftime lead.
“Hempfield had a great playoff run, but we had a lot of goals to reach,” McConnell said. “Winning this game meant a lot to them after losing in the semifinals. We didn't need to say anything to them.
“We knew what the kids were feeling. I'm so proud how they came out. It was hard to stop them and I'm proud what we did.”
North Allegheny not only doubled Burns, it put 5-foot-9 Abby Gonzales on the Spartans' 5-7 leading scorer. Her long arms made it tough for Burns to get clean looks.
Hempfield's offense just couldn't get untracked, making just 13 of 39 attempts. In fact, the Spartans had more 3-pointers that 2-point field goals (7-6).
North Allegheny was 27 for 55 from the field and out-rebounded the Spartans, 32-28.
Taylor Lake had 17 points and 11 rebounds, and Taylor Brennan had 13 points.
Knizner had 10 points and 10 rebounds for Hempfield.
“It was a learning experience for us,” Epps said. “We have to move on. We didn't have it.
“When we got it to one, I felt pretty good. But once they got it up to 10, against a team like NA, you can't be playing catch up”