Seton-La Salle girls state champs again
The Seton-La Salle Lady Rebels won their third PIAA basketball title in school history with a thrilling 58-50 win over Neumann-Goretti on Friday at Giant Center in Hershey.
The Lady Rebels claimed their second Class AA championship in the past three years. They also won a PIAA Class AAAA title in 1984.
“When the clock went down to zero, I was just on auto-pilot. I was just really happy for the kids that they found a way to beat Neumann-Goretti,” said Spencer Stefko, Seton's first-year head coach. “We played a heck of a game, and we needed to or we wouldn't have beaten them.
“It's been a whirlwind; not really much time to reflect. I just know it's been fun.”
Yacine Diop, a 5-foot-10 senior guard/forward, led the Lady Rebels (27-4) with a dynamic, high-energy performance against Neumann-Goretti (29-1).
Diop grabbed 23 rebounds, scored 10 points and blocked six shots.
“That was like the best high school team that I could ever ask for,” Diop said.
Seton-La Salle's backcourt accounted for 40 points in the game.
Nicolete Newman, a 5-6 junior, paced the team offensively with a game-high 17 points, including 15 in the second half. She connected three times from 3-point range.
Cassidy Walsh, a 5-7 junior, ended up with 11 points, while Shaunay Edmonds, a 5-foot sophomore, chipped in with nine.
Walsh, who also had 11 rebounds, and Newman were credited with three assists.
Julie DeKlaven, another junior guard, rounded out the backcourt scoring with a key 3-pointer in the second quarter.
Senior guard/forward Naje Gibson and junior center Morgan Henderson contributed eight points between them to the Lady Rebels' cause.
“We knew we were going to win,” Gibson said. “We just played together and had everybody's backs.”
Neumann-Goretti, the District 12 champion, went into the contest undefeated at 29-0. The Lady Saints hadn't lost a game since last March.
“We were the underdogs; that was an advantage to us,” Diop said.
Three players finished in double figures for Newmann-Goretti — senior forward Emmanuela Awobajo (13 points), and junior guards Ciana Cryor (12) and Sianni Martin (10). Awobajo also pulled down a team-high eight rebounds.
Awobajo, Cryor and Martin all fouled out in the fourth quarter.
Neumann-Goretti, located in Philadelphia, won its first Catholic League title in 36 years and advanced to the PIAA finals for the first time in school history.
Seton-La Salle, which won 25 of its last 26 games this season, captured its sixth WPIAL championship in 2013-14.
The Lady Rebels held a 14-10 first-quarter lead, and a 28-21 halftime advantage.
Edmonds, Diop and Newman sparked the Lady Rebels to an early 10-3 advantage.
“We came out better than I could have possibly hoped,” Stefko said.
Seton-La Salle made six of 17 field-goal attempts in the opening eight minutes, and outrebounded the Lady Saints, 19-7.
Neumann-Goretti hit on just four of 18 field goals in the first quarter.
The Lady Rebels, off a 9-2 surge at the start of the second half, enjoyed its biggest lead of the game — 14 points — at the 6:40 mark of the third quarter.
Neumann-Goretti made 8 of 8 foul shots in the third stanza, and trailed, 42-36, going into the fourth quarter.
Diop, on a jumper, and Newman, with a trey, scored big hoops late in the quarter for the Lady Rebels.
The Lady Saints outscored Seton, 10-2, to open the fourth quarter and grabbed its only lead in the game, at 46-44, with 5:27 remaining.
Seton-La Salle, after missing four consecutive free throws, was 10 for 10 from the charity stripe in the final 1:19.
“I'm just excited for Naje and Yacine,” Stefko said. “We get to go chase goals next year, but for Naje and Yacine to finish off that way is fantastic.”
Seton-La Salle was 15 of 23 from the free-throw line in the game; the Lady Saints made 13 of 15 free throws.
The Lady Rebels committed 25 turnovers (18 in the first half), compared to Neumann-Goretti's 13, and outrebounded the Lady Saints, 50-36.
N-G attempted 30 shots from 3-point range, sinking only five attempts.
Diop, Gibson and Walsh all are University of Pittsburgh recruits.
Tanesha Sutton, a 5-8 senior point guard for the Lady Saints, is headed to Duquesne.
Awobajo, a 5-10 forward, has received an offer from the College of Charleston, and has drawn interest from other colleges.
Trib Total Media contributed to this story. Ray Fisher is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach him at 412-388-5820 or firstname.lastname@example.org.