Stewart: Fox Chapel, P-T put on show to remember
Feb. 25 was the first night since the beginning of January that I did not have any games to referee.
Well, except for the cancellation days. And I hit the mother lode.
The WPIAL Class AAAA girls semifinal game between Fox Chapel and Penn-Trafford was being played at Penn Hills, a mere 10 minutes away.
I was looking forward to watching an exciting game between two quality teams.
It was all that and then some.
It was the most evenly matched high school game I had seen in a long time. An added perk was that the yelling at the refs didn't concern me at all. I wasn't wearing the zebra stripes, and I got a respite from the travails of the dark side.
It was a great change of pace to just be watching the game instead of enforcing the rules. The refs did a great job and for the most part weren't even noticed. That's how tense and thrilling the game was from the opening tipoff until the final seconds of overtime.
At no point did the Foxes or the Warriors hold more than a four-point lead. The game kept going back and forth for all four quarters.
Coach Meghan Meabon's Foxes didn't have an answer for Penn-Trafford's outstanding junior, Maria Palarino. Palarino came into the game averaging 17.6 points. She had 18 at the half and finished with 28.
The Foxes countered with strong efforts from Erin Mathias and Kayla Slovenic.
Mathias nailed a pair of free throws with eight seconds left to send the game into overtime and then scored a pair of buckets to start the overtime. I thought the Foxes had garnered the momentum to pull out the win. Not in this topsy-turvy, back-and-forth game.
It was time for Palarino.
She sank the first of two free throws with six seconds left to give P-T a one-point lead. She missed the second shot, though, and there was one last glimmer of hope for the Foxes.
But a layup attempt just before the buzzer sounded agonizingly rolled around the rim and stubbornly refused to drop through the net.
As you would expect, there was exuberance on the faces of the Warriors as they lined up to shake hands. Dejection and disappointment was apparent on the FC players.
The good news is that the Foxes' season isn't over. They can put this loss behind them and get ready for the PIAA playoffs, and they'll be starting out at 0-0, just like the other teams.
If there's any poetic justice, they'll win a game like the one that just shattered their visions of a WPIAL title.
It was a game that I'll remember for a long time, mainly because it involved two teams that played their hearts out and went toe-to-toe for 36 minutes. I know it's a cliche, but this was most assuredly a game that neither team deserved to lose.
I'd sure like to see them match up again.
Marty Stewart is a sports editor for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-782-2123 or firstname.lastname@example.org.