Kiski Area's magic runs out against Baldwin
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One upset is all Kiski Area's girls basketball had in its tank for the WPIAL Class AAAA playoffs.
After the No. 11 Cavaliers surprised sixth-seeded North Allegheny in the first round, No. 3 Baldwin and its Duquesne-bound junior Belma Nurkic rolled Kiski Area, 71-43, in the quarterfinals Friday night at North Allegheny.
The second-place finisher to top-ranked Mt. Lebanon in Section 4-AAAA, Baldwin (19-4) never trailed. Nurkic, a 5-foot-9 guard/forward, looked every bit the Division I prospect with a 30-point performance.
"We didn't do a good job covering their star," Cavaliers coach Chris Kallock said. "When their star scores, it gets contagious to beat (Baldwin). They're good, and it's going to take a really good effort to beat them, and we didn't have the answers tonight."
It wasn't just Nurkic that Kiski Area (16-7) had trouble guarding. Another one of the Highlanders' top offensive threats, senior guard Samantha Walsh, had an easy time against the Cavaliers' uncharacteristically sloppy defense, putting up 16 points.
"All five of our kids score," Baldwin coach Dan Thaver said. "They all really work hard, and anybody we bring in can shoot the ball, so that's big for us."
Baldwin dominated in the paint offensively and led comfortably for the majority of the game. And even when Kiski Area was able to close the gap, the Highlanders responded.
In the first quarter, the Cavaliers closed the deficit to 13-8 at one point, but Baldwin then promptly went on a 9-0 run. Again in the second quarter, Kiski Area cut the lead to seven points before Baldwin outscored the Cavaliers, 10-4, over the rest of the half.
Kiski Area would get no closer than 11 for the rest of the game.
"We couldn't get a defensive stop, and we've been good at that this year," Kallock said. "And we could never get a 8-0 run and try to claw back into the game."
The loss brought to a close a season in which Kiski Area used a young roster to finish second in Section 1-AAAA and laid the seeds for a potentially big season next year. The Cavaliers will lose just two seniors — leading scorer Chelsy Cosentino and Laura Gregory.
And against Baldwin, one of Kiski Area's freshmen provided one of the few bright spots, as 5-foot-11 forward Maddie Antone led the Cavaliers with 14 points.
"We gained a lot of experience," Kallock said. "We're going to miss our two seniors, but our kids got a taste of (the playoffs), and maybe we'll beat Baldwin in a year or two."
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