Penn-Trafford girls basketball gets 1-point win over Latrobe
Rachel Casper inbounded the ball to Mackenzie Aunkst, one junior guard to another, and the sprint was on for Penn-Trafford.
“Why not? She's the fastest girl in the WPIAL,” Casper said of her backcourt teammate.
Aunkst got the ball upcourt quickly and zipped a pass to freshman Bella Long, who was cutting to the basket.
Aunkst got the race started, but it was Long who broke through the tape at the finish line.
The freshman forward scored on a layup with 9.2 seconds left to give Penn-Trafford a 61-60 win over host Latrobe in a tight Class 6A, Section 2 game Friday night.
“That play worked perfectly,” Casper said. “It was just like we wanted it to go.”
Penn-Trafford (4-2, 1-1) couldn't exhale until the final buzzer, though, as Latrobe (3-3, 0-1) had one last chance. The Wildcats got the ball to standout Laura Graytok, who took on four defenders and tried an up-and-under shot in the closing seconds but could not convert.
Graytok led the Wildcats back from an 11-point deficit.
“That's a play we practice a lot,” Latrobe coach Mark Burkhardt said. “But we hadn't used it in a game yet. We wanted to get the ball to (Graytok) and try to get a good shot.”
Graytok finished with a game-high 23 points, including 11 in the second quarter. She nearly won the game on an assist, however, one of five helpers she had in the game. Graytok drew a double-team near the top of the key and dished to Regan McCracken for a score to give the Wildcats a 60-59 lead with 41 seconds left.
Casper, who had 12 points, all in the first half, missed a 3-pointer, and Mackenzie Markle grabbed the rebound for Latrobe and was fouled. But she missed the free throw with 14.9 seconds to play, and the Warriors got their deciding look despite a near turnover.
Burkhardt said two of his players went for the ball on the deciding inbounds play, causing a mismatch on the other end.
That was how the Warriors got a mostly uncontested shot.
“They bobbled it on the inbounds, and our girls went after it,” Burkhardt said. “It wasn't a defensive mishap for us. Our girls saw a chance to (gain possession) there.”
Penn-Trafford coach John Giannikas was pleased with his team's poise in the closing seconds.
“We wanted to get the ball in (Aunkst's) hands,” he said. “We were able to spread the floor and get a nice look. Bella is a freshman, and she made a great play. Our girls did a nice job staying composed.”
Penn-Trafford continued its aggressive offensive approach, scoring on hard-driving layups.
“There won't be any easy games in this section,” Giannikas said. “Every game will be a battle, and it will be tough to win on the road. Our girls attack the basket.”
Long finished with 16 points to tie Athena Biondi for the team high. Biondi had 10 after halftime, six of those after she hit her head on the floor in the third quarter.
“I was pleased with our girls' effort,” Burkhardt said. “Our physical effort was there for four quarters. Our mental effort was only there for three quarters.”
Penn-Trafford jumped out to a 15-5 lead with Biondi scoring six points in the opening quarter.
Casper found a sweet spot on the left wing, hitting four 3-pointers — on six attempts — including three in the second quarter, to help increase the lead to 27-17.
Senior forward Taylor Wisniewski's putback gave the Warriors their largest lead at 30-19, but that's when Graytok went to work.
She scored eight consecutive points — and 11 of the Wildcats' next 12 — to close the gap to 33-31 with 45 seconds left in the quarter.
Graytok converted a three-point play, then hit consecutive 3-pointers during the surge.
Bill Beckner Jr. is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.