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Hempfield girls use strong start to edge Fox Chapel

| Friday, Dec. 15, 2017, 8:24 p.m.

Progress was easy for Hempfield forward Allison Podkul to see Friday night at Fox Chapel High School.

Spartans guard Jess Person made two 3-pointers in the first 59 seconds during a 46-44 Section 2-6A victory.

While Hempfield's offense was hardly perfect — the Spartans shot 1 of 11 from the field in the second quarter — a 21-point first quarter was a tangible sign of progress.

In Hempfield's first two games, both losses, the Spartans scored 42 and 32 points, respectively.

“We're still growing, and we are working hard every day in practice,” said Podkul, who finished with 19 points and five rebounds. “It's definitely showing on the court. Some girls are stepping up, and it's really awesome to see everyone come together, and we're hoping to continue to build as the season comes.”

First-year coach Lindsy Muchnock was encouraged to see Hempfield (1-2, 1-0) show fight on defense.

That helped offset some of the Spartans' less exciting moments on offense.

“I think defensively all night we were pretty solid,” Muchnock said. “This team we know we can defend. You can see we had some scoring droughts. I tell the kids if you defend, we'll be in every game.”

The Spartans went ahead for good 39-37 when Kayla Barrientos-Collins made a jumper with 5 minutes, 11 seconds remaining. Fox Chapel's Sarah Sheerer made a 3-pointer with 1:39 left to cut the deficit to 45-44, but the Foxes could get no closer.

Fox Chapel coach Jennifer O'Shea was disappointed they couldn't capitalize on their size advantage.

Hempfield, led by 11 from Barrientos-Collins, outrebounded the Foxes, 30-22.

“They were ready to play, and they pushed us around,” O'Shea said. “We weren't tough at all. We were soft.”

From the beginning, the Spartans showed their will. When Person, who finished with nine points, made her second 3-pointer with 7:01 left in the first, Hempfield went up 6-1. The Spartans also received two 3-pointers from Riley Sargerberger and shot 8 of 15 in the first quarter.

“People weren't rotating,” O'Shea. “Leaving girls wide open.”

Fox Chapel (2-2, 0-1) settled down in the second quarter, cutting the lead to 27-24 by halftime.

Claudia Guerrieri led the Foxes with 12 points, and Megan Friday finished with 10.

The teams went back-and-forth in the third quarter before Hempfield gained control in the fourth quarter. The Spartans, though, were excited to build off a strong start.

It gave a much-needed boost to Hempfield's confidence on offense.

“We wanted to come out strong, especially for a section game,” Podkul said. “We worked really hard in practice this week. After our first two games, that was our main struggle. I think we really showed it tonight.”

Josh Rizzo is a freelance writer.

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