Montour pulls away from Knoch
NEW CASTLE — Ice-cold shooting was the culprit Monday night, as Knoch dropped a 52-38 decision to Montour in the opening round of the WPIAL Class AAA girls basketball playoffs.
Knoch opened the game by hitting just two of its first 13 field-goal attempts at New Castle Fieldhouse.
The loss concluded the Lady Knights’ season at 17-7, while Montour (18-7) advanced to the quarterfinal round to face Mars on Friday or Saturday at a site and time to be determined.
The Lady Knights couldn’t take advantage of four Montour turnovers in the first 1:46.
“It’s a shame you lose when it’s not because of lack of effort,” Knoch coach Curt Vasas said. “We had some nice looks, and, overall, we executed the way we wanted to.”
Said Montour coach Jack Burik: “We couldn’t get into our rhythm at first. We couldn’t get into our offensive sets, and we came in shooting 53 percent.”
Knoch’s final lead of the game was on a 3-point field goal by Abby Marshall with 4:19 left in the second period to put the Lady Knights ahead, 9-8. But Melanie Bihler, playing for the first time in two weeks, found the range as Montour started to pull away late in the first half.
With three seconds to go before halftime and the Spartans ahead, 18-14, Megan Gray missed a pair of free throws for Knoch, and Jena Kacsur fired in a shot from just past halfcourt to put Montour ahead, 21-14.
Bihler heated up in the third period, scoring eight points as the Spartans built a 34-25 lead in the final minute of the third quarter.
Lizz King, who played sparingly in the first half because of foul trouble, tallied a pair of 3-pointers, with the latter coming with 2:32 left in the game to pull the Lady Knights to within 40-37.
But Montour rebounded and finished the contest with a 12-1 run. Gray and Pam Gagen forced a 10-second backcourt call against Montour, but the Lady Knights couldn’t convert and interrupt the Montour surge.
“Lizz stepped up and made a couple of big shots for us,” Vasas said. “We played pretty well, but we couldn’t generate enough offense.”
For Vasas, it was the third trip to the playoffs in his four seasons as head coach.
“We don’t want to make that our benchmark, but this is a special group because the seniors are the first class that have been with me all four years,” he said.