Playing just her second playoff game, it took Seton-La Salle’s leading scorer, 6-foot freshman Naje Gibson, some time to get warmed up Friday night against Greensburg Central Catholic.
With the rest of the Rebels struggling to find a rhythm, it took someone with postseason experience to spark the No. 1 seed in the WPIAL Class AA playoffs. It took a sophomore.
Angela Heintz had 11 of her 20 points in the second quarter to keep the slow-starting Rebels afloat and boost them to a 73-41 quarterfinal win at Canon-McMillan.
“It’s playoff time, and everyone needs to step up,” coach Dennis Squeglia said. “Angela really stepped up. She was a good leader for us tonight and did some really nice things, both offensively and defensively.”
When the shots finally began to fall for the WPIAL’s highest-scoring offense, it was bad news for the ninth-seeded and undersized Centurions (18-7). Gibson scored 15 of her 20 points after halftime for the Rebels (22-2).
“Naje came on in the second half after a slow start, but we can’t keep putting halves together,” Squeglia said. “We have to put games together. They’re going to get that lecture because, as this continues, they’re going to get games from teams — not halves.”
In her final high school game, senior Tess Zufall led Greensburg Central Catholic with nine points. In the first quarter, it appeared Zufall’s career had a chance to continue. While the Rebels controlled the paint, sloppy ball control and an inability to cash in on second-chance opportunities let the Centurions hang around. Greensburg Central Catholic closed the quarter on a 9-2 run for a 14-11 lead.
The score remained close, and Seton-La Salle continued to squander chances with rushed shots. Heintz, however, began to spark the Rebels and had 11 points in the quarter.
Taking her lead, the Rebels began to attack the basket and draw fouls. Seton-La Salle ended the half on a 9-0 run — with five points coming off free throws — and had a 34-26 advantage at halftime.
“Together, we feed off of each other,” Heintz said. “When one person steps up, the rest of the team steps up. We just play so well together that it came together in the second half.”
Following the break, the Rebels continued to pour it on the foul-prone Centurions, outscoring them, 21-8, in the third quarter to open a 21-point lead.