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Belle Vernon girls overcome long drought, defeat Mt. Pleasant

Bill Beckner Jr.
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Mt. Pleasant’s Hannah Gesinski dribbles down court against Belle Vernon defender Vienna Bertram during girls’ WPIAL basketball on Thursday, Jan. 24, 2019 at Belle Vernon Area High School.
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Shane Dunlap | Tribune-Review
Mt. Pleasant’s Juliann Kalp retains the ball from Belle Vernon defender Tara Callaway during girls’ WPIAL basketball on Thursday, Jan. 24, 2019 at Belle Vernon Area High School.
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Shane Dunlap | Tribune-Review
Mt. Pleasant Lady Vikings listen to coaching instruction from head coach Scott Giacobbi (bottom left) during girls’ WPIAL basketball on Thursday, Jan. 24, 2019 at Belle Vernon Area High School.
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Mt. Pleasant’s Chloe Jaworski drives toward the basket while Belle Vernon’s Tara Callaway defends. Jaworski had a team-high 13 points.
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Mt. Pleasant’s Tara Tuccarello (right) dribbles up to attempt a shot at net while Belle Vernon’s Lindsay Steeber (11) attempts to block during girls’ WPIAL basketball on Thursday, Jan. 24, 2019 at Belle Vernon Area High School.

In a stagnant game with little offensive flow and more stops and starts than evening rush hour on Route 51, Rachel Wobrak decided someone needed to step on the gas.

“For the first three quarters, I didn’t feel like I played the way I can,” the Belle Vernon junior said. “I felt like I owed one to the team.”

Wobrak recharged the host Leopards with nine fourth-quarter points as they held off pesky Mt. Pleasant, 41-36, in a Section 3-4A girls basketball game on Thursday night.

Wobrak finished with 13 points, all in the second half, for the Leopards (11-6, 7-3), who have won four in a row after a three-game losing streak.

The get-it-and-go Leopards managed to overcome a 13-plus-minute stretch, including the entire third quarter, when they did not make a field goal. After Steeber hit a 3 late in the first half, it wasn’t until Wobrak’s short jumper at the 4:09 mark of the fourth they finally put the ball in the hoop by other means than free throws.

“Rachel had a fantastic fourth quarter,” Belle Vernon coach Ronnie Drennen said. “She did a nice job of getting to the hoop and the foul line. We had trouble getting things going tonight and needed someone to step up.”

Senior Rachel Steeber led the Leopards with 14 points, 12 in the first half when she made three 3-pointers.

The win might not have been suitable for framing, but Belle Vernon will take it. Mt. Pleasant (5-12, 3-7) had more field goals than Belle Vernon, 14 to 12.

“We needed our defense to get us going tonight,” Drennen said. “We like to play an up-tempo game, but we were unable to do that tonight. We just couldn’t get a run going.”

Mt. Pleasant, with its flickering playoff hopes, aimed to make Belle Vernon uncomfortable.

The Vikings hit the first basket of each half and stayed close until regaining the lead early in the fourth.

Mt. Pleasant, which trailed 26-18 late in the third, went ahead 28-26 on a 3-pointer by senior Chloe Jaworski with 6:50 remaining.

Jaworski finished with 13 points.

“I told the girls there were two keys to tonight,” Mt. Pleasant coach Scott Giacobbi said. “Free throws and rebounding. I thought we controlled the tempo, but we didn’t make our free throws, and we let them get rebounds. I’m proud of our girls. We gave them all we had.”

Belle Vernon made 14 of 23 free throws — Wobrak hit 8 of 11 — and Mt. Pleasant made just 2 of 10 foul shots.

“We got together in the huddles and talked to each other about playing for each other,” Wobrak said. “We had to stay focused.”

Steeber, who drew more man-to-man pressure as the game went on, hit a 3 early in the second quarter to give Belle Vernon the only double-figure lead of the night, at 17-7.

Sophomore Taylor Rodriguez added nine points for Belle Vernon.

Senior Juliann Kalp scored eight points, and senior Tara Tuccarello had seven for Mt. Pleasant, all in the fourth.

The Vikings are trying to avoid missing the playoffs for the second year in a row after qualifying 10 consecutive times.

Bill Beckner is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Bill at [email protected] or via Twitter @BillBeckner.