Penn-Trafford girls bounce rival Latrobe to qualify for WPIAL playoffs
Apparently, the Penn-Trafford girls basketball team didn’t like missing out on the WPIAL playoffs last season.
The Warriors missed out on the postseason for the first time in 10 years last season. On Friday night, they made sure to return.
The Warriors celebrated senior night by defeating rival Latrobe, 62-32, to clinch a playoff berth in Section 3-5A action. Latrobe (12-7, 8-6) finished fifth and fell short of a playoff berth.
Junior Bella Long led Penn-Trafford with 18 points, including four 3-pointers. Long scored 13 points betwen the second and third quarters.
“She’s been fantastic,” Penn-Trafford coach John Giannikas said. “The last couple of games, she has had really gutsy performances. She’s being battling an illness, she sucked it up and is playing at a high level.”
Sophomore Kenzie Powell finished with 12 points for the Warriors.
The Warriors (13-9, 9-5) won their final three games in Section 3, including victories over Laurel Highlands and playoff-bound Woodland Hills.
“These kids, for a week and a half, have known the importance of these games. They’ve been playing playoff games for a week and a half. They stepped up today,” Giannikas said.
“Latrobe is a really good team. It’s a very good section, and we’re very fortunate to get in. I’m really proud of these kids with a lot of them playing with illnesses.”
The Warriors avenged a 47-43 loss at Latrobe on Jan. 14.
Penn-Trafford led 14-12 after the first quarter, and Giannikas said the Warriors refocused on the defensive end and outscored the Wildcats, 17-2, in the second quarter to hold a 31-14 halftime lead.
“I thought our defense was pretty solid in the second quarter and limited them to one shot. The first quarter they got a lot of rebounds on us,” Giannikas said.
“I thought in the second quarter we rebounded a little bit better, and it led to some fastbreak points for us. It eased us up because I thought both teams were nervous at the beginning due to the magnitude of the game. In the second quarter, we started to relax and play our game.”
Long scored seven points in the second quarter, including two 3-pointers.
In the second half, the Warriors didn’t let off the gas and outscored the Wildcats, 31-18.
“We just wanted to get in their space and crowd their shooters. The biggest thing was get a body on a shot. We stressed making the extra pass, and the kids were really unselfish tonight,” Giannikas said.
Sophomore Allie Prady, senior Reaghan Panza and senior Stephanie O’Donnell each finished with seven points in the win.
Latrobe was led senior Carly Augustine and sophomore Lexi Weatherton, who each finished with eight points.
The Warriors are excited to see how they stack up against those who qualify for the WPIAL Class 5A playoffs. They will learn their opening-round opponent Tuesday night.
“We’re going to go out there and enjoy the experience and the moment,” Giannikas said. “We want to see what we can do and roll with it.”
Andrew John is a freelance writer.