SEWICKLEY — The Laurel High girls basketball team made history last night.
The Lady Spartans set a single-season program best for wins and reached the WPIAL Class 2A semifinals, also a first.
Caroline Gibson netted a game-high 12 points to pace Laurel to a 40-32 WPIAL Class 2A quarterfinal-round win over South Side Beaver at Sewickley Academy High School.
Laurel (20-4) won its 14th straight game, which extends its school record. It’s the third win over the Lady Rams (15-9), who are Section 1 rivals with the Lady Spartans.
“It doesn’t get old saying it,” Laurel coach Matt Stebbins said of his team reaching the WPIAL semifinals. “It was a hard-fought win. It really is hard to beat a team three times. It’s a testament to them and a testament to our girls.
“To get 20 wins in a season, which is another school record, and 14th straight win, it’s just been a heck of a year and it was a heck of a game. It wasn’t easy. It was a low-scoring affair.”
In fact, the Lady Spartans defeated South Side Beaver in the opening round of the WPIAL playoffs one year to the day — Feb. 21.
Stebbins said the girls mentioned it to him on the ride down to Sewickley Academy.
“When it comes to playing a team four times, it’s just mental,” Gibson said. “You can’t play those mind games. We knew what we had to do and we did it.
“Making the semifinals is pretty exciting.”
Laurel will meet Brentwood, a 55-28 winner over Winchester Thurston, on Monday at a time and site to be determined. The winner will play for the WPIAL championship at 5 p.m. Thursday at the University of Pittsburgh’s Petersen Events Center. Brentwood enters Monday’s game on a 12-game winning streak.
The Lady Spartans also locked up a spot in the PIAA playoffs as well.
Laurel held an 11-4 lead after one quarter and 14-9 at the break.
“That was interesting. That was taking a defensive battle to another level,” Stebbins said. “I’m happy with our defense. We had good offensive looks, we just didn’t knock down shots. But we just kept fighting.
“You’re not going to be perfect every night. But we still found a way to win. This group of young ladies just keeps finding a way to win.”
Gibson was limited to just two points on a pair of free throws in the first half. Both of the freebies came in the first frame.
Gibson netted seven of her points in the fourth quarter as the Lady Spartans were able to put the game away.
“My shots just weren’t falling in the first half,” she said. “I just had to drive and kick out to my teammates. If mine aren’t falling, I’m not going to force anything. I just had to start driving in the second half.”
South Side Beaver made a 3-pointer to open the second half. But the Lady Rams never got closer the rest of the way.
Laurel held a 24-16 advantage going to the fourth period.
“I definitely knew it was going to be low scoring,” Gibson said. “It was a little bit surprising, though.”
Both teams were playing through foul trouble. Neither team had a player foul out. The Lady Rams had four players finish with four fouls and one Laurel player ended with four as well.
“The foul trouble was huge,” Stebbins said. “We knew in certain aspects we could attack a little bit more. They weren’t going to stop our drives because of their foul trouble.”
LAUREL VS. SOUTH SIDE BEAVER
WPIAL CLASS 2A PLAYOFFS AT SEWICKLEY ACADEMY
SOUTH SIDE BEAVER (32)
Emily Bailey 3 0-2 6, Jessica Barber 1 2-2 5, Lex Konopko 0 0-0 0, Alexis Chiccarello 0 2-2 2, Sydney Payne 3 2-4 8, Carissa McNary 4 3-5 11, Madi Fischer 0 0-0 0. Totals: 11 9-15 32.
Faith Gibson 3 1-1 8, Caroline Gibson 2 8-11 12, Lucia Lombardo 0 0-0 0, Anna McGee 1 0-0 2, Makenna Collins 4 1-2 11, Breagan Fedrizzi 2 0-2 4, Mikyla Slater 0 3-8 3. Totals: 12 13-24 40.
SS BEAVER 4 5 7 16 — 32
LAUREL 11 3 10 16 — 40
3-point goals — South Side Beaver (Barber 1), Laurel 3 (Collins 2, F. Gibson 1).