Caroline Gibson

Laurel's Caroline Gibson dribbles during the second half of a WPIAL first round game against Chartiers-Houston last night at Mount Lebanon High School.

ALTOONA — The Laurel High girls basketball team flirted with what would have been a huge upset last night.

“We had the second-best team in the state on the ropes,” Lady Spartans coach Matt Stebbins said. “We tried to shock the state and be a Cinderella team and we almost pulled it off.”

In the end, though, the Lady Spartans dropped a 43-40 decision to Juniata Valley in the opening round of the PIAA Class 2A playoffs at Altoona High.

Laurel, which went into the state playoffs as the No. 4 seed out of District 7, closes out its season at 20-6. Juniata Valley, the No. 2 seed out of District 6, moves on at 22-3.

Despite the loss, it was an unforgettable night for Lady Spartans senior Caroline Gibson, who scored 21 points and closed out her career by breaking three school records.

She became the all-time leading scorer in Laurel girls history with 1,214 points, breaking the former mark of 1,206 set by Rebecca Myers during 1977-81. Gibson also shattered the single-season record by scoring 504 points this season, surpassing the previous mark of Jennie Book (494) and set the school free-throw percentage record of 82 percent (96 of 117).

“She made Laurel proud,” Stebbins said. “She did all of this despite missing 15 games during her sophomore season due to an injury. Whoever gets her in college (Gibson is still undecided on her choice) is going to get quite a player and person.”

The Lady Spartans were up 40-39 with 23 seconds left despite missing a one-and-one with 28 seconds to go, but two turnovers down the stretch and a 2 of 10 total free-throw performance spelled their doom.

Laurel had the ball with 6 seconds left, but a shot was blocked and Juniata Valley made a pair of free throws in the final seconds to seal the win. 

“That we almost beat this team shows this team’s character and how they recovered from losing the WPIAL playoffs,” Stebbins said. “You want to play your best basketball at the end of the year and that’s what we did.

“We’re going to miss Caroline and our other senior, Makenna Collins, dearly,” he added. “They brought a lot of energy and excitement to the program.”

kcubbal@ncnewsonline.com


PIAA CLASS 2A PLAYOFFS AT ALTOONA

LAUREL (40)

Faith Gibson 2 0-1 4, Caroline Gibson 9 2-4 21, Lucia Lombardo 0 0-0 0, Makenna Collins 3 0-2 7, Breagan Fedrizzi 1 0-0 3, Mikyla Slater 2 0-3 5. Totals: 17 2-10 40.

JUNIATA VALLEY (43)

Olivia Smith 3 0-0 7, Avery Taylor 2 1-3 7, Hayden Taylor 3 2-2 9, Halee Smith 7 1-2 17, Emma Musser 1 1-2 3, Lexi Reed 0 0-0 0, Emily Jeffries 0 0-0 0. Totals: 16 5-9 43.

LAUREL  14  10  7  9 —  40

JUNIATA VALLEY  10  4  19  10 — 43

3-point goals —  Laurel 4 (C. Gibson 1, Collins 1, Fedrizzi 1, Slater 1), Juniata Valley 6 (H. Smith 2, A. Taylor 2, H. Taylor 1, Smith 1).

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