ALLISON PARK — The saying is it’s difficult to beat a team three times in a season.
Neshannock High did itself one better last night. After shaking off a sluggish start and some foul trouble, the Lady Lancers topped Section 1-3A rival Avonworth for the fourth time this season, 60-37, in a PIAA Class 3A second-round game at Hampton High. Neshannock swept the regular-season series from the Lady Antelopes before downing Avonworth in the WPIAL Class 3A semifinals last month.
“We knew each other very well,” Neshannock coach Luann Grybowski said. “Nobody did anything different, except we played some 3-2 (zone) tonight because we got in foul trouble. You know what you’re going to run and they know what you’re going to run, so it comes down to a matter of execution and getting some baskets in transitions or a few from out-of-bounds plays.”
Senior Bella Burrelli said Avonworth did try to change up some of its defenses and try to apply more pressure. Neshannock (25-2) outscored Avonworth, 35-17, in the second half.
“It’s difficult to play a team four times in such a short amount of time since they have a bunch of film on us,” Burrelli said. “I think we handled it very well.”
With the victory — Neshannock’s 21st in a row — the Lady Lancers advance to Friday’s Class 3A quarterfinals to play District 3’s Delone Catholic, a 73-64 winner over Penn Cambria last night. That could result in a bit of a road trip for the Lady Lancers when the PIAA announces times and locations for Friday’s games, although one the team is sure to relish. Delone Catholic (23-4) is located in McSherrystown, near Hanover and east of Gettysburg.
“We’re on the road, but we’re still playing,” Grybowski said. “At this point in the season, there aren’t too many teams left playing.”
Before it could move forward in the state tournament, the Lady Lancers first had to overcome some early foul trouble. Burrelli sat the final 3:32 of the first quarter with two fouls, while point guard Ellina DeLillo was whistled for her third not even midway through the second quarter. Neshannock persevered, pushing its lead to seven and then eight points before Avonworth’s Alexis Mankey got a friendly roll on a 3-pointer as the Lady Lancers went into the half up, 25-20.
“We’re playing long minutes without Bella then long minutes without Ell,” Grybowski said. “Other kids have stepped up all year for us. Jesse (Fehrs) gives us good minutes. Maddie DeMatteo gives us good minutes. Neleh (Nogay) can run the point. That’s the first time all year Bella has had to sit with foul trouble.”
The second half, though, was a different story.
On the first possession of the half, Nogay, the speedy freshman guard, came up with a steal which eventually led to a Kaylee George 3-pointer on the other end of the floor. Then Nogay turned a 28-26 lead into a 10-point advantage when she went on a personal 8-0 run over just 1:12 of game time hitting two 3-pointers and a layup in traffic to force Avonworth into a timeout.
“I think we stopped them with our defense,” Burrelli said of the difference between the first and second halves. “I think that was key and we started finishing more. (Nogay) went on a hot-handed streak, which always helps.”
George, who scored 12 points, said it was more of just getting a feeling for the game.
“I think we just started getting into the groove of things in the start of the second half,” George said. “We just got into the tempo of things.”
Burrelli added six of her 16 points in the quarter as the Lady Lancers pushed their lead to 42-30 by the end of the quarter. She completed a double-double with 10 rebounds and added five blocks.
In the fourth quarter, Nogay scored seven more of her game-high 20 points as she and teammate Brie Dean — who tallied six rebounds and three steals — helped push the lead to 17, 47-30, on consecutive out-of-bounds scoring plays. Nogay, who said the difference in the game was setting her focus on setting her feet, hit a 3-pointer with 1:17 left to gave Neshannock its biggest lead of the game at 60-36 as both teams emptied their benches in the final minutes.
DeLillo, despite the early foul trouble, still managed to add six rebounds, six assists and three steals while Fehrs had three steals off the bench.
NESHANNOCK VS. AVONWORTH
PIAA CLASS 3A PLAYOFFS AT HAMPTON
Harris Robinson 2 2-4 6, Kathryn Goetz 3 1-2 7, Alexa Davis 1 0-0 2, Anastasia Heinhold 1 0-0 3, Hayden Robinson 5 2-4 12, Alexis Mankey 2 1-2 6, Lauren Pflueger 0 0-0 0, Emily Ronk 1 1-2 1, Margaret Goetz 0 0-0 0, Olivia Perry 0 0-0 0, Alyse Austin 0 0-0 0, Ally Yovetich 0 0-0 0. Totals: 14 7-14 37.
Neleh Nogay 8 0-2 20, Madison DeMatteo 0 0-0 0, Lacey Salomon 0 0-0 0, Kaylee George 4 3-6 12, Bella Burrelli 5 6-6 16, Ellina DeLillo 0 3-4 3, Brie Dean 3 2-2 9, Jesse Fehrs 0 0-0 0, Addi Watts 0 0-0 0, Grace Beal 0 0-0 0, Maya Mrozek 0 0-2 0. Totals: 20 14-22 60.
AVONWORTH 11 9 10 7 — 37
NESHANNOCK 14 11 17 18 — 60
3-point goals — Avonworth 2 (Heinhold 1, Mankey 1), Neshannock 6 (Nogay 4, George 1, Dean 1).