Beaver shuts down Knoch, earns spot in Class 4A girls title game

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Tuesday, March 9, 2021 | 9:00 PM


The Beaver girls basketball team is back in familiar territory.

The Bobcats will play for a WPIAL championship for the second year in a row.

Behind a game-best 22 points from senior point guard Emma Pavelek, Beaver limited Knoch on the scoreboard and came away with a 40-22 victory in a Class 4A semifinal game Tuesday evening.

The Bobcats (19-0) will meet No. 2 Quaker Valley in Friday’s title game at Peters Township. Beaver, which swept the season series with the section-rival Quakers by a combined nine points, will be gunning for its first WPIAL title in girls basketball.

“In a lot of ways, it feels a little bit like a relief,” said Beaver coach Greg Huston, who late in the regular season won his 200th game as coach of the Bobcats.

“Everyone had been saying we would be the team to beat (moving up from 3A) and all that stuff. When you have that target on your back, it adds a little bit of pressure. I think we feel relieved that we were able to get back to the (championship game) goal. Now, the next goal is to take care of business.”

With a combination of Beaver defensive pressure and colder-than-usual shooting from Knoch, especially from beyond the arc, the Knights (10-2) finished the game more than 30 points under their season average. The Bobcats came in allowing opponents just 25 points a game.

“Holding them to one shot per possession the majority of the night was a big difference,” Huston said.

Knoch, with four players — sophomores Nina Shaw and Hattie McGraw, senior Nevaeh Ewing and junior Madilyn Boyer — at over 35% from 3-point range for the season, finished 1 of 27 from long range. The only successful 3-pointer came from Shaw with 1 minute, 8 seconds left until halftime. To that point, they were 0 for 13.

Beaver led 8-0 two minutes into the game, 10-5 after the first quarter and 19-10 at the break.

“We keep shooting, and that’s what we do,” Knoch coach Chris Andreassi said. “In the first half, I thought our defense was solid. Down nine, I told them at halftime that if we make half of the shots we normally make, we’re up.

“You have to give Beaver credit. Obviously, they are the best team in the WPIAL by (opponent’s) points scored, and there is a reason for that. They have a good system with good players. I think we got some good shots, but their defensive pressure sometimes made them rushed.”

Pavelek’s 22-point effort for the Bobcats comes on the heels of the 23 she scored in Friday’s 49-36 quarterfinal triumph over Elizabeth Forward.

“Payton (List) wasn’t 100%, so Emma had to pick up some of the slack scoring-wise,” Huston said. “Those two are right around 16 or 17 points a game.”

List, a 5-foot-10 junior, played through a sore ankle that was injured in the first half against Elizabeth Forward. She scored just two points, but she came through with 11 rebounds.

Senior Makenzie Weiland added nine points for Beaver, while sister Maddi Weiland contributed eight.

“Everybody does talk about Knoch’s offense, but they are a good defensive team, too,” Huston said. “They did a nice job of hedging the screens well and plugging up the lanes. We were trying to be patient, and we felt if we were patient and worked them a little bit, it would open up some lanes. To (Knoch’s) credit, it didn’t work all that well, and they did a nice job of protecting their hoop.”

Down less than 10 points entering the third quarter, Knoch looked to rally.

But Pavelek made a layup and one of her three 3-pointers, Anna Blum converted a layup off an offensive rebound, and Makenzie Weiland hit a jumper. Those eight consecutive points extended Beaver’s lead to 28-10 with 3:00 left in the stanza.

Boyer led the Knights with eight points. Sophomore Megan Vasas added seven.

Knoch played a WPIAL semifinal game for the first time in program history. The Knights came into the game off a 51-45 victory Friday over No. 5 Blackhawk.

“We started Nov. 20, and twice our team had to go into quarantine. We had individual girls go into quarantine. We battled through a couple of injuries. We had the state-wide shutdown, a school shutdown,” Andreassi said. “But every opportunity they had to come to practice, they did. They worked hard.

“We haven’t peaked yet. We haven’t had the opportunity to peak as a team. I’m sure there are a lot of teams who can say that. We were hoping for one more game, because we thought we were getting better each game.”

Michael Love is a Tribune-Review Staff Writer. You can contact Michael by email at mlove@triblive.com or via Twitter .

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