Bethel Park girls beat Latrobe at own game in Class 6A quarterfinals

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Friday, February 23, 2018 | 9:45 PM


Third-seeded Bethel Park did not want to play a fast-paced game against No. 6 Latrobe in the WPIAL Class 6A girls basketball quarterfinals. The Black Hawks thought that might be detrimental and could favor the Wildcats.

But they did a quick pivot about halfway into Friday night's game and hit the gas pedal.

They matched Latrobe shot-for-shot and ran to a double-digit lead, then held off the Wildcats in the second half with exceptional free-throw shooting in a 70-50 win at Gateway.

Bethel Park (17-5), which advances to play No. 2 Peters Township (20-3) in the semifinals, made 20 of 20 free throws in the second half and 24 of 27 for the game.

After so much running, the Black Hawks did plenty of other damage standing still.

“We knew they wanted to push the ball. They fly up the court,” Bethel Park coach Jonna Burke said. “We played better defensively in the second half. We got big shots when we needed them.”

Latrobe (17-7), which was coming off its first playoff win since 2006-07, needs Bethel Park to win the WPIAL title to get pulled into the PIAA playoffs.

“There were times when their playoff experience showed and our inexperience showed,” Latrobe coach Mark Burkhardt said. “We didn't take care of the ball for a few minutes, and we got a little too excited. (Bethel Park) is an excellent team, and they're tough to defend.”

Bethel Park took a 10-point lead into halftime on the strength of a 12-0 run late in the second quarter. Four players scored during the spurt, with Olivia Westphal and Emma Papalia connecting on 3-pointers.

Maria Cerro scored 19 points and Westphal had 17 to lead Bethel Park.

Latrobe cut the lead to seven (38-31) at the start of the third on a three-point play by American recruit Laura Graytok, who led all scorers with 24 points. But the Black Hawks took a 49-35 advantage into the fourth.

After Shelby Wetzel scored on a break and Graytok followed with a free throw to cut it to 51-43, Bethel Park went on a 9-0 run with Kamryn Lach making a 3-pointer from the wing to help lift the lead back to 60-43.

Graytok hit from 3 and followed with a pull-up to make it 62-50, but Bethel Park iced it from the foul line.

“We're not always great from the line, but tonight we were,” Burke said. “Some nights we're 50 percent. Some nights we're 80.”

Graytok and Mackenzie Markle scored 11 each in the first half for Latrobe. Markle finished with 17.

Latrobe had five scorers, but players not named Graytok or Markle combined for nine points. Bethel Park had eight scorers, including Papalia with nine.

“We saw (Graytok) on film, but you really don't get a feel for a player until you see them in person,” Burke said. “She is really good. So fast. I am so impressed with her ability.”

Burkhardt reluctantly pulled his seniors late.

“I am more upset that this could be the last time I coach those seniors than us losing,” Burkhardt said, his eyes beginning to show tears. “They set a standard. They are perfect role models for our freshmen and sophomores. And 17-7 is nothing to sneeze at.”

Bill Beckner Jr. is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach him at bbeckner@tribweb.com or via Twitter @BillBeckner.

Bill Beckner Jr. is a Tribune-Review Staff Writer. You can contact Bill by email at bbeckner@tribweb.com or via Twitter .

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