Fast start vaults No. 2 Peters Township past No. 3 Bethel Park

Monday, January 22, 2018 | 10:45 PM

From the opening tip of a WPIAL Section 3-6A matchup against No. 3 Bethel Park, the No. 2 Peters Township girls basketball team came out firing on all cylinders and rarely let up on the gas as it toppled the Black Hawks, 58-44, to claim to the top spot in the section standings.

Makenna Marisa and Isabella Mills combined to score 22 points, including five 3-pointers, in the first half alone to help Peters Township (12-2, 5-1) sprint out to a 31-16 advantage.

From that point on, Bethel Park (10-4, 4-2) elevated its level of play and mounted a comeback effort, but the Indians' nearly flawless first-half play proved to be insurmountable.

“We played a good first half. I think the last time we played Bethel it was 38-37. We didn't score many points. I thought we were trying to work the ball down on the block almost too much, trying to drive the lane too much,” Peters Township coach Bert Kendall said.

“So we said in the first quarter, ‘We're letting it fly.' Hey, some nights they fall and some nights they don't. Tonight, they did for us, and we're happy for that.”

Mills controlled the paint for Peters Township, finishing with 13 points and 11 rebounds, while Marisa did it all, racking up 23 points and 13 rebounds. The 5-foot-11 junior also made an impact on the defensive end, collecting two blocks and three steals.

“She is a special player, there's no doubt. She can play any position on the floor and she's selfless,” Kendall said of Marisa, a Division I prospect. “I think our girls are learning now that if she's going to penetrate from the wing, you better go to the hoop because you may get a free layup out of it.

“She can handle the ball, she can shoot the ball, she can pass the ball. I say it all the time, but I'm really glad she goes to Peters Township.”

Senior guard Olivia Ziegler also chipped in 10 points and six rebounds for the Indians.

In the second half, Bethel Park's offense came alive as junior Maria Cerro tallied 14 points and freshman Olivia Westphal scored 13.

The Black Hawks actually ended up outscoring Peters Township, 28-27, in the final two quarters of play. But the deficit was too much to overcome.

“We struggled, I think we were 5 for 28 in the first half so that's hard to bounce back from,” Bethel Park coach Jonna Burke said. “And they were really firing away, it seemed like everything was going in. Our defense wasn't as good as it needed to be.

“They're a hard matchup for us with their size. It's just one of the games where you wish you could hit the reset button.”

Kevin Lohman is a freelance writer.

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