Freshman sparks Latrobe girls to comeback win over Gateway

Monday, February 8, 2021 | 10:11 PM

Latrobe girls basketball gives out “paws” to its players for big performances, a custom akin to helmet stickers in football.

At the end of the season, the player with the most paws makes the Wildcats’ “Paw of Fame.”

It’s not Canton, but freshman Elle Snyder could be on her way to the hall. At least in the eyes of coach Mark Burkhardt.

Snyder helped spark Latrobe in the closing minutes Monday night as the Wildcats rallied from an eight-point deficit and escaped a home upset against Gateway with a 56-51 victory in Section 4-5A.

“She gets a paw from me,” Burkhardt said of Snyder, who made a key corner jumper to open a late run, then scored on a layup off a feed from senior Rachel Ridilla to make it a three-point game with 24 seconds left.

Burkhadt added: “She might have been asked to take the last shot if we needed to draw up a play there.”

In a back-and-forth game loaded with talent in the post — three players had double-doubles — the guards made the biggest impact in the final minutes as Latrobe moved to 8-1 overall and 7-0 in section.

“We looked like a completely different basketball team for the last three or four minutes of that game,” Burkhardt said. “We told them, ‘If you want to win this game, you have to get tougher. You have to have heart.’ (Gateway) was slicing right though us all night.”

Wildcats junior Anna Rafferty made a pair of three throws with 52.4 seconds left to give Latrobe the lead for good at 50-49. Ridilla made two more to make it 54-49 and senior Lexi Weatherton added a pair of foul shots for the final points with 4.2 seconds to go.

“Defense and free throws were the key for us tonight,” Burkhardt said.

The 6-foot-2 Rafferty finished with 18 points and 20 rebounds, and 6-1 sophomore Emma Blair added 15 points and 17 rebounds for the Wildcats, who have won five straight. Senior Dynasty Shegog, a 5-11 Cal U commit, finished with 11 points and 15 rebounds.

Rafferty scored 10 in the second half.

Gateway (3-8, 1-6), which also played Latrobe close earlier in the season, used a 9-0 run to build a 47-39 lead midway into the fourth. Junior Alexis Margolis hit a 3-pointer and slashed to the rim during the surge on the way to 17 points. The run came after a see-saw third quarter that saw 13 lead changes.

Snyder, a 5-8 guard, only had two baskets, but both were pivotal. She took a pass in the corner and connected on a long 2-pointer to cut the lead to 47-43.

Rafferty scored inside and Blair corralled a missed free throw and made a short jumper to make it 48-47 with 1:51 left.

Sophomore Marina Grado scored to give the Gators a 49-48 edge before the Wildcats made their decisive run. Grado finished with 14 points, 10 in the second half.

Snyder pulled in a perfect feed from Ridilla on a fast break and was fouled on a layup with 24 seconds remaining. She took a vicious bump and fell to the floor. Senior Ava Vitula had to shoot the free throw for Snyder, who returned to celebrate with the Wildcats.

Latrobe outscored Gateway in the fourth, 17-8.

“We have to learn to execute better and close out games,” Gateway coach Curtis Williams said. “We have to be better down the stretch. We have leads but don’t know how to hold on to them — when the intensity goes up.”

Latrobe led by eight in the first quarter at 13-5. From early in the second to late in the third, the lead never got above four.

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

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