Inspired effort from Maura Suman helps Penn-Trafford top Latrobe, clinch playoff spot

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Thursday, February 6, 2020 | 10:09 PM


Play for pap.

It was Maura Suman’s mission statement heading into a must-win girls basketball game Thursday night at Latrobe.

He would have wanted her to play, the proud Penn-Trafford sophomore guard said.

Suman decided to suit up for the Warriors in their biggest game of the season, on the day of her late grandfather’s viewing, and she shined.

Suman scored a team-high 18 points as the Warriors held back Latrobe, 44-40, to clinch the final playoff berth in Section 3-5A.

Thomas Torcia died Tuesday. He was 81. Suman attended his viewing in the afternoon and opted to play Thursday night.

“He watched our games online. He loved watching me play,” Suman said. “He loved the game of basketball. I could feel him on the court when I played tonight and every day I step on the court. I love my family so much. Pap would have wanted me to play.”

Penn-Trafford (14-7, 8-6) won its third straight game and carried over the momentum from a 51-50 upset over Class 6A No. 3 Norwin.

The Warriors were inspired by Suman’s play and extended their season because of it.

“I told her in the end, it’s just really a game,” Giannikas said. “I told her she didn’t have to play. Family is a lot more important. She decided she wanted to play for her pap. … It was a storybook ending.

“She was the rock that kept us going. I couldn’t be prouder of a kid.”

Latrobe (11-9, 7-7) had won four of its last five with a patchwork lineup — it had not had its normal starting five since the last time it played Penn-Trafford, a 44-41 win in Harrison City on Jan. 14 — and nearly rallied with one player doing most of the scoring.

Sophomore Anna Rafferty, a 6-foot-1 forward, was dominant with 25 points — 63% of her team’s offense.

But the Wildcats, perhaps ultimately done in by a two-point third quarter, could not maintain the control they had in the first half.

“There is a lot of fight in our girls,” Latrobe coach Mark Burkhardt said. “There was no quit in them. I am very proud of them. They played four hard quarters. That scoring drought hurt us.”

Suman set the tone early in the fourth with a layup off a steal to extend the Warriors’ lead to 32-24, their largest advantage of the night.

Latrobe cut it to 32-29 on a 3-pointer by junior Rachel Ridilla, who has missed four recent games with an undisclosed aliment.

Freshman Maddie Setzanfand scored off an assist from senior Bella Long and Suman made two free throws for Penn-Trafford to make it 41-34 with 1:12 to play.

With its season hanging the balance, senior-less Latrobe would not go quietly.

Freshman Camille Dominick and Rafferty each scored inside to cut it to 41-38 with 21.1 seconds remaining.

But Penn-Trafford broke the Wildcats’ press, moved the ball across midcourt and went to the foul line in the double-bonus.

Suman made two more free throws with 18.2 seconds left and Long made one more to seal it.

“I thought our defense in the second half was fantastic,” Giannikas said. “Give them credit for battling like that. We had to hold them off as best as we could. Our kids did a nice job challenging shots in the second half.”

Penn-Trafford looked solid in a zone but mainly played man-to-man defense. It contained everyone except Rafferty. Only three other Wildcats players scored. The second-leading scorer was freshman Emma Blair with six points.

“It was a good win,” Suman said. “It wasn’t just the 18 points I scored. It was a total team effort, and I wouldn’t trade it for anything. The pressure made us play harder, work harder. We got it done tonight.”

It was the same scenario as last year when the final section playoff spot came down to the same matchup.

Penn-Trafford also advanced on that occasion.

Unlike the first meeting between the teams earlier in the season, Penn-Trafford started fast. It took a 15-11 lead after the first quarter as Long, Suman and Kenzie Powell all hit 3-pointers.

Latrobe quickly responded with a 9-0 run to open the second quarter, led by Rafferty, who had 13 points in the first 16 minutes.

The Wildcats held the Warriors scoreless in the period before Suman’s jumper cut the Wildcats’ advantage to 20-17 with 2:15 left.

“She’s the best point guard in our section,” Burkhardt said of Suman.

Long followed with an and-one to tie it 20-20 with 1:40 to play in the half, but Latrobe took a 22-20 edge into halftime.

The Wildcats managed just two points in the third, allowing the Warriors to take a 30-24 lead into the final frame.

With Penn-Trafford expected to move up in classification, this might have been the teams’ last section matchup for a while. Burkhardt said he hopes to schedule the Warriors for a nonsection game next season.

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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