Kiski Area girls hold off late push by St. Joseph to bounce back from loss

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Tuesday, December 5, 2023 | 8:55 PM


The Kiski Area girls basketball team bounced back from a tough loss to Armstrong Saturday and handed St. Joseph its first loss of the young season with a 44-35 victory Tuesday in a nonsection clash at Kiski Area High School.

“It was nice to come back and get a good win,” said Cavaliers sophomore guard Gia DeVito, who scored 10 points for her second double-digit scoring effort in her team’s first three games. “We had a good practice and worked on some things after the game against Armstrong. Our defense was a lot better this game.”

The Cavaliers, who will host Butler on Thursday in a rematch of a 55-47 victory in the season opener last Friday, improved to 2-1.

“This game was all about rebounding,” Kiski Area coach Dave Williamson said. “Our last game, we didn’t rebound well. Armstrong is a good team, but we gave them second and third opportunities. We worked hard on not doing that (against St. Joseph). I’ve said it before, if we rebound well, we win.

“In the first half, the girls were going to the glass and really asserting themselves. That’s what changed the game for us.”

St. Joseph, coming off a 61-58 win over Class 5A North Hills at its tournament on Saturday, fell to 2-1.

The Spartans are off until Monday when they host 3-0 Serra Catholic.

“It’s great to have the opportunity to play these bigger teams,” Spartans coach Geoff Dutelle said. “Union won the state title, and they were playing Upper St. Clair in the North Allegheny tournament. The girls want these games, and they are going to benefit from it. Kiski Area is a really good team. Everyone is pushing themselves, and we want to push ourselves, too.”

Kiski Area built its largest lead of the game, 30-14, on a layup and free throw from DeVito with 6 minutes, 29 secondsd left in the third quarter.

But St. Joseph wouldn’t go away and cut the deficit to 38-30 by the end of the quarter.

A putback from Spartans senior Julie Spinelli with 2:29 left trimmed the Cavaliers lead to 40-33, but St. Joseph was unable to get any closer.

“I give Kiski Area credit,” Dutelle said. “They’re long, and they run that 1-3-1 (defense) really well. We practiced it, talked about it and came in with a good game plan for it. I told the guards that it’s going to take them a while to adjust. It took until the second half, and we started to see it pay off. But it was just too little, too late. But it was a good overall experience to see a 5A school run that defense.”

Kiski senior Abbie Johns, who led all scorers with 25 points, went 4 for 4 from the line in the final 40 seconds to seal the victory.

A layup from St. Joseph senior center Anna Kreinbrook set the final.

“St. Joseph is a veteran, successful team, and I knew they weren’t going to quit,” Williamson said. “They are not afraid to play anyone. They are well-coached, so we knew that we had to prepare for a run. We kind of got sloppy there in the third quarter with not taking care of the ball, and they also executed. We just had to settle down a little bit, and we did what we needed to do in executing down the stretch.”

Johns finished 8 of 10 from the free-throw line as Kiski Area overall was 12 of 17.

“We struggled from the free-throw line against Armstrong, so in practice, we shot almost 20 minutes of free throws,” Williamson said. “Rebounds and free throws. That’s what this game is all about.”

DeVito finished one rebound shy of a double-double as she pulled down nine rebounds. Senior Cora Coleman and junior Rikiya Garcia added seven rebounds each.

Spinelli, who averaged 19 points in the win over North Hills and a season-opening triumph over Winchester Thurston, struggled from the field early on and had just two points in the first half.

But she came alive in the third quarter with 11 points and finished with a team-best 16 to go along with 11 rebounds.

Kreinbrook added eight points, five rebounds and four blocks. Senior Emma Swierczewski contributed five points and nine rebounds.

Kiski Area jumped out to an early lead with solid play at both ends of the court.

The Cavaliers forced four St. Joseph turnovers in the first four minutes, Johns tallied seven points and the hosts had a 9-2 lead with 3:47 left in the opening quarter.

Spinelli converted a layup with 2:58 on the first-quarter clock to halt Kiski’s 7-0 run. But a jumper from Coleman in the waning seconds of the frame gave the Cavaliers an 11-4 advantage heading to the second.

Johns scored eight of her 25 in the second quarter and went to the break with a game-best 16.

Garcia gave Kiski its largest lead of the first half at 25-11 with a 3-pointer to beat the first-half buzzer.

“There is a lot of good things to build on from this game going into Thursday,” Williamson said.

Michael Love is a TribLive reporter covering sports in the Alle-Kiski Valley and the eastern suburbs of Pittsburgh. A Clearfield native and a graduate of Westminster (Pa.), he joined the Trib in 2002 after spending five years at the Clearfield Progress. He can be reached at mlove@triblive.com.

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