Knoch girls use defense, free-throw shooting to hold down New Castle

Monday, February 17, 2020 | 8:36 PM

It wasn’t easy for the Knoch girls basketball team in its WPIAL Class 4A first-round game against New Castle on Monday at Fox Chapel.

The No. 11 Red Hurricane gave the Knights all they could handle before the No. 6 seed held on for a 43-35 victory and punched its ticket to the quarterfinals Thursday and a date with No. 3 Central Valley.

“The girls are excited,” said Knoch coach Chris Andreassi, who led his team into the playoffs for the second year in a row.

“Last year at this time, they didn’t want the season to end, and they worked for this for a year. I told them before the game, the nice thing about (Monday) was these girls have been here. They’ve played in a playoff game, and don’t think that it doesn’t make a big difference in the fourth quarter.”

Knoch won it from the free-throw line in the fourth quarter. The Knights didn’t have a field goal over the final eight minutes, but they were 14 of 18 from the line.

Freshman Nina Shaw was 7 of 9 from the line. With Knoch ahead 39-35, Shaw hit two foul shots with 37 seconds left and added two more seven seconds later to all but seal the win.

Senior Abbey Shearer was 5 of 6 from the line in the fourth and finished with six points.

“We practice foul shots a lot in practice, so we were ready from the beginning,” said Shaw, who scored nine points.

New Castle, in the playoffs for the first time since 2012, ended its season at 13-10.

Andreassi said that in addition to the fourth-quarter free-throw shooting, Monday’s game was won on the defensive end.

“We rebounded the ball pretty well,” Andreassi said. “A big concern was second shots, and they got a few, but we did a pretty good job on the boards. Offensively, we were in a little bit of a funk, but we pulled it out defensively.”

Sophomore Madilyn Boyer led Knoch with 15 points. She was the only Knights player to finish in double figures.

She scored eight points in the second quarter and 10 in the first half overall as Knoch broke out of an early scoring rut to lead 22-14 at halftime.

Junior Nevaeh Ewing, on the strength of a pair of 3-point field goals, scored all nine of her points in the second quarter.

Senior Lauren Cihonski was limited to two points — both coming on free throws in the fourth — but she led the Knights with eight rebounds.

New Castle cut the Knoch halftime advantage in half to 29-25 at the end of the third. The Red Hurricanes helped themselves with an 8-2 run over the first five minutes of the stanza.

Aayanna Hudson, New Castle’s leading scorer during the regular season at 17 points a game, tallied 11 to lead the Red Hurricanes before she fouled out with 2:09 left in the fourth.

“It was a rough loss in the playoffs last year, and we worked our butts off to get back (to the playoffs),” Boyer said. “It feels good to get this win and move on to the next round.”

Knoch and Central Valley will tip off at 8 p.m. Thursday at Fox Chapel.

Michael Love is a Tribune-Review Staff Writer. You can contact Michael by email at or via Twitter .

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