Leechburg girls basketball team trounces Brentwood

Friday, February 9, 2018 | 12:00 AM

The Leechburg girls basketball team is not taking it easy as it closes out the regular season and turns its focus to the WPIAL Class 2A playoffs.

The first of a stern three-game test came Thursday against Brentwood on senior night. The Blue Devils and Spartans entered the game ranked No. 4 and No. 5 in 2A, respectively.

The game was close for most of the first half, but Leechburg kept its foot on the gas and pulled away for an 80-56 victory.

“This really helped us build more confidence as we go into the playoffs,” said senior Mikayla Lovelace, who led the Blue Devils with 33 points and reached 1,900 career points with her first bucket of the contest.

Leechburg hopes to build on its playoff resume beginning with Friday's matchup against undefeated and 3A No. 2 East Allegheny.

On Monday, Leechburg tangles with Winchester Thurston, the No. 1 team in WPIAL 1A.

“We want these type of games going into the playoffs,” Lovelace said. “We know they will be hard fought.”

The Blue Devils improved to 17-3 overall and wrapped up second place in the section at 12-2. Brentwood fell to 15-6 and 10-4.

Vincentian, No. 1 in 2A, defeated Ellis School on Thursday to finished section play 14-0, and Riverview (6-7) clinched a spot in the playoffs from Section 2 when Northgate (6-8) lost to Sto-Rox.

“We talked about finishing as strong as we can in the section and play our best basketball against the good teams heading into the playoffs,” Leecburg coach Joel Ceraso said.

“When we are aggressive and get five kids looking to score, we're a good team.”

Leechburg eclipsed 70 points for the sixth time this season and completed the section sweep of the Spartans. It was the second time reaching 80 points as the Blue Devils tallied a season-high 84 in a December victory over Northgate.

Emotions were high for Leechburg before the game as the six seniors instrumental in helping turn the program around over the past few seasons were recognized and celebrated.

“Watching them get emotional made me emotional,” Ceraso said. “Our biggest obstacle, I felt, was to refocus and get ready to play a game against a really good team.”

When the game started, the pace was quick. Brentwood jumped out to a 10-4 lead, but Leechburg responded. Senior Brittany Robilio, who finished with six 3-pointers and 27 total points, collected 10 in the first quarter, and Lovelace added eight as the Blue Devils held an 18-17 advantage after one.

The Spartans used a mini 6-0 run to grab a 23-21 lead with 6 minutes, 12 seconds left until halftime. It was their final lead of the game.

With Leechburg ahead 29-27 and 2:20 to go until the break, senior Cameron Davies drained a 3-pointer. That shot started a 12-3 run to end the half as the Blue Devils took control.

All five starters had a hand in the run as Robililo added a 3-pointer and Lovelace and seniors Daesha Knight and Makenzie Fello collected field goals.

“With Mikayla and Mackenzie leading the press with their athleticism, we were able to cause them some problems and get a couple of turnovers,” Ceraso said.

Brentwood used a 6-2 run to start the second half — Morgan Dryburgh had all six points and finished with a team-best 24 points and 11 rebounds — but Leechburg weathered the storm and maintained its double-digit advantage.

Robilio had 19 at halftime, and Lovelace poured in 18 over the final two quarters. She was 10 of 12 from the line in the second half.

“Our original goal was to double Mikayla, and then (Robilio) just started hitting them from the outside,” Brentwood coach Rachel Thomas said. “(Robilio) wasn't a threat in the games we played before, so she kind of surprised us. We were able to control her a little bit in the second half, but then Mikayla took over, and we didn't have an answer for her.”

Knight scored seven of her nine points in the second half, and Fello recorded six of her eight points in the fourth quarter.

Senior Hannah Berry saw action for Leechburg but didn't get into the scoring column.

In addition to Dryburgh's 24, Anna Betz scored 16 for Brentwood before fouling out in the fourth quarter.

Michael Love is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach him at mlove@tribweb.com or via Twitter @Mlove_Trib.

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