Moon rockets past Mars in return to WPIAL girls basketball playoffs

Tuesday, February 18, 2020 | 9:12 PM

After a five-year hiatus, it was a successful return to the WPIAL playoffs for Moon.

The Tigers used a strong surge to start the second half and rolled to a 52-36 victory over Mars in a Class 5A girls first-round game at North Hills Middle School.

Leading by only 24-21 at the half, No. 7-seeded Moon broke the game open with an 8-0 run in the opening 2 minutes, 18 seconds to start the third period.

Six of the eight points were off Mars turnovers.

“At halftime, we talked about us playing at their pace,” said Tigers coach Megan Mastroianni. “We needed to speed them up a little and get them to make tougher decisions. It worked, and we stuck with it through the second half.”

Moon (17-6) will play No. 2 Woodland Hills on Saturday at a site and time to be determined.

Mars, in the playoffs for the 24th consecutive season and the 36th time in school history, closed its season at 15-8.

Sophomore Reilly Sunday continued her strong season, scoring 22 points, just a half-point over her average. She set the tone for the second half with a steal and a drive 14 seconds into the second half.

“It’s like her motor never stops running,” Mastroianni said. “She’s special. That’s for sure. She’s the hardest worker on our team and never takes anything for granted. She always has a basketball in her hand. She tries to get better every day.”

Mars committed 11 turnovers in the second half after just five miscues in the first half.

“We don’t have that point guard who plays like that,” Planets coach Dana Petruska said of Sunday. “She distributes the ball, she takes a shot when she’s got it, and she has a low center of gravity.”

Mars was plagued this season by the loss of four graduated players, another who decided to concentrate on soccer and three more seniors who quit the team early on.

The Planets started a freshman, two sophomores and a junior to compliment senior Bella Pelaia.

Added Petruska: “Four or five years ago, when we had all those great players, they put in the time. These kids here have no idea. They think they can just walk on the court, and it’ll automatically happen. If they want to be just mediocre, and they just want to say they play varsity basketball for Mars, then OK.”

Pelaia led the Planets with 16 points, but was shut out in the fourth period as Mars was outscored, 12-5.

Junior Cassie Depner had 13 points and seven rebounds for the Tigers.

“Coming off 12 days off, it was hard to be fresh and ready to go,” Mastroianni said. “But the gameplan we had, we executed it to a T.”

It was the first Moon playoff victory since a win over Uniontown in 2014.

Listen to the archived broadcast of this game on Trib HSSN.

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