Neshannock girls capture 1st PIAA Class 2A championship

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Friday, March 25, 2022 | 2:43 PM


HERSHEY — Neshannock returned to Giant Center 12 months after losing in the state final and redeemed itself on Friday afternoon, defeating Southern Columbia, 62-56, to claim its first PIAA Class 2A girls championship.

The Lancers (29-2) never trailed after the opening minutes and led by as many as 14 points in the fourth quarter.

“We were definitely ready at the beginning of the season,” junior forward Mairan Haggerty said. “When we were blowing teams out, we just were waiting for the playoffs to come.”

Haggerty helped Neshannock build its large lead in the second half with 14 of her 23 points. Her 3-point shot just before the third quarter horn gave the Lancers a 46-35 advantage. Another field goal by Haggerty made it 48-35 in the opening moments of the fourth.

A layup by Aaralyn Nogay pushed the lead to 55-41. Just after that bucket, Alli Griscavage came back into the game for the Tigers (29-2). Griscavage had left the game with four fouls just before Haggerty’s 3-pointer.

With both Griscavage and Summer Tillett on the floor, Southern Columbia made the game interesting in the last four minutes. Two free throws by Griscavage made it 55-50 with 2:11 to play. But free throws by Haggerty and Neleh Nogay kept the Lancers on top.

“Last year, we were just along for the ride,” Nogay said. “We just had to win two games to get here, not four like this year. We didn’t realize how big this was. Now, we knew this court.”

In the first half, the Lancers made the Tigers earn each inch of the court with a full-court trap. Nogay helped spearhead that pressure defense with all three of her steals in the first quarter. One of those resulted in an assist to her sister, Aarlayn, and another on a fast-break to Haggerty, as the Tigers led 19-11 after the first quarter.

“We thought getting pressure on them early would lead to turnovers early in the game,” Nogay said.

Neshannock took advantage of its experience in last year’s 54-43 loss to Mt. Carmel in the state title game at Giant Center by adjusting to the dimensions of the arena. Long jump shots are often the bane of teams with the altered depth behind the basket, but the Lancers were 9 for 21 from behind the arc, including 4 for 7 in the third quarter.

“We didn’t practice on our own floor,” Neshannock coach Luann Grybowski said. “We practiced in bigger gyms with different backgrounds.”

Haggerty made three 3-point field goals, while Megan Pallerino, Addilae Watts and Aaralyn Nogay each made two.

Meanwhile, Southern Columbia was 3 for 13 beyond the arc.

Watts and Aaralyn Nogay finished with 12 points each.

Tillett led the Tigers with 20 points. Loren Gehret finished with 13 and Griscavage had 12.

Although Southern Columbia did outrebound Neshannock, 40-29, Haggerty helped balance out the Tigers’ inside presence with six blocked shots, making the most of the 2 extra inches she grew since last year’s championship.

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