No. 1 North Allegheny doesn’t flinch at Penn-Trafford

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Monday, January 25, 2021 | 9:39 PM


First place goes to North Allegheny — for now.

Penn-Trafford will get another shot at the revered Tigers later this season, but the Lady Warriors will be looking for a better start to the second half than the one they encountered Monday night in a hype-filled home game.

Top-ranked North Allegheny raced out of the locker room and took firm command to brush aside No. 4 Penn-Trafford, 66-41, in a Section 1-6A matchup that was close early and far from it late.

The state’s No. 1 team ran its winning streak to 21 and moved to 8-0 overall and 6-0 in section, looking every bit the part.

Up by 12 at the break, the Tigers used an 11-2 surge out of halftime to swiftly up the lead to 20 points. The Tigers who, behind balanced scoring, coasted home from there while dealing Penn-Trafford (6-1, 5-1) its first loss.

“It was a close game, and in about a three-minute stretch, it got out of hand,” Penn-Trafford coach John Giannikas said. “They are a phenomenal team. They showed why they’re No. 1.”

Cam Phillips led the defending WPIAL champion Tigers with 14 points, and Jasmine Timmerson and Emma Fischer scored 13 apiece and Paige Morningstar had 11.

Penn recruit Lizzy Groetsch added nine.

Unbroken execution on offense and sound help defense allowed the Tigers to outplay Penn-Trafford.

“It wasn’t anything I did or said (at halftime) as far as adjustments or anything like that,” Tigers coach Spencer Stefko said. “It was all our girls. They took what P-T was giving them. They made shots early. P-T played hard but had an off shooting night. They’re a tough, well-coached, well-spaced team. I don’t look forward to playing them again in three weeks.”

Timmerson and Morningstar, a Louisville volleyball commit, combined for 11 points in the third as the Tigers distanced themselves, 41-23.

Penn-Trafford couldn’t get it under 18 in the fourth with Kenzie Powell scoring to make it 56-38. The Tigers outscored the Warriors in the second half 33-20.

“They have shooters, and they defended us well,” Giannikas said. “They put us in spots we’re not comfortable in. When we were down 12, it was still a game. But we had too many turnovers.”

North Allegheny had its 2019-20 season cut short and could not compete for a PIAA title. The state playoffs were shut down by the covid-19 pandemic in the quarterfinal round.

This team looks talented enough to make another deep run.

“I am blessed to have good players,” Stefko said. “They are unselfish and do a lot to elevate each other.”

Class 6A rookie Penn-Trafford, off to its best start since 2012-13 when it started 7-0, was allowing 32.2 points per game and came in 3-0 at home this season. The Warriors had hoped momentum from a recent win over rival Norwin would reap benefits against the Tigers.

Kenzie Powell led the Warriors with 12 points, Allie Prady had 10 and Maura Suman chipped in nine.

The Tigers, subbing frequently and taking advantage of numerous second-chance opportunities, forced 10 first-half turnovers to build a 33-21 advantage.

Penn-Trafford cut it to 19-16 early in the second quarter on a bank shot by Powell, but the Tigers ended the quarter with an 11-2 run.

Prady kept the Warriors within earshot with eight points in the second, including two 3s.

Timmerson had eight in the first half, and Phillips, Fischer and Morningstar hit 3s.

North Allegheny gave Penn-Trafford something to think about early with full-court pressure, which helped the Tigers build a 16-10 lead.

With a small crowd and Penn-Trafford’s players gone, North Allegheny players sat on the court and ate Chick-fil-A before finally boarding the bus.

“We don’t want them eating on the bus,” Stefko said. “It’s an overabundance of caution with covid.”

The coaches were complimentary of one another after the game.

“I call Spencer the Gino Auriemma of high school girls basketball,” Giannikas said of his counterpart. “We have a lot of good coaches in this section.”

Penn-Trafford honored Giannikas pregame for his recent 200-win milestone.

Bill Beckner Jr. is a Tribune-Review Staff Writer. You can contact Bill by email at bbeckner@triblive.com or via Twitter .

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