No. 2 South Park girls rally back to defeat Deer Lakes in Class 3A quarterfinals

Saturday, February 23, 2019 | 6:05 PM

For much of Saturday afternoon, Deer Lakes appeared headed toward its first WPIAL girls semifinal appearance since 1991.

But South Park’s Maura Huwalt took over, scoring 20 of her 26 points in the second half as the No. 2-seeded Eagles came from behind to defeat the No. 7 Lancers, 46-41, in a Class 3A quarterfinal at North Allegheny.

Trailing by as many as 13 points in the second quarter, South Park set up inside plays designed for the 6-foot senior in the second half.

“We only ran one set play in the first half,” Eagles coach Marty Matvey said. “That’s not our style. I knew if we could get into our pressure and our full-court defense and execute, we could do what Deer Lakes was doing to us in the first half.”

The Eagles are now 17-6 and will play Shady Side Academy in the semifinals Wednesday at a site and time to be determined.

Huwalt, the defending PIAA discus champion headed for Auburn University on a track scholarship, also collected 12 rebounds in the second half.

“Everyone doubles and triple-teams her during her four years at South Park, but this one today’s special,” Matvey said. “I’m very proud of her.”

Deer Lakes (17-7) can get into the PIAA playoffs if South Park can defeat Shady Side.

“The biggest thing was Maura just waking up and pretty much just taking over the game,” Lancers coach Dave Petruska said. “I thought that we really had a good game plan against them. We controlled the tempo and played Deer Lakes basketball for three quarters. But our foul trouble and some baskets going their way and some unfortunate things happening on our offensive end led to the loss.”

The Lancers staged a 12-0 run that started late in the first quarter. A 3-point basket by freshman Reese Hasley put Deer Lakes in front 18-5 with five minutes left in the first half.

South Park was bothered by the Deer Lakes full-court pressure, committing nine turnovers in the first quarter.

But the Lancers could only score three baskets in the first quarter, leaving the Deer Lakes bench uneasy that its offense couldn’t convert more Eagles miscues.

“We missed so many layups and open shots, and it just added up,” Petruska said. “I think at some point, our girls were going in there with the mindset that they had a big girl in there ready to block everything. I told them they couldn’t be scared, but at times we didn’t finish the way that we do.”

South Park cut the Lancers lead to 19-14 at the half. While the Eagles continued to chip away, senior Anna Solomon canned four 3-pointers in the third quarter.

But Huwalt, averaging nearly 18 points, finally gave the Eagles the lead for good with a basket and a free throw to make it 38-35 with 6 minutes, 20 seconds left in the game.

“We talked at halftime about weathering the storm,” Matvey said. “We’d been off for 12 days, we had some injuries. Instead of being aggressive, we were tentative.”

Solomon finished with 16 points before fouling out with 1:39 to go.

Julia Hollibaugh had 10 points and 13 rebounds and Hasley added 10 points.

Cassidy Zandler scored all 11 of her points in the second half for the Eagles.

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