North Allegheny girls roll into state semifinals with rout of McDowell

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Friday, March 19, 2021 | 8:42 PM


Fresh off its runaway win in the WPIAL Class 6A championship game to claim its fourth title in five years, the North Allegheny girls’ basketball team picked up right where it left off as play advanced to the PIAA postseason.

The Tigers rattled off the first 13 points of Friday’s quarterfinal game against the District 10 champion McDowell Trojans, rolling to a 60-30 victory.

By the time the first half came to a close, the Tigers led 40-13, ending the half on a 23-7 run that was at one point 18 straight points for North Allegheny (25-1). The Tigers registered an assist on 12 of the 16 baskets they made in the first half.

Seven of those buckets came from beyond the arc, as North Allegheny used the 3-ball to the tune of a 3-point percentage in the half of greater than 55%.

Junior Emma Fischer scored nine of her 12 in the first half, while sophomore Cam Phillips had eight and sophomore Jasmine Timmerson seven during the first 16 minutes of the contest. Both senior Lizzy Groestch and Timmerson had five assists in the half.

It was the offense and relentless full-court ball pressure on defense by North Allegheny (25-1) that led the Tigers back to the PIAA semifinals with a win over the Trojans (16-5), who had beaten D-6 champ Altoona in a sub-regional game to earn a date with the District 7 champs.

“It’s humbling to be a part of when you can watch them play like that. I’m a lucky guy to have a group of kids like this,” said Tigers coach Spencer Stefko. “We shot it well (early) and did a real nice job of distributing the ball, passing some very shootable balls, right in people’s shooting pockets. That let us get into a rhythm, and that let us get into our press and let us dictate a bit of the tempo.”

McDowell, who had played just one other WPIAL opponent this season — Hampton back in December — knew what it was going up against in North Allegheny, which is in the state playoffs for the eighth consecutive season, even though the two schools haven’t met since the 2012-13 season.

“We knew exactly what they were going to do, and they did exactly that, but we weren’t up for the test,” said Trojans coach Megan Hoffman. “We weren’t playing McDowell basketball. That was disheartening. I think our girls are better than that. We just didn’t execute.”

The Trojans were led by Emina Selimovic, one of five seniors on the McDowell roster, who scored 12 points. Sophomore Jessica Hetz chipped in 10.

North Allegheny ended the game with assists on 17 of 21 made field goals and 12 makes from downtown.

Timmerson and Fischer both tallied 12 points, while freshman Kellie McConnell chipped in 11. Groetsch did the same.

“You (have to) be able to put the ball in the hole, you have to be able to break their pressure, and you have to contest shots and defend,” Hoffman said. “We didn’t do that tonight.”

Stefko said the efficiency was about normal.

“When teams help off that much, we probably assist on 70-75% of our makes,” Stefko said. “When teams try to play us straight up, it’s a bit different.”

The Tigers, who are still in search of what has proven to be an elusive first state championship, will play Cumberland Valley in Monday’s semifinals.

“The teams are so different and the world is so different,” Stefko said. “I don’t know that this feels like anything we’ve done before. We’re lucky to have another few days to enjoy the journey.”

The Tigers have history with Cumberland Valley. The two met in 2016 in the semifinals, a game Cumberland Valley won, 43-42, with free throws under a second to play in the contest following a go-ahead three with 1.9 seconds left by North Allegheny’s Abby Gonzales. Cumberland Valley went on to win its third consecutive state title the next game.

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