North Catholic girls hope defense shines against Bethlehem Catholic

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Friday, March 22, 2019 | 3:50 PM


North Catholic’s girls basketball team is known for its offensive production — and rightfully so.

With three 1,000-point scorers in Tess Myers, Kylee Lewandowski and Dani Short, the Trojanettes, who have the WPIAL’s second-best offense at 67.4 points per game, can light up the scoreboard.

However, the team boasts one of the best defensive units, as well. North Catholic yields an average of 39.4 ppg, but can completely shut down teams — when it wants to.

The Trojanettes proved that in Tuesday’s 58-46 win over Mifflinburg in the PIAA Class 4A semifinals. Trailing 46-41 with 5:51 to play, North Catholic’s defense snapped into action and did not allow another point as the team closed the game with a 17-0 run.

“I called a timeout and I remember looking at the scoreboard and seeing that time and score,” North Catholic coach Molly Rottmann said. “I told them that they had 5:51 left and had to go all out and get every rebound and start playing like they are capable or their season was over. To our girls’ credit, Mifflinburg did not score again. Our girls were all over that floor, getting rebounds and steals and diving for loose balls.”

That’s the effort Rottmann wants to see from her Trojanettes (26-3) when they take on Bethlehem Catholic (27-4) for the PIAA title at noon Saturday at Hershey’s Giant Center.

“The weight of that game affects everyone a little bit. The first couple minutes, we’ll try to feel our way,” Rottmann said. “We have to play well, though. We played really well against Villa Maria (61-41 quarterfinal win). That was probably the most complete game we’ve put together in a while. That’s the kind of game we have to put together if we’re going to be successful Saturday.”

North Catholic hopes to avoid the slow starts that have plagued the team in the postseason.

“Consistency is something we’re going to shoot for on Saturday,” Short said. “We want to come out and play right away and not wait for something to click or when we get to a point where we realize we could lose.”

The Trojanettes want to be as zoned in as they were in the final part of Tuesday’s victory.

“We really did shut them down. In the moment, I honestly didn’t realize we had done that. I was just so focused on playing,” Myers said. “I know we are capable of doing that. We have so many talented players. That’s what makes us so special, offensively and defensively. A lot of games have come down to playing defense and getting stops. That just leads right into our offense.”

In Tuesday’s win, Myers led the way for North Catholic with 19 points. However, Emma Pospisil stepped up for 15 points. They join Cassie Foster, Lewandowski and Short in a balanced starting lineup with Lucy Waskiewicz and Belle O’Hara the top two players off the bench.

“Everybody has the ability to be a leading scorer,” Myers said. “Even the girls on our bench would be starters on many other teams. That just makes it harder for other teams to guard us.”

“The good thing is we have a variety of kids who can score,” Rottmann added. “We’re lucky in that it’s hard for teams to focus on one person.”

While North Catholic has a young roster (Short is the only senior and last holdover from the program’s 2016 state title), the squad has experienced deep postseason runs, including last year’s PIAA semifinal loss.

“We’ve been working for this all year, so it’s really nice to see it happen,” Short said. “It’s really nice to see the team come together like we did to close last game. I feel like there’s a lot of chemistry and we all help each other out on the defensive and offensive ends.”

Rottmann expects to see pressure from the Golden Hawks, who won the PIAA title in 2017.

“They look like a good, athletic team. They’ll press you as soon as you get on the floor,” she said. “We’ll have to handle the ball well and handle their pressure. I think we’re capable of it and we have to do it. They have to be mentally prepared for that.”

Myers is confident her team can rise up in any occasion.

“We know what we have to do. We know our potential,” she said. “As long as we play a complete game like we can and we have, I think we’ll be perfectly fine. It’s a matter of executing.”

Joe Sager is a freelance writer.

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