North Catholic girls stave off upset bid from Freeport in PIAA 1st round

Saturday, March 7, 2020 | 9:18 PM

Freeport, leading for more than half the game, appeared poised to pull off one of the biggest PIAA upsets in many years Saturday afternoon at Kiski Area High School.

The Yellowjackets had several double-digit leads over WPIAL champion North Catholic and were in front by eight with 4 minutes, 40 seconds left in the third period.

But then all-state candidates Tess Myers and Kylie Lewandowski went to work, dominating the floor from that point as the Trojanettes raced to a 58-43 victory in a Class 4A girls first-round contest.

A basket by Madeline Clark gave Freeport a 36-28 lead. But North Catholic went on a 30-4 tear, holding Freeport scoreless for 8:31 to erase any thoughts of a historic shocker.

The Yellowjackets had leads of 14-3, 17-7 and 26-16 during the first half and looked like they were on their way to their first PIAA victory since beating Tussey Mountain in 2004.

“We obviously started out very slow, struggling, and we couldn’t have shot any worse,” North Catholic coach Molly Rottmann said. “They shot lights-out, to their credit, and we were settling for quick threes with no rebounders. I thought we could have some ability to drive, and we weren’t.”

North Catholic (25-1) will move on to second-round play Wednesday against Central Valley at a site and time to be determined.

The Yellowjackets concluded their season 17-8 with three of the losses to North Catholic.

Freeport rarely missed a shot early, hitting four 3-pointers in a span of a little more than two minutes to go in front, 14-3.

“We did what I thought we could come out and do,” said Freeport coach Fred Soilis. “Despite losing to Southmoreland, I thought we had enough gas in the tank to come out and do that. They’re a great team with great athletes, and they weren’t expecting us to come out and punch them in the face. We did everything we could. The problem is our shots didn’t fall in the second half.”

Freeport led by 28-19 in the final moments of the first half. An ill-advised shot was corralled by the Trojanettes, and Emma Pospisil fired in a 3-pointer to beat the buzzer and cut the Yellowjackets lead to 28-22 at the intermission.

Rottmann credited Lucy Waskiewicz and Branygan Bianchin with coming off the bench to score 3-pointers in the second period, thus not letting Freeport get too far ahead.

Two baskets by Lewandowski and one by Pospisil to open the third quarter tied the score at 28-28. The Yellowjackets, however, quickly answered with 3-pointers by Samantha Clark and Melaina DeZort and one by Madeline Clark to put Freeport ahead 36-28.

In the next two minutes, Myers scored two baskets, stole the ball and made two free throws to bring the Trojanettes to within 36-35.

Said Rottmann of her team: “These girls are competitors. They want to win. Early on, in their competitiveness they tried to do too much. We settled down, got patient and got good looks.”

Madeline Clark’s basket with 40 seconds left in the third quarter cut North Catholic’s newly earned lead to 44-40, but the Yellowjackets didn’t score again until there were 10 seconds left in the game.

“I told my kids they don’t have anything to hangs their heads over,” Soilis said. “They went toe-to-toe, and I really thought that we had a chance to beat them.”

Myers finished with 22 points and 10 rebounds, and Lewandowski tallied 18 — 15 in the second half.

Senior twins Samantha and Madeline Clark closed their careers with 13 and 10 points, respectively. Sidney Shemanski pulled down 12 rebounds.

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