Penn-Trafford scores in final seconds to beat Shaler for 1st playoff win since 2015

Tuesday, February 21, 2023 | 10:54 PM

Penn-Trafford had to work for it, but the feeling was all worthwhile.

Junior guard Olivia Pepple made a layup with 3.8 seconds left to lift the eighth-seeded Warriors to a 29-28 victory over No. 9 Shaler in a WPIAL Class 5A first-round game Tuesday night in Harrison City.

It was Penn-Trafford’s first playoff win since 2014-15. The Warriors had lost six consecutive opening-round games, including five in the first round.

The Warriors (16-6) advance to play No. 1 South Fayette (21-2) in Friday’s quarterfinals.

Shaler’s season is finished at 16-7. The Titans had their first winning season since 2014-15. They did not make the playoffs last year.

“We wanted this playoff win bad,” Pepple said. “Not only for ourselves but for all the teams that came before us.”

Pepple’s game-winner came on an inbounds play from under the hoop. Freshman Torie DeStefano sent a bounce-pass her way and Pepple, who came off a screen from Lauren Marton, caught the ball near the low block and went straight up for the finish off the glass.

“Lauren made a great screen to get me open,” Pepple said.

Penn-Trafford, which has only two seniors, looked like another here-we-go-again moment was going to rear its head.

Of the six opening-round losses, three were decided by three or fewer points, including a 37-36 loss to Gateway in 2020 and a 38-36 defeat against Bethel Park in 2016-17.

“Every playoff win is a sense of relief and excitement,” Penn-Trafford coach John Giannikas said. “It doesn’t matter if you win by one or 15 points. It was a total team effort. Our defense was fantastic all game.”

A series of turnovers for both teams made for an exciting finish in an opener that was rough around the edges.

Penn-Trafford was hit with a five-second call on an inbounds play with 43 seconds to go, leading by one.

Shaler’s Bella Battaglia scored on a drive with 20 seconds to go, and Penn-Trafford turned it over when Pepple was called for a travel as she drove the lane.

Shaler, though, turned it over on the inbounds pass when the ball went out off Hanna Dejidas’ foot.

Penn-Trafford took advantage of the inbounding spot and DeStefano-to-Pepple worked to perfection.

Shaler still had a chance but was whistled for a travel of its own with 1.9 seconds to go.

The Warriors inbounded — cleanly — and celebrated.

“This game was back and forth,” Pepple said. “We did a good job handling all the emotions.”

Pepple finished with nine points, and Marton added eight.

Haley Kostorick had nine points for the Titans, who trailed 11-0 after the first quarter and finally tied it with four minutes, 25 seconds remaining in a 3-pointer by Dejidas.

“Shaler did a nice job of coming back,” Giannikas said. “We made one more play than them.”

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

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