Penn-Trafford uses big 3rd quarter to rebound past Latrobe

Monday, January 16, 2023 | 10:37 PM

Penn-Trafford still had the unsavory taste of a bad second half against top-ranked McKeesport in its mouth when it traveled to Latrobe on Monday night.

A good way to get rid of it was to have one of its better second halves of the season.

The Warriors pumped in 21 points in the third quarter to pull ahead of Latrobe and register a 56-45 victory in a Section 3-5A girls basketball game.

“Early in the season, we had an edge to us, but in the last week we kind of lost it,” said Penn-Trafford guard Olivia Pepple, who had a team-high 17 points. “This helps us get our confidence back.”

Penn-Trafford (10-3, 4-2), which recently was knocked out of the Trib HSSN rankings after losses to McKeesport and No. 3 Oakland Catholic, played like a top-five team in the second half after falling behind 23-18 at halftime.

It scored 10 straight points out of halftime and took its first lead at 24-23.

Ball movement was crisp, the defense tightened and shots started to go down.

Kamryn Pieper hit two 3s, and Lilly Palladino and freshman Tori DeStefano made one each as the Warriors outscored the visitors 21-11 in the frame.

Latrobe (10-5, 3-3) still only trailed by 39-34 heading to the fourth quarter but could not regain the lead and saw a six-game winning streak end.

“We played with confidence, and we shot with confidence,” Penn-Trafford coach John Giannikas said. “We wanted to play fast. We made some extra passes and got better shots. We hadn’t had (a quarter) like that in awhile.”

Latrobe cut it to 39-36 early in the fourth, but the Warriors quickly stretched the advantage to 10.

DeStefano, who finished with 14 points, hit a bank shot, then knifed through the Wildcats defense for a layup.

After a steal-and-score by Kylee Piconi, DeStefano struck again underneath after a soft feed from Piconi to make it 49-39 with 3 minutes, 39 seconds left in the fourth.

Latrobe only could get to within seven the rest of the way.

Penn-Trafford outscored the Wildcats after halftime 38-22.

“Tori made a lot of defensive plays, too,” Giannikas said. “She is years ahead mentally and in how she approaches the game.”

The Warriors overcame a game-high 21 points from Camille Dominick, who had nine of Latrobe’s 11 points in the third.

Elle Snyder added 13 points for Latrobe, all in the first half. She made three 3s, as did Dominick.

“This was a game of two halves,” Latrobe coach Mark Burkhardt said. “It’s that simple. They really picked it up, and we turned the ball over about 24 times. In our six-game streak, we were averaging less than 10 (turnovers).”

The Warriors made eight 3-pointers from four players. Pepple, Palladino, DeStefano and Pieper each had two apiece.

“We love to play for each other,” Pepple said. “That helps us win games.”

With the Warriors up late, Giannikas yelled, “Five-out,” a play to use some clock. A referee mistook his call and gave Penn-Trafford a timeout.

“OK, we’ll take the timeout, then,” Giannikas said with a smile. By then, he was feeling the win.

“We have that edge when we’re playing that chip on our shoulder,” Giannikas said. “We got our confidence up in the second half. Any win is a good win in our section. You can’t take any nights off.”

Josie Straigis added nine points for Latrobe.

Palladino and Lauren Marton, who fouled out, finished with eight apiece.

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

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