Peters Township girls top rival Bethel Park for 4th time, advance to PIAA quarterfinals

Tuesday, March 12, 2019 | 9:06 PM

The Bethel Park and Peters Township girls basketball teams are about as familiar as two teams can be.

And Tuesday night produced a familiar result as the top-ranked and unbeaten Indians defeated their section rivals for the fourth time this season 62-44 in the second round of the PIAA Class 6A playoffs at Canon-McMillan High School.

“They are so well-coached and have such a great program and we respect them, but they’re tough to play,” Peters Township coach Bert Kendall said. “To play them four times this year and four times last year, it’s nice to be able to go play somebody else now.”

The Indians (27-0) advance to Friday’s state quarterfinals where they will take on Norwin for a berth in the state semifinals. Norwin (23-2) advanced to the round of eight with a 68-58 win over Northampton earlier Tuesday.

The fourth time was not the charm for Bethel Park, unlike a season ago when the Black Hawks avenged three previous defeats with a victory over the Indians in the first round of the PIAA playoffs.

Bethel Park (22-4) suffered all four of its losses this season to Peters Township, including in the WPIAL semifinals a fortnight ago at Canon-McMillan.

Peters Township never trailed in the game, and the 18-point victory was the widest margin among the teams’ four matchups.

“We didn’t shoot the ball well, and I credit their length and their defense,” Bethel Park coach Jonna Burke said. “They’re very long, and when you get in around the rim they block shots, and it’s hard to get your own rebounds against them.”

Penn State recruit Makenna Marisa scored 18 to lead a balanced Peters Township offensive attack. Mackenzie Lehman scored 14, Journey Thompson chipped in 13 and Jordan Bisignani added 10 for the Indians.

“We were patient, and I think at practice this week we were talking about how we have lots of weapons, but we have to use them. We can’t focus on one (weapon),” Kendall said. “These girls pass the ball and they share the ball, so it was great. We found our bigs when we needed to, and we hit the jump shots when we needed to. It was a good offensive effort, and I thought our defense was solid today too.”

Thompson, the Indians’ 6-foot-1 freshman post, picked up two quick fouls in the opening quarter and went to the bench. She returned to be a force on the glass at both ends as Peters Township’s defense stifled Bethel Park all night.

“I think sometimes when kids pick up fouls like that early they sit on the bench and get real fired up, like ‘I’m going to go out there and make a difference now,’” Kendall said. “I think that’s a credit to her and her fighting spirit, and she just fought back there.”

The Indians led 30-15 at the break, and opened up a 20-point lead as they took a 46-26 advantage into the final stanza. The Black Hawks finally found their stroke from behind the 3-point line in the fourth quarter with seven made treys, but it was far too little, too late.

“We weren’t trying tonight to be patient, but we wanted to try to attack early,” Burke said. “We did get some looks at the rim; we just didn’t finish, and again I credit their length and they sag in the paint well. Their defense just made it tough on us all night.”

Peters Township held Bethel Park without a field goal in the final 5:03 of the second quarter to take a 30-15 lead into halftime.

“Our press bothered them a little bit, and we hadn’t pressed them very much since the first game,” Kendall said. “We decided to go back to the press the whole game, and I think it threw them off a little. And then I think we were just efficient on offense. We just built a lead and were able to sustain it.”

The Indians led 14-8 after one quarter, and outscored the Black Hawks 12-3 over the final five minutes of the second quarter to open up the double-digit lead.

Maria Cerro had 18 points and Olivia Westphal added 13 to lead the Black Hawks.

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