Shady Side Academy girls fall short in PIAA 2nd round; Szlachetka announces retirement

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Tuesday, March 12, 2019 | 8:29 PM


Overall, for the Shady Side Academy girls basketball program, mission accomplished.

Despite seeing her team’s season end Tuesday night, coach Amy Szlachetka felt a sense of satisfaction with the Indians’ 20 victories in her final year at the helm.

“This is it for me,” Szlachetka said shortly after Shady Side Academy dropped a 63-57 decision to Central Cambria in a PIAA Class 3A second-round game at Greensburg Salem. “I decided before the season that this would be my last. I was more focused on enjoying every last minute of it. I love this team.”

In announcing her retirement, Szlachetka said the school has agreed to elevate assistant coach Caroline Fitzgerald to head coach.

“Our last two seasons, we didn’t make the playoffs,” Szlachetka said. “It was a three-year rebuild.”

Szlachetka led the WPIAL runner-up Indians (20-5) for the past three years in her second stint, previously coaching Shady Side Academy for 10 seasons from 2000-10.

McKenna Hayward scored a career-high 34 points to lead Central Cambria (19-7), the third-place team in District 6, which advances to the quarterfinals Friday against WPIAL sixth-place finisher Beaver (19-5) at a site to be determined.

Cassidy Bezek added 11 points for Central Cambria, which shot 20 for 27 from the free-throw line, including 13 for 16 in the fourth quarter, when the Red Devils outscored the Indians, 19-15.

“We played very well as a team, and we converted our free throws at the end,” Hayward said. “It might be the best we’ve done on the line this year.”

Central Cambria coach Brittany Sedlock was impressed with her team’s approach from start to finish.

“It took everything we had for four quarters to beat them tonight,” Sedlock said. “The girls did a great job of holding their composure, managing Shady Side’s runs, holding it together and playing team basketball.”

Shady Side Academy senior Ariana Goitz led the Indians with 29 points to finish her high school career with 1,013.

“She had no idea she was approaching 1,000,” Szlachetka said.

After the teams played to a virtual first-half tie — Central Cambria led at halftime, 24-22 — and held the two-point margin through three quarters, the Red Devils seized control midway through the fourth quarter with an 8-0 run after Bezek’s three-point play put them ahead for good, 54-51.

The second half was played at a furious pace. Central Cambria came away in the third quarter with another two-point lead, 44-42, after the teams battled to a 20-20 stalemate.

Hayward scored 11 points in the third, including three 3-point shots.

“Whatever works,” Hayward said.

Szlachetka praised Hayward, saying, “We knew she was good. We expected her to give us trouble. We couldn’t stop her, but we tried to contain her. Obviously, we didn’t do a very good job.”

Jenna Bauer’s short jumper at the first-half buzzer gave Central Cambria a 24-22 lead at the break.

The Red Devils scored the first five points of the game and built a 9-3 lead midway through the first quarter en route a 15-9 advantage heading to the second.

Hayward’s nine first-quarter points sparked Central Cambria.

Shady Side Academy used an 8-2 run at the start of the second to take an 18-17 lead, but the Indians couldn’t keep the advantage.

Hayward’s layup for Central Cambria tied it at 22-22, and Bauer’s first basket of the game beat the halftime buzzer to give the Red Devils their slim, two-point lead.

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