Short-handed Leechburg girls no match for perennial power Vincentian

Tuesday, February 19, 2019 | 10:03 PM

Unaccustomed to entering the playoffs with a sub-.500 record, 11-time WPIAL champion Vincentian showed why it shouldn’t be forgotten at playoff time.

The Royals controlled the boards and held Leechburg without a field goal for nearly 13 minutes to defeat the Blue Devils, 56-24, Tuesday in an opening-round Class A game at Hampton.

Six-foot forward Hannah Katz scored 18 points and pulled down 14 rebounds, and fellow senior Saige Smith had 11 points and 14 boards in the victory for the defending Class A champions.

A basket by Aubrey Skeel with 3 minutes, 20 seconds left in the first quarter brought Leechburg to within 9-8, but the Blue Devils wouldn’t get another field goal until the 6:14 mark of the third period.

“I thought we came out slow,” Royals coach Ron Moncrief said. “Give credit to Leechburg, I thought they played with a lot of intensity in the first half. In the second half, I thought we played a lot better and played our style of basketball.”

No. 5-seeded Vincentian (11-11) will face No. 4 Clairton in the quarterfinals Friday at a time and site to be determined.

Leechburg, in the playoffs for a school-record fourth straight season, finished 7-13.

The Blue Devils started the game with only six players. After Skeel and Tatum Verner fouled out, Leechburg played the last 54 seconds of the game with just four players on the floor.

“My goodness, that first quarter we just played,” said Blue Devils coach Andre Carter about his team’s early intensity. “That’s the thing. All year we knew we were a fast-breaking, lay-up team. Normally, people play a zone against us, and we couldn’t shoot so you know what we have to work on for next year.”

Leechburg often was limited to one shot per possession with the much-taller Royals solid in the defensive paint.

“I think controlling the boards, having multiple kids in double figures and spreading the ball around was the key to our victory tonight,” Moncrief said. “It’s hard to scout us when we have so many kids in double figures every night.”

Besides Katz and Smith, Tara Lucot came off the bench to score 11 points, and Sydney Calderaro scored 10, seven in the first quarter.

One bright spot for the depleted Blue Devils was Kat Yurjevich who finished with 11 points and nine rebounds. The senior guard hit 5 of 6 from the free-throw line.

“I just wish we had a bench,” Carter said. “If we had a bench, that would have helped us out a lot. When we got into foul trouble, we started backing away, and it just snowballed.”

Vincentian has been in the WPIAL playoffs 24 of the past 25 seasons, missing just in the 2003-04 season.

“We take a lot of pride of our program,” Moncrief said. “We’re hoping to add another championship to that.”

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