Top-seeded Serra Catholic girls look sharp in win over Winchester Thurston

Thursday, February 20, 2020 | 11:22 PM

The Serra Catholic girls basketball team looked like a group focused and determined to advance in the WPIAL Class 2A playoffs Thursday night.

The top-seeded Eagles used a balanced scoring attack and a stingy defensive effort to overwhelm and roll past No. 9 Winchester Thurston, 63-34, in a quarterfinal matchup at Penn-Trafford High School.

On offense, senior Rayna Andrews set the tone for the Eagles (17-3), scoring a team-high 22 points and collecting 14 rebounds for the double-double. Grace Navarro (12) and Rian Watson (10) also finished in double figures, while the duo of Nicole Pawlowski and Chloe Pordash added eight and seven points, respectively.

On the defensive side of the ball, Serra was relentless. The Eagles forced 32 Winchester Thurston turnovers, including 21 in the first half.

“It was a total execution of the gameplan,” said Serra Catholic head coach Bill Cleary, whose team showed little indication that it was playing in its first meaningful game in 12 days. “We had a long time to prepare for this game, so we watched film and spent a lot of time defensively preparing. I think it showed because we created turnovers and we made them go one shot and out.”

Serra held a slim 6-4 lead less than midway through the first quarter before it began to pull away. Andrews scored six points and Watson added four during an 11-2 run that made it 17-6 with less than a minute remaining. Maya Roberts, who scored a game-high 28 points, added a 3-pointer with just seven seconds on the clock, cutting Winchester Thurston’s deficit to 17-9 after eight minutes.

The second quarter belonged entirely to the Eagles, who scored the first 12 points of the frame to extend their lead to 29-9 with 20 seconds until halftime.

The play of Pawlowski (6) and Navarro (4) stood out during the early spurt, as they combined to score 10 points.

A 3-point play by Roberts accounted for the Bears’ lone points of the second and cut the deficit to 29-12 with 7.4 seconds on the clock.

Serra didn’t let its Section 2 foe take any momentum into the break, though, as Andrews drained a buzzer-beating trey to give the Eagles a 20-point edge after 16 minutes.

“Midway through the second quarter, I thought we had it,” Cleary said. “But you can get lackadaisical and they have some firepower.”

Serra Catholic narrowly outscored Winchester, 13-12, in the third to take a comfortable 45-24 lead into the fourth.

The Eagles scored the first seven points of the final frame on a layup by Navarro, a corner three from Pordash and a steal and a layup by Andrews.

After Roberts scored five of the next seven points, the Eagles responded by outscoring the Bears, 9-5, in the final 3:57, sealing a trip to the Class 2A semifinals Monday against No. 4 Laurel at a site and time to be determined.

“The quarterfinal game is always the state game. You have to win this game, and then you control your own destiny,” Cleary said. “We have always been a singularly focused team. We just keep things right in front of us. Now, if we want to get to the Pete, we have to win this one.”

Listen to an archived broadcast of this game at Trib HSSN.

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