Tough playoff loss can’t dampen strong season for Penn-Trafford girls basketball

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Friday, February 28, 2020 | 11:25 PM


Penn-Trafford’s girls basketball team experienced a two-tone finish to the season.

The Warriors won their final four regular-season games — and eight of their last 10 — to sew up a WPIAL Class 5A playoff berth.

The Warriors then lost a disappointing 37-36 decision to Gateway in the first round of the playoffs, finishing with a 15-8 record.

“I thought the team played extremely hard and was competitive in every game we played this year,” coach John Giannikas said. “We played in so many one- or two-possession games that were exciting. Fans got their money’s worth at our games this year.

“As the year went on, we took care of the ball much better and handled the other team’s different defensive presses well. We got plenty of looks at the basket each game.”

The Warriors finished fourth in Section 3 with an 8-6 record behind Woodland Hills (13-1), Oakland Catholic (11-3) and Penn Hills (9-5). P-T averaged 51.6 points and allowed 42.3 points.

“We need to be better at finding more consistency in our shooting and finishing-at-the-rim ability,” Giannikas said. “Looking back, a layup here or there, an open mid-range jumper here or there, and we are looking at possibly three or more wins.”

Against Gateway, Penn-Trafford led by 13 points in the fourth quarter.

“The Gateway game will sting and hurt for a long time,” Giannikas said. “We were great defensively even though we were so undersized. Unfortunately, we went ice cold in the fourth quarter. If we played that game again, I’ll take those same looks with our kids because those were shots I’ve seen them make all year. That’s how the game goes sometimes. Give Gateway credit for making some tough shots in that last quarter.”

Senior guard/forward Bella Long paced the offense with a scoring average of 13.7. She also led the team in rebounding (5.2).

A Slippery Rock recruit, Long ended her high school career with 1,104 points and a school-record 171 3-pointers.

“Our expectations were to be able to compete with every team we played, and I believe we did that,” Long said. “I think overall we had a good year, (but) it ended a little sooner than we’d hoped. We came up short a few times, but we were able to climb back no matter what the score was and always make a competitive game out of it.”

Sophomore guard Maura Suman and junior guard Allie Prady averaged 10.7 and 10.5 points, and junior guard Kenzie Powell averaged 9.7. Suman also had 76 steals and 63 assists.

Suman was name Westmoreland athlete of the week after she scored 13 points Feb. 3 in a 51-50 upset win over arch-rival Norwin, and 18 points Feb. 6 in a 44-40 section victory at Latrobe. The victory against the Wildcats clinched the final playoff berth in the section.

Suman also connected on a buzzer-beater in December to lift P-T past Gateway, 59-58, in a nonsection test. The Gators were ranked second in 5-A at the time.

Long, Suman, Prady, Powell and Maddie Setzanfand, a freshman forward, made up the starting lineup. Senior G/F Morgan Hilty, junior guard Brooke Cleland, and freshmen guards Kylee Piconi and Lillian Palladino were P-T’s leading reserves.

“Our strength was our guard play,” Giannikas said. “I thought Suman, Long, Prady, Powell all had their games where they carried us, and when they were all clicking together in the same game, we were tough to beat. Our role players, Setzanfand, Hilty, Cleland, Piconi and Palladino, did a good job all year, as well, and helped us win throughout the season.”

Long and Hilty were the only seniors on the team, which will move up to Class 6A next season.

“The staff loved coaching this team and enjoyed seeing (the girls) succeed throughout the season,” Giannikas said. “They overcame much adversity.

“We have a really nice, skilled group coming back next year with some other young kids. If they put their mind to it and put the hard work in the offseason, they have a chance to be very successful. It will be just as tough or tougher next year since we are moving up to 6A.”

Penn-Trafford has missed the WPIAL playoffs only once in the past decade.

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