West Greene girls edge Sewickley Academy, earn return trip to WPIAL Class A finals

Tuesday, February 25, 2020 | 9:31 PM

At the beginning of the season, West Greene had its sights on returning to The Pete to avenge its loss to Rochester in last year’s WPIAL Class A championship game.

There was one more hurdle the Pioneers needed to clear before they could get another title shot.

It was a little too close for comfort, but No. 2 West Greene kept its perfect season alive after escaping with a 46-45 win over No. 6 Sewickley Academy in the semifinals of WPIAL Class A playoffs at Canon-McMillan on Tuesday night.

The Panthers (14-11) had a chance to upset the Pioneers’ dreams as Sewickley Academy had the ball under its own basket with 6.7 seconds left. However, the Panthers weren’t able to get one final bucket even after having multiple chances at putbacks off their own misses.

“The last six seconds took like a minute. The ball was in the air forever. The ball was tapping around and it was nerve-racking. But we made just enough stops,” West Greene coach Jordan Watson said. “We knew they were a great defensive team so it was going to come down to rebounding and getting stops.”

The Pioneers (24-0) will make their third trip in a row to the Petersen Event Center as they will face No. 1 Rochester (23-1) at 3 p.m. Friday. It will be a rematch of last year’s final where Rochester won, 62-56.

“I’m just thrilled to death to make it back. We came to win it this time,” Watson said.

Sophomore Brooke Barner led the Pioneers with 17 points, including a big 3-pointer from the corner that gave West Greene a 38-35 lead with over five minutes remaining. Barner had another big bucket with over two minutes left as she cut to the hoop, was fouled and executed the 3-point play to give the Pioneers a 44-37 lead.

After the Barner 3-point play, the Panthers went on a 6-0 run to cut the deficit to one, 44-43, with 1:08 remaining.

Sewickley Academy played the foul game and sent junior Jersey Wise to the line, where she extended the Pioneers’ lead to 45-43 with 55.4 seconds remaining. The Panthers answered as sophomore Desirae Nance scored a bucket off a Sewickley Academy inbounds play to tie at 45-45.

Wise found herself at the line once again with 44.5 seconds remaining and made one of two of her free throws to give the Pioneers a 46-45 lead. The Panthers couldn’t capitalize on their offensive rebounds to take the lead in the last minute.

“We had the ball at the end of the game with a chance to win,” Sewickley Academy coach Mark Gaither said. “As a coach, that’s all you ask for. To give your best, to compete at a high level and when the game is over, you leave with your head held up high knowing you left it on the floor. That’s what they did, and I’m so proud of them.”

The Panthers took a 27-26 lead into halftime, while West Greene got some stops and Wise hit a pair of threes in the third as West Greene took a 35-33 lead after three.

“We just played a little bit harder,” Watson said. “It was just a hit-or-miss (game) where one shot is going to make the difference. We were trying to physically and mentally play a full 32-minute game.”

Sewickley Academy struggled from the line, going 2 for 17.

Junior Kamryn Lightcap led Sewickley Academy with 12 points, while junior Bre Warner finished with 10.

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

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