WPIAL Girls Basketball Team of the Week: Week ending Mar. 8

Sunday, March 8, 2020 | 10:10 PM

Many eyebrows were raised when the Laurel Highlands boys and Bishop Canevin girls, both WPIAL basketball champions, were stunned in the first round of the PIAA playoffs.

They weren’t the only district champions to fall on opening night.

Central Dauphin won the District 3 Class 6A girls basketball championship with a record of 26-1 and was ranked No. 1 in last week’s HSSN state rankings. Yet, the Rams lost to a Baldwin team that had to wait for North Allegheny to beat Bethel Park in the WPIAL Class 6A championship game in overtime just to qualify for the state tournament.

“The win against Central Dauphin validates the fact that all of our hard work, commitment to daily improvement and time spent in the gym has put us in a position to compete against and beat the very best in the state,” Baldwin coach Kyle DeGregorio said. “Belief in yourself and teammates is so important to compete at a championship level. The win Friday night will only fuel our confidence and that belief.”

The Highlanders overcame a two-point halftime deficit to win 42-35 and advance to the second round.

Baldwin had to overcome adversity before the opening tip. The Highlanders had to travel 214 miles over a three-and-a-half-hour journey to get to Milton Hershey School, and the Rams needed only 19 minutes to go 10 miles to reach the site.

“The girls showed a high level of competitive maturity with a fun bus ride out, a focused practice at Dickinson College, a fun pre-game meal and the final leg of the trip to Hersey where they really got themselves mentally and emotionally ready to play,” DeGregorio said. “Then, finally, a focused and intense 32 minutes against Central Dauphin.”

The Highlanders limited the D-3 champs to three quarters of single-digit points, and the 35 total points was 16 points below the Rams’ average.

“Our gameplan was to do what we do, attack them defensively with our pressure,” DeGregorio said. “I felt that we did an excellent job limiting their post player’s touches and challenging their best 3-point shooter. Our pressure disrupted their timing on offense, and we rebounded the ball well. We went through an extended scoring drought in the second quarter, and our ability to guard kept us in the game.”

After being held to 17 first-half points, Baldwin picked it up offensively in the second half with a 14-point third quarter.

“The only adjustment we made at halftime was to create more space out front so we could get downhill on our dribble attacks and force them to bring a second defender to the ball,” DeGregorio said.

Junior Meghan Dryburgh led the Highlanders with 11 points.

Baldwin joins fellow WPIAL teams North Allegheny and Bethel Park in the PIAA Class 6A second round Tuesday. The Highlanders will be facing another long trip as they head to Chambersburg to face the No. 3 team out of District 1, Plymouth-Whitemarsh.

“The first order of business was to put the Central Dauphin win behind us and look forward to Plymouth-Whitemarsh,” DeGregorio said. “Our section is so demanding and challenging that we understand the level of preparation required to compete at the level needed on Tuesday. Plymouth-Whitemarsh is a high energy, pressing team with really good players that are well coached. We need to be ready to perform at our best for 32 minutes.

The Road to Hershey already has been a long, challenging and fun adventure for the girls in purple. DeGregorio knows no matter what happens Tuesday, this experience has been purely positive.

“The girls are excited,” he said. “We have a very young team, and every experience that we get to play at a championship level is another opportunity to learn, grow and gain confidence as we move forward.”

Previous Trib HSSN Teams of the Week:

Week 11 – Mohawk Warriors

Week 10 – Sewickley Academy Panthers

Week 9 – South Side Rams

Week 8 – Penn Hills Indians

Week 7 – Carlynton Cougars

Week 6 – Our Lady of the Sacred Heart Chargers

Week 5 – Woodland Hills Wolverines

Week 4 – West Greene Pioneers

Week 3 – Southmoreland Scotties

Week 2 – Bethel Park Black Hawks

Week 1 – Hopewell Vikings


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