St. Thomas More Ends Saint Elizabeth's Season, 41-31
The Lady Lancers' postseason run ends in Bethel Park.
Sometimes, it is the size of the dog in the fight.
Saint Elizabeth of Hungary Roman Catholic School's varsity girls basketball team played like a squad that wasn't ready to say goodbye to its four eighth-graders on Friday night, but St. Thomas More School used the inside scoring and stifling defense of 6-foot-2-inch center Becca Turney to end Saint Elizabeth's season anyway.
Rebounds and blocked shots numbers weren't available, but Becca may have recorded double figures in all three categories, as Saint E's was sent away from the paint nearly every time on offense. An eighth-grade newcomer from Canonsburg Borough, Becca forced Saint E's to try outside shots all night to match the Tigers' scoring.
Unfortunately for the Lancers, they didn't find their shooting touch until less than a minute to play in the fourth quarter when the issue was no longer in doubt. Saint Elizabeth's hit back-to-back 3-pointers in those fleeting moments for the game's final six points. Those would be the team's only 3-pointers of the night.
"We're used to hitting (outside shots)," Saint E's Head Coach Rob Fitzgerald said, "but we had a hard time getting into any kind of a flow on offense. They put good pressure up top, good pressure on our point guard, and it's hard to just come down and put it in inside when you know (No.) 31 (Becca)'s in there.
"I think we were a little hesitant at the start of the game, got down by about 10 points (12-2 in the first quarter), and you can't do that against a good team like that."
It was fitting that Saint E's went down swinging, though. The Lancers showed fight throughout the game, running the floor and battling for loose balls. And Becca was held to just five points in the second half.
"We tried to get some plays and work things out to put pressure on her, get her a little frustrated," said guard Megan Fitzgerald, a Saint E's eighth-grader. "We are a team that does not quit at all. We like to stay in it."
Still, the Lancers' quest for a diocesan title this season ends. But for Coach Fitzgerald, he's happy with the way that his players performed, earning the diocese's 2012 South 2A Section championship—the program's first section title since 1983—with a 9-1 section record.
His team, including its departing eighth-graders—Megan, center Mackenzie Voelker, forward Jacquelyn O'Brien and guard Robyn Ruggier—have played together since the fourth and fifth grade, he said.
"I'm gonna miss the excitement," Megan said about leaving Saint E's basketball. "I'm gonna miss everything about that school."
Megan and Jacquelyn, both of Pleasant Hills Borough, plan on playing basketball at Thomas Jefferson High School next school year. Mackenzie, of Baldwin Borough, is headed to Baldwin High School, and Robyn, of McKeesport, PA, is going to Seneca Valley High School. (Robyn's family is moving to Cranberry Township.)
"These girls have really done so much for the school," Coach Fitzgerald said. "They built the program back up, and now, we have a good program where we have sixth- and seventh-graders who are all going to contribute next year.
"We're gonna come back next year, and hopefully, get another section championship. But our eighth-graders are hard to replace, and we love them."
Saint E's starting five of seventh-grade guard Sarah Hacke (nine points), Megan (eight), Jacquelyn (seven), Mackenzie (four) and seventh-grade forward Katie Birch (three) provided all of the Lancers' scoring on Friday.
Sarah, of West Mifflin Borough, will be one of the Lancers' leaders next season.
"We want to win the section again, like we did this year," she said, "but go further—hopefully, a (diocesan) championship."
Also scoring for Thomas More were eighth-grade forward Megan Horgan (eight points), eighth-grade guard Mira Fontana (seven), eighth-grade guard Lexi Lutheran (four), eighth-grade guard/forward Allison Peters (three) and eighth-grade guard Julia Cipollone (two).
The Tigers, of Bethel Park, had a 9-2 record in the diocese's South 1A Section to finish in second place there behind the three-time defending diocesan champs from St. Gabriel of the Sorrowful Virgin School, of Whitehall Borough. St. Gabriel's, 10-1 in South 1A, won a one-game tiebreaker over Thomas More, 51-37, on Feb. 15 to earn the section title.
Thomas More will now play in the diocese's Class A semifinals on Thursday against St. Bonaventure School at neutral-site Oakland Catholic High School at around 7:45 p.m., just after St. Gabe's plays Saint Gregory Catholic School at Oakland Catholic at 6:30 in the other semifinal.
St. Bonaventure, the North 1A Section champion, went 11-1 in that section this season. Saint Gregory posted a 9-0 section record to win the Beaver Valley Section.
The semifinals winners will meet in the diocese's championship game on Sunday, March 11, at Oakland Catholic at 3 p.m.
After the game on Friday, Becca was asked about Thomas More's strengths and its chances in the diocese's "final four" this season.
"We practice hard, and we're just a team with a dream," she said. "What doesn't kill us makes us stronger, and we work together. As you can see, that happened on the court tonight."
Becca will head to Seton-La Salle Catholic High School to play basketball next school year. Earlier on Friday, Seton-La Salle won the WPIAL's AA championship with a 73-60 win over Bishop Canevin High School to improve to 25-0 this season.
The rich, indeed, get richer.
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