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Baldwin High School didn't look like the lower seed.
The Highlanders, forced to play Greater Latrobe High School in a WPIAL AAAA championships play-in game on Tuesday night, dominated the higher-seeded Wildcats at both ends of the floor to move on the tournament's first round with a 54-39 win.
Latrobe (9-14 overall) saved its best for first by jumping out to a 4-0 lead in this neutral-site game at Penn-Trafford High School. But Baldwin's size, speed and superior shooting took over immediately, and the Highlanders (11-11 overall) finished the first quarter on a 19-6 run.
"That was maybe the best first quarter that we've played all year," said Baldwin Head Coach Gavin Prosser, who regularly rotated four tall players—5-foot-10 junior forwards Taylor Letender, Taylor Duchon and Liz Spegar and 6-foot freshman forward Carly Lutz—who Latrobe had no answer for.
The Wildcats have just two players taller than 5-foot-7—none taller than 5-foot-8—and Baldwin took advantage by owning the boards and blocking a ton of shots.
"We had heard that they weren't a very tall team," Prosser said, "but that's something that we like to do (rebound, block shots) no matter who we're playing."
Latrobe fought back hard in the second quarter by scoring the period's first four points, but Baldwin got the next six on 3-pointers by junior guard Amanda Johnston and freshman guard Kayla Eberst, whose deep ball with five seconds left got a friendly roll by hitting the rim, the backboard and then the rim again before falling through.
That made it 25-14 at halftime, and the Wildcats never got closer, even going down by 21 points midway through the third quarter and 23 points midway through the fourth.
"We didn't expect to (win by that much)," said Baldwin's sophomore guard Amanda Larkin, who scored 12 points, "but we knew we had a good handle on them. We knew we had to play hard and just play our game."
Johnston matched Larkin's 12 points, and junior guard Nikki Corcoran notched a game-high 15.
"We didn't really know much about them (Latrobe)," Corcoran said, "but we figured, if we brought our 'A' game, we can beat anyone that we set our minds to."
The Highlanders must now set their mind to beating North Allegheny High School (19-3 overall), the WPIAL's No. 2-seeded team, in the playoffs' first round on Tuesday at a place and exact time to be determined. (UPDATE: The Baldwin-North Allegheny game is scheduled for 8 p.m. at North Hills High School.)
Baldwin should be used to facing powerhouse teams. The Highlanders made the playoffs via a fourth-place tie in AAAA's Section 4, which also includes No. 1-seeded Mt. Lebanon High School and No. 3 Bethel Park High School. Baldwin needed a 46-38 upset win over Bethel in its regular season finale just to make the playoffs.
"On any given day, any team can beat anybody," Prosser said when asked about the upcoming North Allegheny game. "We don't really talk too much about seeds and this and that. In my mind, you gotta show up, and you gotta play.
"It doesn't matter who you're playing."
Added Larkin, "There's nothing to be scared about. It's just knowing that we have to work hard, have a good practice the next few days and then come ready to play."
The WPIAL bracket-makers' decision to put Baldwin in a play-in game—and mark Latrobe as a higher seed—could be second-guessed, especially after back-to-back impressive wins for the Highlanders.
If you ask Larkin, that decision might be the right kind of motivation for the Highlanders.
Said the sophomore, "We just wanted to prove (tonight) that we're out to win this all and we're out to fight."
Sophomore forward Rachael Kollar led Latrobe with 10 points.
Baldwin's scorers: Corcoran (15), Larkin (12), Johnston (12), Eberst (5), Duchon (5), Letender (3), Lutz (2).
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