Baldwin-Mt. Lebo Basketball: A Postseason Rite

Again, the Highlanders will have to beat Mt. Lebanon to stay alive in the playoffs.


's varsity girls basketball team has accomplished a lot in the past four years—quite a lot in fact. Try four WPIAL playoffs appearances. Three state playoffs trips. Twelve postseason victories in total.

But that doesn't change one thing. In the past four postseasons, Baldwin is 0-4 against Mt. Lebanon High School.

More or less, the Mt. Lebanon Blue Devils (24-3 this season)—state champions three years running—have eliminated the Highlanders (19-7) from the playoffs in each of the past three seasons.

But that could all change in a hurry on Tuesday night when the teams meet again at Duquesne University's A.J. Palumbo Center at 6:30. It'll be a second-round state (PIAA) playoffs game this year, but the last time that these teams met at the Palumbo Center, it was the 2010 WPIAL title game, which the Blue Devils won, 59-43. The Highlanders also lost to Mt. Lebo in the state quarterfinals that year, 56-42.

The year before, it was the WPIAL quarterfinals, 49-30, and the PIAA first round, 51-39.

"It seemed like every single year, we would find them in the playoffs," said Belma Nurkic, a 2011 Baldwin grad who now plays for Duquesne.

Even in 2011, when the Highlanders' hopes for a state playoffs spot rested on Oakland Catholic High School winning a WPIAL title, it was Mt. Lebanon who , ending Baldwin's campaign.

Current Baldwin players Carly Corcoran, Taylor Wentzel and Anna Lauterbach were juniors on that 2010-11 team, and although the Highlanders never got a chance to face the Blue Devils in the playoffs that season, Baldwin shocked the WPIAL in the regular season with a 48-46 win at Mt. Lebo on Jan. 3, breaking a streak of 20 straight home section wins for the Blue Devils.

Baldwin's seniors, who otherwise are a combined 0-11 against Mt. Lebanon in their four seasons together, haven't forgotten about that win, and they'll need the confidence that they got from it to remember that the Blue Devils aren't infallible.

"We have to play with confidence and poise," said Gavin Prosser, Baldwin's first-year head coach, about what it'll take to beat Mt. Lebo on Tuesday. "We need to limit their second chances and stop the ball in transition. We need to be smart offensively and take care of the ball.

"We do that, and it's anyone's game."

Nurkic had some advice for her former teammates as they come to her new home court on Tuesday.

"(Mt. Lebanon's players) are just like any regular girls playing basketball," Nurkic said. "They put their uniforms on the same way that everyone does, like we did when I was there, like Taylor and Anna do this year. They tie up their laces just like us.

"I guess that win (in 2011) kind of brought to our attention, 'Hey, we can do this. They're just like us.'

"The only reason maybe some people have some fear in playing them is because their jersey says 'Mt. Lebanon.'"

But make no mistake; Baldwin's players aren't those people.

Not only have this year's Highlanders proven that they weren't a Nurkic-only team—they've already advanced further in the postseason this year than they did in 2011—players like Wentzel are plenty confident.

After defeating Shaler Area High School in the , Wentzel boldly predicted a Highlanders victory over Mt. Lebanon later in the playoffs.

"We're gonna beat (Mt. Lebanon) down at Palumbo this year," she said at the time.

Wentzel was talking about a WPIAL title game that never happened, as Baldwin lost in . Nevertheless, on Tuesday, Wentzel and the Highlanders will still have a chance to prove her prophecy true.

Tickets cost $6 at the gate (cash only), but students can buy tickets at their high schools for $3 each prior to the game.

The Baldwin-Whitehall Patch will provide live updates on Twitter @BWPatch.


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