North Clarion Overcomes Slow Start to Move into Second Round of PIAA Playoffs


CLARION, Pa. (D9Sports) – For the better part of 13 minutes and change, it looked like the North Clarion girls’ basketball team was still stuck in the rut that cost the She-Wolves a District 9 Class 1A champion.

(Photo: Mackenzie Bauer scored 18 points in North Clarion’s first-round PIAA playoff win Saturday. Photo by Paul Burdick. Check out more of Burdick’s work here)

With just 2:50 to play in the first half of a PIAA first-round game against Sewickley Academy, nothing was going right for North Clarion.

Reslisten to the game:

The She-Wolves were shooting 3 of 19 from the field and had turned the ball over 14 times, leading to a 14-9 deficit.

But then, with 2:20 to play in the half, the switch flipped, and North Clarion went on a half-ending 11-0 run that it used to spearhead a 47-36 win.

“We called timeout, and I tried to get them focused on what I wanted them to do and what our game was,” North Clarion head coach Terry Dreihaup said. “Because the first 12 minutes, we weren’t doing any of that. We got them focused, and they played a really nice end of the second quarter. We outscored them 17-4 in the second quarter, which was a big boost for us. Then we came out in the third quarter and just kept pressuring them, kept forcing them to do things they’re probably not used you.”

Abby Gatesman was at the front of the run, scoring six points, including two off an offensive rebound and another with just 5.7 seconds left in the half, while also handing out an assist on a bucket by Mackenzie Bauer that turned into an old-school 3-point play with 1:18 left in the half that gave the She-Wolves a 16-14 lead, their first since 4-3.

“(Abby) is a very good player,” Bauer, who was named the Hager Paving Player of the Game, said. “I give her amazing credit because without her we wouldn’t be the team we are.”

Bauer played a key role in keeping North Clarion in the game when nothing else was happening, scoring the first seven points for the She-Wolves and finishing with a game-high 18 points.

“My shots were just falling,” Bauer said. “I just got lucky, and I was open.”

Six more points from Bauer in the first four minutes of the third quarter helped push the lead to double digits, 28-18, before Gatesman hit a 3-pointer to make it a 13-point game, 31-18, with 2:13 to play in the third quarter.

“Defense is our game,” Bauer said. “If we don’t play defense, it is hard to come out with a win.”

Watch Bauer’s full postgame interview

Another Gatesman three in the final minute of the quarter helped the She-Wolves take a 34-25 lead into the fourth quarter.

The game seemed well in hand when Gabby Schmader scored off a Bauer assist at the 4:25 mark to make it a 38-28 lead.

But Sewickley Academy answered with a quick 7-0 spurt and closed within three, 38-35, on a 3-pointer by Mia DelVecchio with 2:41 left.

“We got a little careless,” Dreihaup said. “We were taking our press breaker up the side, which we don’t like to do. We like to keep it in the middle. We didn’t do a good job of that.”

The Lady Panthers then had a chance to get within a point when Shea McCoy was sent to the line to shoot two, but McCoy missed both free throws.

That seemed to be the spark North Clarion needed, as Haley Sherman started an 8-0 run with two free throws before back-to-back baskets by Trinity Thompson off Gatesman assists made it 44-35 with 1:18 left.

“We knew they were going to be pressuring the ball and back behind the press was going to be wide open,” Dreihaup said. “The girls made some great passes to Trinity for some easy buckets.”

North Clarion will take on Berlin Brothersvalley in the second round after the Mountainers, the third-place team out of District 5, beat St. Joseph’s Catholic Academy, 44-31.

“It means everything,” Bauer said when asked what it meant to advance to the second round of the PIAA playoffs for the third time in four years. “We want it this year. We are coming out fired up. We need everything we can take.”

NOTES: North Clarion’s cause was helped in some ways by an unfortunate injury to Sewickley Academy’s leading scorer, Bree Warner, who collided with Sherman after Sherman ball-faked Warner. Both players went down hard, but while Sherman popped right back up, Warner had to be attended to and then helped off the court and didn’t return … This was the third time in four years these teams met in the PIAA first round. North Clarion won in 2017 and Sewickley Academy won last year … Thompson had a strong game on the boards with a team-best 10 rebounds while also blocking at least five shots and altering many others … Gatesman added nine rebounds with Gabby Schmader chipping in seven to go with four points.

NORTH CLARION 47, SEWICKLEY ACADEMY 36

Score by Quarters

Sewickley Academy 10 4 11 11 – 36
North Clarion 3 17 14 13 – 47

SEWICKLEY ACADEMY – 36

Rinni Jardini 0 0-0 0, JJ Jardini 3 4-6 11, Shea McCoy 1 1-5 3, Kamryn Lightcap 4 3-6 11, Mia DelVecchio 2 0-0 5, Bree Warner 1 0-0 2, Desirae Nance 1 2-4 4, Olivia Jackson 0 0-0 0. Totals 12 10-21 36.

NORTH CLARION – 47

Mackenzie Bauer 6 6-8 18, Addison Shaftic 0 0-0 0, Amaya Green 0 0-0 0, Gabby Schmader 2 0-1 4, Gabby DiDolce 0 0-0 0, Claire Kriebel 0 0-2 0, Gwen Siegel 0 2-2 2, Abby Gatesman 5 1-2 13, Trinity Thompson 2 0-2 4, Haley Sherman 1 4-4 6. Totals 16 13-21 47.

Three-pointers: Sewickley Academy 2 (JJ Jardini, DelVecchio), North Clarion 2 (Gatesman 2).


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