By Lynn Saternow
Herald Sports Editor
It’s a rematch of a rematch.
That’s the story for the Kennedy Catholic Lady Golden Eagles when it comes to colliding with Vincentian Academy Saturday in the PIAA Western Regional Semifinals.
Kennedy, which downed Port Allegany, 70-21, Wednesday evening at Clarion University, will face their nemesis in that key clash for second straight season. Vincentian topped KC in the western semis last year, 56-51, then in a rematch earlier this year the WPIAL champions again beat the Lady Golden Eagles, 70-53.
Vincentian beat Berlin-Brothersvalley, 44-42, at the buzzer Wednesday at Hempfield High School in Greensburg as the No. 3 team out of District 5 nearly pulled off a huge upset over Vincentian.
The Wednesday game at Clarion against the Lady Gators wasn’t much of a test, just a slight warm-up for Saturday.
“I’m really proud of my girls,” said KC coach Tom Burns. “They’re clicking on all 8 cylinders now. The defense speaks for itself. They are a lot more disciplined on defense than the start of the year.
“I’m willing to give them some freedom on offense if they’re playing strong defense. We’re playing team basketball and I’m really proud of my team as a unit.”
That “unit” dominated every area of the game. The full-court pressure was too much for the District 9 runners-up to handle as the Lady Golden Eagles forced 7 turnovers in the opening quarter and burst out to a 21-5 lead. KC was in control on the boards and Port Allegany had no answer for 6-foot-2 Courtney Sargent inside or the shooting of Alex Ricketts from the perimeter.
The KC lead actually could have been even bigger as they missed several inside bunnies, making only 9 of 22 shots in the period. Plus they missed on 4 of 6 free throws.
Kennedy led by 39-14 by halftime as Ricketts had 15 points and Sargent 12. By then the game was pretty much out of reach as the Lady Golden Eagles forced 6 more turnovers in that second stanza.
There was no waking up from this nightmare for the toothless Gators. In the third period they were outscored 20-1. In fact, their first field goal of the second half came with 5:52 remaining in the contest.
For the game, Kennedy (24-2) forced 29 miscues. Ricketts, bound for Akron U., led the point-production with 21 points, including 5 treys.
Sargent added 17 points. Rachel Burns tallied 9 markers while she, Taylor Hood and Tatum Kress worked the ball well to set up the big two guns on the night. Gabrielle Drabert had 8 points to pace PA, which finished the season at 22-5.
“I didn’t expect the game to get away as fast as it did,” said Burns. “We weren’t scoring early, but our defensive pressure was doing the job on the other end.
“We have to control the glass from here on out. Courtney was a moose tonight inside. We’ll need to be in control against Vincentian.”
Sargent didn’t play in the earlier season game against the perennial Pittsburgh-area power, missing the first six contests of the year. But she should provide a big boost this time around. And the close loss in the western semis last year came with Rachel Burns, the team’s second highest scorer behind Ricketts, sidelined by an injury.
“We’re healthy now and we’re ready to go,” Burns said.
Nobody who watched the team Wednesday at Clarion could argue with that!
PIAA CLASS A PLAYOFFS
KENNEDY 21 18 20 11 70
P. ALLEGANY 5 9 1 6 21
KENNEDY CATHOLIC — Ricketts 8-0-0-21, Sargent 7-3-6-17, Burns 4-0-1-9, Hood 2-4-5-8, Kish 2-1-2-6, Bocain 0-1-2-1, O’Brien 0-2-2-2, Yacoub 1-0-0-2, Kress 2-0-0-4, Scoccia 0-0-0-0, Volkay 0-0-0-0. 3-pt. goals: Ricketts 5, Burns 1, Kish 1. Totals: 26-11-18-70.
PORT ALLEGANY — Lathrop 1-1-4-3, Roys 2-1-2-5, Buchsenschutz 1-0-0-2, Drabert 3-2-4-8, Miller 0-0-0-0, Delacour 0-0-0-0, Johnson 1-1-2-3. Totals: 8-5-12-21.