By Ed Farrell
Herald Assistant Sports Editor
SLIPPERY ROCK — Not unlike Gulliver gallavanting in the land of Lilliputians, April Bocian rose above the crowd Saturday afternoon.
Coming off the bench, Bocian barely broke a sweat in bringing down 11 boards and blocking a couple shots, keying Kennedy Catholic High girls’ basketball team to a 45-36 PIAA Class A opening-round win over North Catholic.
“I think that actually was the game-changer,” 6th-year Kennedy head coach Tom Burns acknowledged. “We had a serious height advantage in this game, and we wanted to exploit it real quick.”
Following the matinee at Slippery Rock University’s Morrow Field House, the slender, 6-foot-2 Bocian bashfully said regarding her surprising timing and coordination, “It wasn’t always like that. I used to be really uncoordinated and I had two left feet. But I worked really hard the past few years, and just got better. But I still have a long way to go,” she related. “Going into eighth grade, I practiced every day, for a long time.
“I have an advantage with my height, and just try to use it,” she added.
The Lady Golden Eagles erupted from their 1st-quarter lethargy, missing their first half-dozen field-goal attempts. Courtney Sargent scored 6 points and Alex Ricketts 4, and with Sargent and Bocian evenly dividing 8 rebounds North Catholic’s offense went one-and-done as KC secured a 12-9 lead.
The Trojanettes turned over the ball 9 times during the 1st half and misfired on 22 of 26 floor shots — 2 blocked by Bocian. And with Rachel Burns bombing back-to-back treys and Ricketts recording 4 more markers, Kennedy cruised to a 24-12 margin at intermission.
Rallying from a pair of early 3rd-quarter, 14-point deficits, North Catholic closed within 28-22 with 2:12 remaining in the quarter on Abby Goetz’s right-wing triple, culminating an 8-0 spree. But Bocian’s brace from the free-throw line and another from Ricketts — sandwiching Bekah Kish’s lob to Sargent — enabled the Lady Golden Eagles to end the period on a 6-2 run to extend their edge to 34-24 entering the final frame.
Ricketts’ 5-for-6 free-throw shooting and Sargent’s 4 more markers offset Lauren Wolosik’s 8 points, as the teams traded scores. North Catholic closed within 41-34 with approximately 2 minutes remaining on Goetz’s baseline runner, but never seriously threatened thereafter.
A senior bound for Central Connecticut State University, Wolosik was the lone returning starter from last season’s Western Regional championship 24-7 squad that suffered a 66-59 setback to Steelton-Highspire in the state title tilt. Averaging 27.1 points per game this yesar, Wolosik went 4-for-14 from the field and finished with 11 points.
“That was the whole deal. We played a 3-2 zone, and wherever she was we manned up, we ‘face-guarded’ her,” Burns explained. “It definitely took her out of the game ...”
Ricketts rifled in a game-high 17 points to key Kennedy Catholic (23-2), while Sargent secured a 14-point, 13-rebound double-double, and Taylor Hood handed out a handful of assists and hauled down a half-dozen caroms. But despite scoring only 5 points, Burns, boasting of Bocian, said,
“As soon as she went in, it was definitely a change in the game. April gave us great minutes, and I’m really proud of her.”
North Catholic (15-11), coached by alumna and former standout Molly Rottman, is a proud program that battled Roger Flynn-coached Grove City squads in several AAA tilts back in the day. The Trojanettes remain a force in the WPIAL.
“Extremely, extremely proud of my girls for that effort,” Burns said. “That’s a great basketball team they just beat. They’re well-coached program ... I’m really excited. This is probably one of my biggest wins, coming out of the box and winning against North Catholic. That was tough first game, and we’ll start working on (the second-round opponent) next.”
Notes: KC connected on 14 of 45 floor shots (31.1 percent) and 15 of 26 freebies (57.6), compared with North Catholic’s respective 13-for-52 (25 percent) and 7-for-14 totals. ... Goetz garnered 15 points and grabbed 7 caroms, and Evelyn Brazil boasted 5 assists. ... the Trojanettes turned over the ball 13 times, 3 fewer than KC. ... led by Sargent and Bocian, the Lady Golden Eagles ended with a 43-37 edge on the boards. Wolosik went for a team-high 12 for North Catholic.
PIAA CLASS A PLAYOFFS
NORTH 9 3 12 12 36
KENNEDY 12 12 10 11 45
NORTH CATHOLIC — Brazil 1-2-4-4, Kizior 1-0-0-2, Wolosik 4-2-4-11, Goetz 5-3-4-15, Zangaro 1-0-2-2, M.Palmer 1-0-0-2, Graff 0-0-0-0, K.Palmer 0-0-0-0, Yanicko 0-0-0-0. 3-pt. goals: Goetz 2, Wolosik 1. Totals: 13-7-14-36.
KENNEDY CATHOLIC — Burns 2-1-4-7, Ricketts 4-9-10-17, Sargent 6-2-2-14, Kish 0-0-0-0, Hood 1-0-6-2, Bocian 1-3-4-5, Kress 0-0-0-0. 3-pt. goals: Burns 2. Totals: 14-15-26-45.