By Ed Farrell
Herald Assistant Sports Editor
SLIPPERY ROCK — Kennedy Catholic High girls’ basketball team was in the ’hood Saturday afternoon.
Led by senior Taylor Hood, the Lady Golden Eagles eased past California, 53-34, in the opening round of the PIAA Class A playoffs.
At Slippery Rock University’s Morrow Field House, Hood had 15 points, as did teammate Tatum Kress. Also, April Bocian bucketed 8 points and pulled down a team-high half-dozen rebounds.
While Hood is the lone senior, the underclassmen-laded Lady Golden Eagles seem unfazed with their foray through a season that’s included Region 1-A and District 10 championships.
Deep postseason runs have been a familiar neighborhood for Kennedy Catholic’s proud program through 3-plus decades. The 2014 Lady Golden Eagles’ edition evidences the intention of etching its own history.
Saturday’s benchmark was the first on the statewide stage for 1st-year KC Head Coach Chris Mele.
“It feels great! The girls worked hard, they earned it and they deserve it,” Mele assessed.
“They’re fun coaching,” admitted Mele. “Our goal is a state championship, but we’re gonna take it one game at a time, I realize that. But that’s not out of the question for this group. They want it badly, and we’ve just gotta keep playing smart and playing hard.
“I knew we had the ability; it was a matter if we could mesh together as a team,” Mele related. “The one thing that’s real exciting for me now: In playoff basketball – especially towards this state -- you worry about your team getting burned out. But there’s no sense of burning out; we’re actually starting to peak again at the right time.
“The girls are energized, and I think you need that in these long state playoffs,” Mele mused.
Fourteen 1st-half Lady Trojans’ turnovers converted to easy Lady Golden Eagles’ transtition baskets. In capturing a 30-21 margin at intermission Kennedy connected on 13 of 19 attempts led by Hood’s 5-for-6 shooting and 10 tallies. Ultimately, Hood hit on 7 of 9 floor shots, keying Kennedy’s 23-for-40 performance.
“We were able to break (the Lady Trojans) defense down with our fast break, and with our defense created some offense,” Mele mused. “Any time you can get layups, that’s a high-percentage shot. Taylor Hood did a nice job (Satur)day of creating her own shot through the defense, and Tatum Kress did the same thing a couple times.
“We shared the ball really well, and that’s one thing about this team: They don’t mind sharing the basketball and that’s the mark of a good team,” added Mele regarding the Lady Golden Eagles’ 14 dimes. Hood handed out a handful, and Kress, Bekah Kish, Taylor Zacherl and Kaykay Shannonhouse 2 apiece.
California (19-5), the WPIAL’s undefeated Section 3-A champion, was led by 6-foot-1 frosh Kylie Huffman’s game-high 14-point, 8-rebound performance, while Tristen Conaway and Kat Pankratz evenly divided an additional 18 points. However the Lady Trojans turned over the ball 19 times and connected on only 13 of 40 field-goal attempts.
PIAA CLASS A PLAYOFFS
CALIFORNIA 7 14 8 5 34
KENNEDY 16 14 15 8 53
CALIFORNIA — Miller 1-0-0-2, Clements 0-0-0-0, Huffman 5-3-4-14, Pankratz 4-0-0-9, Conaway 3-3-6-9, Gaston 0-0-0-0, Helmick 0-0-0-0, Koehler 0-0-0-0, Gudel 0-0-0-0, Wolpink 0-0-0-0, Kelly 0-0-0-0. 3-pt. goals: Huffman 1, Pankratz 1. Totals: 13-6-10-34.
KENNEDY CATHOLIC — Hood 7-1-1-15, Kress 6-2-2-15, Bocian 4-0-0-8, Kish 1-2-2-5, O’Brien 0-0-0-0, Fusco 2-0-1-4, Zacherl 2-0-0-4, Shannonhouse 1-0-0-2, Moroco 0-0-0-0, Burns 0-0-0-0, Volkay 0-0-0-0. 3-pt. goals: Kress 1, Kish 1. Totals: 23-5-6-53.