A basketball rim measures 18 inches in diameter. The St. Joseph’s Catholic Academy girls’ basketball team would probably say it felt much smaller than that following Wednesday’s state playoff game.
The combination of stingy man defense and Selena Mann’s dominance in the paint would have been more than enough to win on most nights, but it just didn’t translate into points for the Lady Wolves. SJCA’s first-ever trip to the PIAA tournament ended with a 36-30 loss to Sewickley Academy at Central Cambria High School in the second round of Class A bracket play.
St. Joseph’s struggled to put the ball in the basket throughout, making just 11-of-51 shots from the floor. The team went 0-for-12 on 3-point attempts.
“We had a tough night offensively and Sewickley played an extremely tough game, so hats off to them for coming in here and beating us,” SJCA coach Katie Sosnoskie said. “We had some really good looks. Our girls played really hard. You feel for them because the shots didn’t go in at times when they normally would have.”
Sign Up and Save
Get six months of free digital access to the Centre Daily Times
Denaya Poston-Cooper scored the first bucket of the game off a steal on Sewickley’s first possession for an early 2-0 lead, but the Lady Panthers scored the next six points and never trailed after that.
St. Joseph’s tied the game four times but, each time, Sewickley answered with a bucket or two to go back up.
The last tie came when Mann scored on a putback of two previous misses, knotting the score at 30-30 with 2:08 left in the game.
But Sewickley Academy’s Kendall Lightcap put her team back in front for good with a runner on the ensuing possession. She then converted four straight free throws in the final minute to seal the win.
“She made some big shots when we really needed them,” SA coach Marian Sy said. “Our goal was to stop Poston-Cooper, but then Mann really hurt us. She played well. We couldn’t stop her. We couldn’t box her out.”
The Lady Panthers held Poston-Cooper to four points, but Mann scored 11 to lead the team. She also grabbed 18 rebounds and blocked four shots. Kathleen Simander added nine points for the Lady Wolves.
Mann tied the game 13-13 midway through the second quarter with two foul shots, but Lightcap banked a 3-pointer from the top of the key to reclaim the lead for Sewickley.
Theresa Wilson then made 3-of-4 foul shots in the final 1:44 of the half, putting the Lady Panthers up 19-13 at the intermission.
St. Joseph’s came out and scored six quick points to open the second half but managed just two more the rest of the third quarter and trailed 25-21 entering the fourth.
“We answered all the runs Sewickley had. We just needed one more run at the end but didn’t get it,” Sosnoskie said.
Sewickley, the WPIAL’s sixth-place finisher, advances to play Berlin in the quarterfinals Saturday with the winner getting a spot in the final four. The District 5 champs advanced with a 54-43 win over Kennedy Catholic.
St. Joseph’s, which ends the season with a 16-9 record, not only qualified for the state playoffs for the first time in program history, but won its first state playoff game as well, knocking off Quiqley Catholic 52-41 last Saturday.
“It’s a very special group of girls,” Sosnoskie said. “We have three seniors that did a phenomenal job in taking our program to new heights, and we have some really special underclassmen that have now been to the state playoffs and got a taste of it. Hopefully, we’ll back for more next year.”