Lady Tide\’s First PIAA Playoff Game a Tough Assignment

CURWENSVILLE — The Curwensville Area High School girls basketball team is stepping into uncharted territory Friday, and the Lady Tide couldn\’t have wound up with a much tougher opponent for the program\’s first PIAA Inter-District Playoff game.
District 7 (WPIAL) champion Greensburg Central Catholic is the No. 4-ranked Class AA team in the state with a deceiving 21-6 record for the 6 p.m. tipoff in Hempfield Area High School, located outside of Greensburg.
Four of the Centurions\’ losses were by five points or less, including 49-47 to WPIAL Class AAAA third place qualifier Upper St. Clair, 50-48 to District 6 Class AAAA runner-up State College (18-8) and 53-50 to WPIAL Class AAAA runner-up champion Oakland Catholic (21-7). They also lost 51-44 to WPIAL Class A champion North Catholic (24-4).
The Centurions\’ most impressive win was 57-55 against West Virginia power Mount de Chantal Academy on the road.
Seeded No. 2 for the District 7 tourney, they repeated as champions with victories over 15-11 South Fayette 61-29, 19-8 Shady Side Academy 59-42, 21-6 Beaver 57-54 and 25-3 Ford City 47-37, extending their winning streak to 12 games.
\”They\’re very good,\” said Curwensville coach Vic Gearhart, whose team owns a school-best 21-7 record. \”They\’ve played some teams with gaudy records and did well. They move without the basketball, and you can tell they\’ve played together a lot because they always know where the other girls are going to be. They\’re definitely going to be the best team we\’ve seen.\”
The Centurions are led by Ashley Henderson, who broke the school record for career points in the second quarter of the WPIAL title game. The 5-10 senior has scored 1,684 points. The Pitt recruit also started on Greensburg CC\’s WPIAL and state runner-up soccer team last fall.
\”She\’s the best player we\’ve seen all year,\” Ford City coach Al Davis said to Kittanning Leader Times sports writer Gavin Jenkins. \”It\’s everything, the scoring, the rebounding, the passing, the assists. That\’s why she\’s a Division I player.\”
Henderson and 5-7 senior guard Kayla Marghella each had 14 points and 6-0 junior center Erica Keto added 14 points and nine rebounds as the Centurions beat the Sabres for the third time this season. 
Greensburg CC\’s other probable starters are 5-9 senior Jill Gregory and 5-10 sophomore Megan DePrimio. 
Top reserves are 5-8 freshman Rebecca Keyes, 5-1 sophomore guard Emily Evans and 5-4 senior guard Megan Mahoney.
\”They really want to play an up-tempo game,\” Gearhart said. \”They\’re really not a fast-breaking team, but they push the ball up the floor.
\”They\’re going to give us some looks we\’re not used to seeing with their strong inside play. Keto and DePrimio play high-low post and flash back and forth. They\’re very mobile. The other three are interchangeable at guard and high wing. They penetrate, but they seem to want to pull up in the lane instead of going all the way to the hoop. But they take a variety of shots.
\”They make a lot of crosscourt passes, and they look for the back-cut all the time. If you make a mistake, they\’ll find the open girl behind the zone. They\’ve made passes from the wing to the opposite low post, so we really have to keep our hands up in the passing lane and be aware of people flashing behind us.\”
Gearhart expects fullcourt pressure from the Centurions, who have lost in the PIAA Class AA semifinals the last three years to District teams, Bishop Guilfoyle in 2004 and Westmont Hilltop in 2005 and 2006.
\”They played all man against Ford City in December, but that also run a 1-2-1-1 press,\” he said. \”The second time against Ford City, they used a halfcourt, trapping press. If you turn your back on them at all, they\’ll leave their girl and double team the dribbler. We\’ve tried to simulate that in practice this week.\”
Greensburg CC is averaging 58.8 points a game and allowing 42.2 in contrast to Curwensville\’s 48.7 on offense and 48.1 on defense.
Golden Tide starters are seniors Dana Struble (527 points, 18.8 average), Jackie White (324, 12.0) and Ronna Knepp (96, 3.4), junior Holly Fink (101, 3.7) and sophomore Hannah Walls (183, 6.5). Walls scored a career-high 19 points in the 42-33 District 9 championship game loss to Karns City last Friday.
Sophomore Holly Lansberry (55, 2.0) and senior Shannon Hamm (40, 2.2) are the first players off the bench.
The Curwensville-Greensburg CC winner will play either District 10 runner-up Lakeview (25-2) or District 7 sixth placer entry seed Our Lady of Sacred Heart (20.6).
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