HERSHEY, Pa. (AP) – For the second time in three seasons, WPIAL champion Seton-La Salle walked away from the sweetest place on earth with the girls’ PIAA Class AA basketball title.
In the process, the Rebels knocked off the state’s last unbeaten, outracing Philadelphia product Neumann-Goretti 58-50 Friday afternoon at Giant Center.
The Rebels (27-4) were paced by Nicolete Newman (17 points), Cassidy Walsh (11) and Yacine Diop, one of three University of Pittsburgh recruits for Rebels first-year head coach Spencer Stefko. Diop recorded a double-double with 10 points and 23 rebounds.
Emmanuella Awobajo led three double-digit scorers for Neumann-Goretti, denied a perfect 30-0 season. The Saints (29-1) rallied from a 28-17 halftime deficit to take the lead, 46-44, with 5:28 remaining.
Seton-La Salle, however, connected on 10 of 12 from the free-throw line down the stretch, holding off a high-powered Neumann-Goretti side that converted just 16 of 66 shots from the floor. The Saints also shot under 17-percent (5-for-30) from the 3-point arc.
“It feels good. It feels really, really good,” said Diop, a senior and member of Senegal’s U18 National Team. Diop chipped in six blocks. “Defensively, that’s the best game I’ve ever played. We were a little bit nervous but we were able to do it.”
Behind Awobajo and slick guards Ciani Cryor (12 points) and Sianni Martin (10), Letty Santarelli’s Catholic League champions stayed tight despite their shooting woes. Still, after a pair of Martin free throws pushed the Saints ahead for the first time, Neumann-Goretti’s next bucket came on a Kamiah Smalls lay up with under a minute to play.
Newman and Walsh took care of the rest from the line.
“All year there would be games where we make them and games where we don’t,” said Stefko. “What our kids did a great job of doing was making sure the right kids at the end were on the line.”