By Pete Chiodo
March 9, 2013 7:00 a.m. EDINBORO —
Following the loss to North East in the District 10 championship game, General McLane’s Katie Rodrigues stood in a hallway at Edinboro University’s McComb Fieldhouse in tears, taking full blame for the loss because of missed basket in the waning seconds.
On Friday night, the junior stood in that very spot; this time with a great big smile on her face.
General McLane fended off a fierce rally by Jeannette in the third quarter with the help of a key 3-pointer by Rodrigues on its way to a 51-34 win in the opening round of the PIAA Class AA state playoffs.
The Lancers improved to 23-3 on the year and advance to face WPIAL champion Bishop Canevin in the quarterfinals on Tuesday at a site and time to be determined. Bishop Canevin advanced with a 51-37 win over Westmont Hilltop.
Jeannette ends its season at 17-8.
“It feels great,” Rodrigues said. “We know they had really good players and we’re just glad that we could come away with the win.”
Rodrigues’ glum look after the loss to the Grapepickers was one worn by the entire Lancer team. But head coach Sarah Jay said the look didn’t last for too long. The very next day her team was refocused and ready to prepare for its game with the Jayhawks.
“We have such a mutual respect for North East,” Jay said. “The loss hurt, but deep down we were happy for them too. And I think that helped us bounce back. This has been a team that has been resilient all season long and I expected them to come out (last night) ready to go.”
The Lancers were dominant from the get-go and they got there by doing what they do best: knocking down the 3-pointer. Katie Clark got things going for McLane with a 3-pointer 30 seconds into the game. Jeannette did respond with a basket at the opposite end, but on the very next possession Rodrigues sank another trey to put the Lancers up 6-2.
McLane finished with three 3-pointers in the first quarter as it built a 20-8 advantage.
“You never know,” Jay said. “We played the first half of the year lights out shooting. Lately we’ve had a little cold spurt shooting 3s. (Last night) they started falling and that takes the wind out of the sail.”
It didn’t necessarily quiet the Jayhawks, but helped build a substantial lead that wound up being crucial in the end.
General McLane maintained at least a 10-point lead until midway through the second quarter when Jeannette star Ciara Gregory sank a pair of free throws to pull the ’Hawks to within nine (23-14) with 4:40 to play in the half. She scored, again, just a minute later to close that gap to seven (23-16).
The Lancers went into the lockerroom at the break leading 26-20. They scored that 26th point with 1:21 to go on a free throw by Lindsey Jahn. That wound up, however, being the last point scored by GM for a span of two minutes and 49 seconds.
Jeannette closed out the half with a 4-0 run and scored seven straight to open the second half to take a 27-26 lead with 4:50 to play in the third quarter. On the ensuing possession, Rodrigues pulled up for a 3-pointer and nailed it to end the scoring drought and put the Lancers up 29-27.
Jeannette never led again.
“I didn’t want it to be over,” Rodrigues said. “I’m excited that we get to keep going.”
The Lancers did everything last night that they did to get to the first round of the PIAA playoffs. Michelle and Lindsey Jahn were a big offensive presence. They finished with 12 and 10 points, respectively. Michelle hit two 3-pointers and Lindsey was also physical underneath the hoop, finishing with a team-best 12 rebounds.
Clark added nine points and Rodrigues eight.
Then there was the Lancers’ defense led by Clark. Clark had the task of maintaining Gregory, the WPIAL’s leading scorer, who entered the game averaging 30.9 points per game. Gregory, a UNC-Charlotte recruit, was held to 19 points. The rest accounted for 15 total points.