Our girls basketball team of the week picked up two postseason wins last week and is preparing for a third meeting with top-seed Neshannock in the 3A semifinals: the Avonworth Antelopes.
Avonworth was in a seasonlong struggle for first place in Section 1-3A with Neshannock and Beaver. The Lancers and Bobcats already earned team of the week honors this season, so Avonworth makes it a hat trick for the section’s elite.
The Antelopes finished in a tie with Beaver for second place, two games behind Neshannock. When the Class 3A brackets were released, Avonworth was a No. 5-seed.
The postseason began Wednesday for Avonworth, and it jumped out to a 22-8 lead after one quarter and cruised to a 55-34 first round win over Beth-Center.
“The first quarter against Beth-Center was huge in getting our offense going,” said Avonworth coach Mark Dalessandris. “I have been focusing on defensive pressure leading to easy baskets. We had a three-team scrimmage with Central Valley and Peters Township, and we played very well. That confidence against two of the better WPIAL teams has motivated us.”
The Antelopes win set up a showdown with No. 4-seed Carlynton on Saturday. Things didn’t come as easy for Avonworth, but they pulled away to a 48-38 win.
Dalessandris said his team’s defense was key to victory over the Cougars.
“We worked hard on our defense at practice and the defensive rotations away from the ball. We have also worked on our offensive and defensive rebounding,” he said. “I have preached that if our defense is about effort and the girls are buying in.”
Senior Harris Robinson scored 31 points in the two postseason wins, and sophomore sister Hayden Robinson had 12 points in the win over Carlynton.
“Harris Robinson has been playing at a very high level,” Dalessandris said. “Defensively, she watches the other team’s best player and she has been in attack mode on offense. Hayden is an amazing offensive player, and in the last few weeks, she has been dominant on the boards.”
The win over Carlynton earns Avonworth a berth in the PIAA 3A playoffs and a spot in the district final four.
“Each of our players wrote three team goals at the start of this season,” said Dalessandris. “The main goal was to get the section title, but the second was to reach the semis. Last year, we were haunted by free throws against Mohawk. Against Carlynton, we put the game away in the fourth from the foul line.”
Neshannock swept Avonworth during the regular seson. Dalessandris hopes the third time will be a charm, but he knows it won’t be easy.
“They say in sports, it’s hard to beat a team three times in a season,” he said. “We know each other very well, and Coach Grybowski is an amazing coach. We will show up and again our defense needs to be our major focus.”