By Dan Sager
CLARION — It was business as usual for the Karns City Lady Gremlins as they beat District 10’s third-place Girard Yellow Jackets, 42-28, in the first round of the PIAA Class AA playoffs Friday night at Clarion High School.
Friday’s win was Karns City’s first in the state playoffs since 2007. It was the Lady Gremlins’ first trip to states since losing to Girard in their 2008 opening-round matchup.
“I think tonight’s win really allowed us to show off the fruits of our labor,” said Karns City head coach Dave Kerschbaumer said. “It’s been a while since we’ve been here, but it’s good to be back.”
Next up for the 25-1 Lady Gremlins is WPIAL third seed Bishop Canevin, which advanced with a 61-30 win over District 6 runner-up Juniata, Tuesday at a site and time to be announced.
The 14-point win for Karns City doesn’t fully capture how lopsided the Karns City win was. The Lady Gremlins led the rebounding margin 29-16, collecting a ton of offensive boards to keep several key possessions alive. Karns City also collected 11 assists, compared to six for Girard, two of which came in garbage time.
LeeAnn Gibson was her usual self, scoring 19 points while adding six rebounds and three steals. Gibson was also key in milking the clock late in the game, as the sophomore forward switched to point guard to control ball-handling duties.
Shanel Preston scored 11 points and joined Gibson in double figures. Annie Hegedus played a big part in the rebounding matchup, grabbing a game-high nine boards, while Emily LoPresti contributing five of Karns City’s 13 steals.
“We played how we wanted too tonight,” said Kerschbaumer. “Controlling the tempo, playing defense, and getting easy baskets is what we hoped to do.”
The game was close very early, as each team took turns with the lead in the opening quarter. It wasn’t until Gibson broke an early 8-8 tie with a good-and-one layup that Karns City began to pull away.
The Lady Gremlins led by seven at the end of the first quarter, and held the lead until the end of the half, holding the Yellow Jackets without a point for the final four minutes of the half. The Gremlins took a 24-16 with them into halftime.
“It was probably closer in that half than the statistics would indicate,” said Kerschbaumer.
The second half began sloppy, with both teams combining for six turnovers in their first six possessions. Karns City scored three minutes into the quarter, and proceeded to completely shut down the Girard offense. The Lady Gremlins held Girard without a single point for 11 minutes of game time from the middle of the second until two minutes left in the third, when Mackenzie Bonnett hit a 3-pointer. It was the only Yellow Jackets points of the third quarter until a late free throw. With time winding down, Emily Schumacher banked in a buzzer-beater which got the crowd energized.
“The margin at that point was still pretty large, but I hope no one overlooks how huge (Emily’s) shot was,” said Kerschbaumer. “That energized the team and got the crowd back into the game.”
With a 34-20 lead heading into the final quarter, the outcome of the game appeared to be all but decided. Karns City’s defensive effectiveness combined Girard’s inability to find good shots.
KARNS CITY 42, GIRARD 28
Scoring by Quarters
Girard 9 7 4 8 – 28
Karns City 16 8 10 8 – 42
Girard – 28
Mackenzie Bonnett 3 1-2 8, Lauren Davenport 2 2-2 7, Rylie Bott 1 1-2 3, Maria Welch 1 2-4 4, Samantha Dunn 2 0-0 4, Emma Oas 0 2-3 2, Carly Bynam 0 0-0 0, Jordan Mascabo 0 0-0 0. Totals: 9 8-13 28.
Karns City – 42
LeeAnn Gibson 6 7-11 19, Shanel Preston 3 4-4 11, Emily Schumacher 2 0-0 4, Annie Hegedus 1 3-5 5, Emily LoPresti 1 0-0 3, Alyssa Gibson 0 0-0 0, Saydie Moore 0 0-0 0. Totals: 13 14-20 42.
Three Pointers: Girard 2 (Bonnett, Davenport), Karns City 2 (Preston, LoPresti).