By Rich Rhoades
INDIANA — For Bishop Guilfoyle head coach Mark Moschella, two District 9 foes are enough.
Saturday afternoon at Indiana High School, his Lady Marauders eventually pulled away from Clarion for a 55-45 win that landed them in next Tuesday’s PIAA Class A girls’ semifinal against WPIAL champion Vincentian.
In their state opener against WPIAL fourth-place Venango Catholic, the Lady Marauders grinded out a 49-40 win.
“The two tough teams we saw, that’s a compliment to District 9. Venango Catholic’s coach Tom McNellie and Clarion’s Roger Walter do a phenomenal job as coaches to have their teams prepared. Neither one of those games were a cakewalk,” Moschella said.
Against Clarion, the Lady Marauders (23-5) jumped out to a 19-7 lead after the first quarter and held off a Lady Cats team that did battle back to within single digits but couldn’t cap off a comeback with good enough shooting.
“Knowing the girls we lost and the holes we had and the girls who stepped in for us to get back here … I’m too happy to hang our heads about what just happened,” Walter said. “We lost to a really good team. They handled the ball well, shot the ball well and probably had better players at each position. We had to play a fantastic game to beat them and we didn’t.”
Clarion’s season finished at 22-7 after its second straight trip to the state quarterfinals. Eerily similar to last year’s ending, the Lady Cats dropped a 10-point decision, 45-35, to the same Bishop Guilfoyle squad. However, just one player from this year’s roster saw action in that game.
And yes, the game was also played in Indiana for a second straight time, although last year’s game was played at Indiana University.
Clarion put three players into double-figure scoring. Senior Grace Kroh finished with 13 points and 11 rebounds. Another senior, 1,000-point career scorer Kyla Miles, had 11 points and nine rebounds. Junior guard Maci Thornton scored 10 points. In a foul-filled game, three Clarion starters — Miles, Thornton and Laken Ganoe — fouled out.
Freshman guard Macy Adams led Bishop Guilfoyle with 20 points. Her freshman teammate Lili Benzel, the team’s top scorer at 19.1 points per game going into Saturday and coming off a 33-point effort in Thursday’s win over Serra, wasn’t much of a factor and fouled out with six points. Senior Annie Dombrowski finished with 10 points and nine rebounds.
While Clarion improved its shooting slightly over its past two games by making 35 percent of its shots (18-for-51) from the floor, it was the slow start shooting that was costly. The Lady Cats were 2-for-10 in the first quarter and 7-for-22 in the first half.
And the free throw shooting was a struggle as well. Clarion was 8-for-22 from the charity stripe, including 3-for-9 in the first quarter.
“You could see us rattled,” Walter said. “We got to the line, but they were broken plays and we weren’t in any rhythm. You saw us with some jitters and they were confident and that was the difference. We came out shaken and they didn’t.”
Clarion wound up turning it over 21 times.
“The better teams we’ve played have better defenders and it shows at the guard position,” Walter said. “We don’t handle the ball fantastic and our players know that. We do the best with what we have. When that pressure came out, it did knock us out of rhythm. It was something we have to live with.”
But, still, Clarion didn’t fold. The Lady Cats started the second quarter with a 7-1 run to get within 20-14 after a Thornton free throw at the 4:55 mark. Bishop Guilfoyle bumped it back up to 25-18 by halftime, but Walter wasn’t discouraged.
“In my halftime speech, I said thank God they didn’t put us out of the game,” Walter said. “They weren’t able to knock us out of the game. We’ve started the last few games on third-quarter runs. It was 6-0 the last game and all we needed was that to put the pressure back on them. They never put us away, but they had the game pretty well handled.”
Bishop Guilfoyle stretched to its largest lead for the second time at 12 points with a 7-2 run to start the second half and give it a 32-20 lead at the 5:09 mark. But once again, Clarion rallied with a 10-2 run of its own to close the gap to 34-30. Nicki Glenn capped the run with a 3-pointer with 1:27 left in the quarter. But Bishop Guilfoyle got its lead back to seven at 39-32 by the end of the third.
The fourth quarter was filled with free throws as Clarion put BG on the line 21 times with the Lady Marauders making 14 of them. That was just enough to hold off Clarion.
A Miles basket cut the deficit to 48-43 with 1:36 remaining — as it turned out, Clarion’s final points — and Adams missed two free throws for BG, but Clarion couldn’t convert on its ensuing possession and turned it over after two missed shots. A 1-for-2 Adams effort at the line put BG up 49-43 before both teams traded turnovers and then Kroh missed two free throws with 52.3 seconds left.
Adams then essentially put things away with two free throws to put BG up 51-43 with 51.3 seconds left.
NOTES: Tuesday’s Vincentian-Bishop Guilfoyle winner plays either District 1 champion Phill-Mont Christian or Old Forge next Saturday in the state finals at Hershey’s Giant Center at noon. … Clarion was the last District 9 team remaining in this year’s state playoffs. … The Lady Cats are 9-9 lifetime in PIAA playoff games, including a 5-3 record the past three seasons. … Moschella on Kroh’s performance against his Lady Marauders: “We needed to rebound the basketball. Clarion is strong. Kroh is maybe the silent partner out there and we knew what Miles’ reputation was and what Thornton could do, but Kroh is one too. She came up with a ton of key rebounds to keep them in the game.” Clarion did outrebound BG, 39-32. … Miles finished her career with 1,247 career points, second on the team’s all-time list. Thornton takes 1,011 career points into her senior season.
BISHOP GUILFOYLE 55, CLARION 45
Score By Quarters
Clarion 7 11 14 13 – 45
Bishop Guilfoyle 19 6 14 16 – 55
Clarion – 45
Maci Thornton 4-15 2-4 10, Kyla Miles 4-11 3-6 11, Grace Kroh 5-10 3-10 13, Laken Ganoe 2-5 0-2 4, Nicki Glenn 2-8 0-0 5, Anna Reed 0-1 0-0 0, Lauren Wiser 0-0 0-0 0, Olivia Bartley 0-0 0-0 0, Kaitlyn Beichner 1-1 0-0 2, Madison Weaver 0-0 0-0 0. Totals: 18-51 8-22 45.
Bishop Guilfoyle – 55
Alyssa McGhee 1-4 0-3 2, Macy Adams 6-11 2-6 20, Lili Benzel 3-13 0-0 6, Karis Taddei 1-1 5-6 7, Annie Dombrowski 2-4 6-8 10, Brayley Lewis 1-2 2-2 4, Marina Scipioni 2-4 0-0 6, Jenna Irvin 0-0 0-0 0, Clarisse Spencer 0-0 0-0 0, Maria Ruggery 0-0 0-0 0. Totals: 16-39 19-29 55.
3-pointers: Clarion 1-7 (Miles 0-1, Glenn 1-6), Bishop Guilfoyle 4-13 (McGhee 0-2, Adams 2-6, Benzel 0-1, Scipioni 2-4). Rebounds: Clarion 39 (Kroh 11), Bishop Guilfoyle 32 (Dombrowski 9, Lewis 9). Turnovers: Clarion 21, Bishop Guilfoyle 14.