KITTANNING — Running into a quick 2,000-point scorer who sparked the strong East Allegheny Wildcats, the Brookville Lady Raiders’ memorable basketball season came to an end Tuesday night.
The WPIAL runner-up send the District 9 champions home for the season with a 60-34 loss in the second round of the PIAA Class 3A playoffs at Armstrong High School. Brookville’s season ended at 19-6.
East Allegheny (25-2) heads into Friday’s second round while head coach Mark Powell’s team enters the offseason with plenty of encouragement. One thing for sure is that they got an up-close look at some defensive pressure they hadn’t seen all season.
The Wildcats forced 31 Brookville turnovers, 21 in the first half, and that set the tone of the game, even in the early going when the Lady Raiders were hanging around with an early 6-5 lead. In the second quarter, East Allegheny led 19-13 before blasting out a 14-0 run sparked mostly by defensive pressure that gave it a 35-15 lead by halftime.
“We were worried about their pressure for sure. They pressure the ball and (Amani) Johnson, I don’t know how many steals she had because if she didn’t have 20, she didn’t have one,” Lady Raiders head coach Mark Powell said. “It seemed like she was everywhere tonight. That’s how it played out.
“I thought our effort was good. It didn’t turn out to be our night.”
East Allegheny senior Amani Johnson, with the ball, was quicker than anyone on what’s considered to be a fast Brookville squad without the ball and that was an issue on offense and defense for the Lady Raiders. Johnson, the 5-foot-6 Kenesaw State recruit averaging 25.6 points per game, had 22 of her 34 points by halftime and finished with seven steals.
Freshman forward Abby Henderson finished with 12 points and nine rebounds, but appeared to suffer a serious injury to her left wrist going out of bounds on a play in the fourth quarter. Her loss will be significant as East Allegheny moves forward in the postseason.
For Brookville, sophomore Marcy Schindler led the way with 14 points, 12 rebounds and four steals. Lauren Hergert was the next high scorer with five points off the bench.
It was Schindler’s basket that put the Lady Raiders up 6-5 with 5:49 left in the first quarter, which also saw the Lady Raiders lose sophomore starter Kira Powell to a knee injury. Hergert’s free throw made it 19-13 in the second quarter before East Allegheny’s decisive 14-0 run.
“Early on, I felt we were able to get the ball inside and we had some momentum,” Powell said. “Kira went out of the game and the momentum seem to switch. We made a little run and the last few minutes of the half, we lost control of the game a little bit.
“I thought Marcy played well. She hit the boards hard. Everybody played hard. It was just not our night.
“Their defensive pressure, we just didn’t seem that confident with the ball tonight.”
The Wildcats built the lead to 51-23 after three quarters and led by as many as 33 points at 58-25 on Amaia Johnson’s 3-pointer with 3:59 left in the game.
“We’re playing in the middle of March. These minutes, games, hopefully it’ll pay big dividends next year. It’s something we haven’t seen,” Powell said. “(Amani) Johnson’s speed and quickness and her ability to finish, that’s the reason she’s a Division I player and we saw that tonight.”
And from 6-16 to 19-6, Powell certainly left Kittanning with a good taste in his mouth in that regard.
“It’s been a fantastic season,” he said. “I’m so proud of the kids. Historically, it’s one of the best seasons the girls have every had. When you get this far, and we’ve only been here a few times, so you have to really think about the historical aspect of this. This was a big season for us. I’m proud of the kids. Now, it’s a building stone and now hopefully (Kira’s) injury isn’t too bad and we can build on things this summer and make a bigger run next year.”
NOTES: The Lady Raiders’ 19 wins is the most since they went 19-7 in 1997-98. ... The Lady Raiders shot 31 percent (14-for-45) from the field compared to East Allegheny’s not great number either at 37 percent (21-for-57). … Next up for East Allegheny is District 3 champion York Catholic, which advanced Tuesday as well with a 52-37 win over District 6 champion Penns Valley.