PIAA BASKETBALL: Scranton Prep defense puts squeeze on Trinity

Mar. 18—POTTSVILLE — With python-like precision, Scranton Prep's defense squeezed the hope out of Trinity.

The Classics forced 17 turnovers, held a plus-20 rebounding edge and limited the Shamrocks to 27.7% (10 for 36) from the floor, romping to a 59-26 win in Saturday afternoon's PIAA Class 4A quarterfinal at Martz Hall.

"The story of the day is how connected we were on defense," Scranton Prep coach Bob Beviglia said. "That's what we're always going to earn victories on.

"To hold that team to 26, to be honest with you, I watched them play with their size and aggressiveness, I thought it was a tough out for us. But the way we played today, I don't know who beats us."

Lansdale Catholic will take its best shot in Tuesday's semifinals at a time and location to be announced, the Classics second trip to the semis in three years. The Crusaders whipped Allentown Central Catholic, 49-29, in their quarterfinal.

"We didn't really like how we played defense last game, so we knew we really had to come out strong," said Maya Jenkins, who led four Classics in double figures with 16 points including four 3-pointers. "We know they're really aggressive in getting to the rim and their bigs are aggressive going to the board. We knew we had to box out."

Senior Rita Collins led the way there, grabbing 11 boards against Trinity's bigger frontcourt.

"We really worked on that this week, digging into those posts," said Collins, who scored 11 and had four assists and three steals. "We knew we could handle those girls. They're bigger than us — most teams are — but with our guards digging in and going out to attack shooters, that really helps a lot."

Nothing came easily for the Shamrocks (20-13), who were limited to 3 for 17 shooting in the first half. Not that Scranton Prep came out with guns blazing.

Mandy Roman and Sammi McAuliffe scored the first four points. Starting with Bella Dennebaum's catch and score for two of her 10 at the 4:11 mark, Scranton Prep reeled off the next 21 points.

"They were on four for a while," Beviglia said. "I thought the key was we were solid running our half-court offense. Dennebaum got loose for layups.

"I thought we were really good handling the ball, even with (Claire) McGrath (two fouls) on the bench. I thought Ashlyn Moore came on the floor and we didn't miss a beat."

Moore contributed six rebounds, too, and Jenna Hillebrand, who scored 10, gave the Classics the lead with her drive down the lane.

"I knew one of my strong points was getting low and getting past their girls," Hillebrand said. "Before I came in, I read the defense and saw that when they would step out, they never really pressured you into backtracking. So I knew if I attacked, I could get in front of her and I was going to go up with it."

McGrath scored on a wing drive and Hillebrand drilled a 3 after great ball movement for an 11-4 lead after a quarter.

"She bailed us out against Nazareth Academy," Beviglia said of Hillebrand. "She pulled us out of the fire with two huge baskets to start overtime. But again, the kids believe in her. She's so athletic and can get to the basket. When she's open, I feel really good about the ball going in the basket."

That's something the Shamrocks couldn't say, scoring just one field goal over a stretch of 13 minutes as the Classics steadily built their lead to 17 by halftime, 25-8, thanks in large part to consecutive 3s from Jenkins.

"I know my teammates are going to get me the ball in the right spot," said Jenkins, who was 4 of 6 beyond the arc. "We don't really care who scores the points, but I feel like when we score like we did today, with a few people in double digits, I feel like that's best because you can't shut one person down.

"I think we shared the ball really well. We got out in transition, we finished at the rim and we hit our shots and we stayed in front defensively."

All in all, Scranton Prep's most complete effort of the season.

"We shot it. We got to the basket. Defensively, we were so tough," Beviglia said. "I thought they got nothing easy. Even some of the shots they made in the second half, it wasn't in their offense. They were kind of disjointed and we were able to take them out of what they wanted to do."

Especially Collins, who got all 11 of her points in the second half, and led an effort that yielded just three offensive rebounds to Trinity.

"Rita's our leader, unquestionably," Beviglia said. "The kids take their lead from her. She was so calm all day long, doing what Rita does. She rebounds, she plays defense and when she has opportunities to score she takes advantage.

"I can't say enough about her doing what seniors are supposed to do."

Scranton Prep 59, Trinity 26

Trinity (22-11) — E. Kostelac-Lauer 3 0-0 9, M. Roman 3 1-3 7, N. Freed 2 2-2 6, A. Torchia 1 0-0 2, S. McAuliffe 1 0-0 2, B. Brida 0 0-0 0, L. Davis 0 0-0 0, E. Ford 0 0-0 0, L. Broadrick 0 0-0 0. Totals: 10 3-5 26.

Scranton Prep (24-2) — M. Jenkins 5 2-2 16, R. Collins 4 3-6 11, B. Dennebaum 4 2-2 10, J. Hillebrand 4 1-1 10, A. Moore 1 3-3 5, G. Cafarella 2 0-0 4, C. McGrath 1 1-2 3, J. McIntyre 0 0-0 0, R. Ritterbusch 0 0-0 0, A. Ahern 0 0-0 0, C. Haggerty 0 0-0 0, M. Haggerty 0 0-0 0, K. Ortiz 0 0-0 0. Totals: 21 12-16 54.

Trinity 4 4 10 8—26

Scranton Prep 11 14 19 15—59

3-point goals: E. Kostelac-Lauer (Trin) 3, M. Jenkins (SP) 4, J. Hillebrand (SP) 1.

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