Even though they trailed by double digits early in the first half Saturday afternoon, March 25 at the Giant Center in Hershey, Pa., Neumann-Goretti’s girls’ basketball team refused to buckle.
A jump shot here, a jumper there. An uncontested layup. Assists … steals galore. You get the idea.
When it was over, the Class 3A Saints had earned a hard-fought, 62-56 win over Bishop Canevin High School and their third straight PIAA state crown.
“I was never really concerned because we struggle with putting four quarters of basketball together,” said N-G coach Andrea Peterson. “To struggle in the first quarter wasn’t really a concern.”
Coach knows best.
The Saints meticulously chipped away at their first-half deficit, took a 30-28 halftime lead, overwhelmed their opponent by 22-9 in the third, and then withstood a fourth-quarter rally.
Neumann-Goretti (24-5) began the state tournament a week after losing to Cardinal O’Hara in the Catholic League semifinals.
“After losing and not advancing, we had no choice but to get better and capture the next part of our journey, which was states,” said Peterson. “The seniors wanted to go out on top and didn’t want it any other way. Everyone was locked in these past few weeks, and that loss made us stronger.”
Almost always explosive on offense, the Saints relied on their quick, aggressive defense to steal 15 passes and force 26 turnovers, the most that Canevin has suffered this season.
That’s not to suggest that the N-G offense wasn’t impressive.
Senior standouts Ashley Jones and Chyna Nixon tallied 20 and 19 points, respectively. Minika Glenn, whom Peterson described as “unreal the past few months,” and Tatiana Jones added eight points apiece.
“The kids stayed together and never gave up,” said Peterson. “Chyna, Ashley and Neek (Glenn) took the game over knowing that this was it for them. There is no tomorrow.”
John Knebels can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on twitter @johnknebels.