Before Tuesday night’s loss in the girls PIAA Class 2A playoffs at Slippery Rock University, the Maplewood Tigers won their first state playoff game in over 29 years.
The Tigers hosted Aliquippa Saturday night and took it to the Quips winning 65-47. It was quite a team effort with different players seemingly putting the team on their shoulders when someone needed to step up. Bailey Vandell was first looking like a one woman wrecking crew in the first quarter. When she grew a tad cold her teammate Sadie Thomas took over.
The first quarter, sans a Madison O’Hara bucket, was the Vardell/Thomas show. They each scored eight.
When the Tigers came out cold in the second quarter, it was Maggie Means, who despite being one of the shortest players on the court nabbed a huge offensive rebound, tried to put it back up but got hacked. She then sank one free throw to break the two-minute scoring drought. Moments later she got the ball on the outside and drilled a three. Her efforts thwarted any Aliquippa momentum who only managed to come within six.
The Tigers all contributed buckets at key moments, but was crystal clear from halfway through the second quarter until the final buzzer, the plan for success was to get the ball in Thomas' hands. The senior poured in 24 on the night.
Varndell chipped in a solid 14, Madison O'Hara and Maggie Means had six each and Madison Eimer pitched in seven. Rhaelynn Joelle had four and the last Tiger points were two free throws from Megan Woge.
Their 65-47 victory was a good rebound from the 73-33 loss to Kennedy Catholic in the District 10 finals the previous week.
The win then pitted them against Greensburg Central Catholic Tuesday in Slippery Rock.
The Tiger unfortunately came pout cold and listless in the contest with Greensburg scoring every time they had the ball through the first seven minutes of the contest building a 17-3 lead. Other than Vardell’s one off the backboard three-pointer they were cold as ice including a normally very good foul shooting Thomas who missed five in a row. Varndell then hit her second, then third three. Thomas finally got a bucket and Vardell drilled her fourth three of the quarter.
At the end of one the Tigers, miraculously were only down by 10.
In the second quarter everyone seemed to begin pitching in, but they couldn’t seem to stop Greensburg and ended up down 12 at the half.
In the third quarter they dominated and marched back to life on the back of senior Thomas who scored 11 third quarter points. With around 20 seconds left in the quarter the took a 41-40 lead. The quarter ended tie at 41.
With eight minutes to go this was a ball game. But the Tigers came out much the same way they entered the game and looked slow and listless. In just a couple minutes they found themselves again down by nine. Other than another Varndell three that brought within six they couldn’t find a rhythm again.
With less than two minutes left on the clock, down ten and desperate nothing seemed to be working.
Varndell ended with a team high 18 while Thomas had 17.
The terrific 20-6 Tigers season, that they were undefeated in region play and at one point winning ten straight games, ended to Greensburg Central Catholic 61-48.
At the end of the game the Maplewood fans who made the trip in the wintry weather rose to their feet to give their team a standing ovation as they walked off the court.
Below are more photos from Maplewood v. Greensburg.