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HS GIRLS' BASKETBALL: PORT ALLEGANY 52, PENNS MANOR 45 -- Comets' rally falls short

by ANDY CLOSE For the Gazette on March 10, 2013 1:30 AM

BRADFORD — Penns Manor went toe-to-toe with District 9 runner-up Port Allegany in the first round of the PIAA Class A playoffs, but just couldn’t get over the hump.

Port Allegany’s Becca Lathrop scored 10 of her game-high 22 points in the fourth quarter as the Gators held off the Comets, 52-45, on Saturday at the KOA Arena on the campus of the University of Pittsburgh at Bradford.

“It was a heck of a high school basketball game,” said Penns Manor coach Jason Miloser. “Both teams had foul trouble, both teams had girls step up and make big plays, but unfortunately somebody had to lose.

“Give them (Port Allegany) credit, they made a few more shots and a few more plays than we were able to make.”

The Comets were down six, 40-34, entering the fourth quarter but never panicked, despite the best efforts of Lathrop.

Sarah DaBella and Krista Gillo hit back-to-back buckets to start the fourth, and that, coupled with a free throw from Emma Myers, cut the Comets’ deficit to 40-39.

“We kept on reminding them that we’re not out of the game,” Miloser said. “We battled in getting it back to one, but we just couldn’t make that last shot to get it over the top.”

That’s when Lathrop took over, scoring the next eight points for Port and upping the margin to 48-41 with 1:13 to go.

The Gators (22-4) were able to finish if from there, but it was a tight game throughout, with Port’s seven-point margin being the largest either team had the whole game.

“They’re a good team and we knew they were going to have a run. We just had to weather that storm,” Port Allegany coach Kristina Francis said. “They got within one and we were able to find our shots and stay composed.”

Port Allegany’s defense also got to the Comets in the fourth quarter, as the Gators were able to generate five turnovers in the final eight minutes.

Part of that was Port Allegany’s 1-3-1 full-court press, which Penns Manor had handled well up to that point.

“We actually modified our press to make some of their passes more difficult,” Francis said.

The Comets (17-9) rode the hot-shooting of DaBella early, as the junior scored seven of the Comets’ first 12 points.

Gillo got it going late in the second and into the third. She hit back-to-back jumpers to end the second quarter on her way to a team-high 17 points.

Gillo ended her shining career with more than 1,000 points and 1,000 rebounds.

“I said it before with Krista, you can’t appreciate everything she means to this team until you watch her play,” said Miloser. “She does so much for us.”

Port Allegany upped the lead to seven several times, with the last being on a jumper from McKenna Johnson that made it 35-28. DaBella and Myers responded with four straight points, keeping the game within striking distance for the fourth quarter surge.

It was the final game for Gillo and Myers, the squad’s two seniors, and their coach couldn’t have been more proud.

Myers returned to basketball for her senior season after sitting out her junior year.

“I went up to Emma before the season and told her she was going to be my point guard and she didn’t question me, even though she never played point before,” Miloser said. “She worked so hard and did a great job. I’m very proud of these two girls. They’re going be very successful in whatever they do.”

It was part of a great ride for the Comets, one that saw them overcome some past demons (Conemaugh Valley) and exceed many people’s expectations.

“Coming into the season there probably weren’t too many people that thought we were a playoff team, let alone a state playoff team,” Miloser said. “Unfortunately, there’s only one team in Class A that’s going to end their season with a win, it just didn’t work out for us tonight.”

Port Allegany moves on to face Kennedy Catholic out of District 10 on Wednesday.

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