McGuffey’s fast start sinks Charleroi

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CLAYSVILLE – Sammie Weiss did not have her typical game Thursday night.

Weiss, a junior forward for the McGuffey girls basketball team, is averaging 27 points per game, but the shots did not fall in her favor against Charleroi in a Section 5-AA matchup.

It did not matter.

Junior guard Rachel Czulewicz scored 18 points for the Highlanders and Weiss’ strong second half saw her finish with 21 points as McGuffey defeated Charleroi, 68-49.

McGuffey started the game with a dominant offense led by Czulewicz and a defense that gave the Cougars (2-2, 8-3) no room to move the ball. The Highlanders (2-0, 7-2) outscored Charleroi 24-4 in the opening eight minutes and carried a 34-16 lead into halftime behind Czulewicz’s 13 first-half points. Czulewicz opened the game with three three-pointers in the first five minutes.

“I think our offense was OK when we got our plays off, but defensively was our toughest point,” Czulewicz said. “We need to improve.”

The Cougars did not give up. Charleroi went on a 12-2 run in a five-minute span to draw within 17 points of the Highlanders, but Weiss’ free throw with 47 seconds remaining in the half gave McGuffey the 18-point lead at intermission.

“She is that little spark plug,” McGuffey head coach Amanda Burchett said. “I’ve never met anyone faster than her. She leads fast-breaks, she gets the steals and gets the loose balls that no one else will get because she can outrun people. She is truly an athletic girl.”

While Czulewicz could not miss from the field, Weiss had trouble sinking shots for McGuffey. Her point total was characteristic, but Weiss missed some open shots in the first half against a Charleroi defense that gave her room to work. Weiss had just seven points in the first half. When she became discouraged, her coaches picked her up.

The motivation worked. She scored 14 points in the second half and had three steals.

“I think we did a great job dealing with Sammie,” Charleroi head coach Rob Grodz said. “She’s a heck of a player and finds a way to score. Going into a game, you know she’s going to score points. Our strong defense forced her to put up shots that normally would be wide-open looks.”

While Weiss was relying on her shot from the perimeter in the first half, she began to use her strong post play to score points in the lane in the second half. Her defensive effort in the second half created fast-breaks for the Highlanders, who struggled to stop Cougars senior guard Mia Woytovich. Woytovich finished with 15 points, 13 of which came in the second half.

“Offensively, I think she did a good job of digging herself out of that,” Burchett said. “She took it to the hole, she made the baskets that she needed to make. She had three key steals. She did pick it up at the end. It’s due to her determination and her hard work.”

The Cougars outscored the Highlanders in the second and fourth quarters, but the 24-4 deficit after the opening eight minutes was too much for Charleroi to overcome. The teams traded baskets during the quarter, including strong perimeter shooting from Woytovich, but McGuffey’s talent on the offensive end ran away with the section win.

“It’s just frustrating,” Weiss said. “I guess you can’t focus on being frustrated. They always tell me to not think and to focus on the game. (The coaches) are motivating. We were slow tonight. It was like it was in slow-motion.”

Lynsey Wright matched Wytovich by scoring 15 points for Charleroi. Katie Demi scored 10 points for McGuffey, which has won three in a row.

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