McMURRAY – The Canon-McMillan High School girls basketball team won’t be cruising in the fast lane, which is the WPIAL playoffs.
The Big Macs fell a few baskets shy of the entrance ramp.
Canon-McMillan entered Thursday night’s Section 4-AAAA finale in need of a win over Peters Township and some help from Bethel Park to make the playoffs. The Big Macs didn’t get that helping hand as Baldwin, the popular pick in the preseason to win the section, garnered the final postseason berth by winning at Bethel Park.
In the end, that game really didn’t matter. Moments after the Baldwin win officially eliminated Canon-McMillan, the Big Macs fell victim to a young and determined Peters Township team. The Indians, behind a 26-point performance by sophomore Madison Kerr and some torrid free-throwing shooting, upset Canon-Mac, 42-30.
Canon-Mac (8-13) finishes section play with a 4-8 record and wondering what a few timely baskets earlier in the season could have done for its postseason outlook. Five of the Big Macs’ losses have come by two points, including three of the defeats in section games.
“If I didn’t say those two-point losses didn’t hurt our confidence …,” C-M coach Frank Zebrasy said, leaving the sentence hanging. “To what extent? I don’t know. I do know that a week ago, if we had three two-point wins, we would have been tied for first place. It’s tough. The girls fought and fought, and that’s all you can ask from them. Sure, we would have been a more confident team had we won those close games.”
For much of the game against Peters Township (2-10, 7-14), C-M had to be thinking about more two-point misery. The game was close throughout with C-M leading 18-12 at halftime and 25-24 after three quarters.
Though playing with the lead for all of the middle quarters, the Big Macs were unable to deliver a knockout punch and set an offensive tempo they could live with, especially without their best outside shooter, Brittany Hutchinson, who is out with a back injury. Peters Township, meanwhile, was content to play at a deliberate pace, which kept the Indians in the game even though they made only four field goals over the final three quarters.
It was the Indians’ ability to get to the free-throw line that ultimately was the deciding factor. PT made 13 of 16 free throws in the fourth quarter, 21 of 27 in the second half and 23 of 33 for the game.
Canon-Mac was 5-for-8 at the line.
Many of Peters Township’s trips to the stripe came while protecting a fourth-quarter lead. The Indians, a team that does not have a senior or a junior its roster, played with the poise and composure down the stretch that is not usually associated with a bunch of freshmen and sophomores.
Peters Township opened the fourth quarter with a 9-0 run that left C-M playing catch-up. Two free throws by Alyssa Konopka gave PT the lead, and Alexandra Zucarini’s three-pointer pushed the gap to 29-25. Kerr and Konopka each tacked on two free throws to make the score 33-25.
Kerr, who scored all 11 of PT’s first-quarter points, made eight of 10 free throws during the fourth quarter, and Konopka converted five of six for the Indians, who embraced the role of spoiler.
“We went into this game saying it’s our playoff game,” PT’s first-year coach Bert Kendall said. “You always want to have some playoff experience, and Canon-McMillan was playing for a playoff spot. So, we wanted to use this as our playoff game and see how we do. We passed with flying colors.”
Canon-Mac could get no closer than seven points (36-29) down the stretch, that after a basket by Olivia Lorusso with two minutes remaining.
“We had the lead in the fourth quarter and held it. That’s exciting,” Kendall said.
Kerr, who is among the leading scorers in Class AAAA, scored 15 of her 26 points after halftime. She also grabbed a game-high 10 rebounds.
Danielle Parked led Canon-Mac with 14 points.
“We did have a lot of quality wins, and we did a nice job against (Penn Trafford) a team that is undefeated in its section, but this is frustrating for our seniors. They set the goal of making the playoffs,” Zebrasky said.