CANONSBURG – Pacing and yelling out commands more than usual in front of the Peters Township High School girls basketball bench, coach Bert Kendall was doing everything in his power for this season not to end in a similar way to last.
There were no mentions of the Indians’ loss to Bethel Park in the opening round of the state tournament a season ago, yet Kendall coached as if there were no tomorrow.
At this stage, there isn’t.
But as the game wore on and Bethel Park continued shooting at hoops that appeared similar to ones in a carnival game, Kendall’s sideline stroll eased.
With a defense that pushed tempo then dared the Black Hawks to enter the paint, Peters Township rolled through its cold-shooting section rival for the fourth time this season, 62-44, in a PIAA Class 6A second-round game Tuesday night at Canon-McMillan High School.
Bethel Park (22-4) only went 7-for-41 from the field in opening three quarters, finding it difficult to drive into the teeth of the taller Indians’ defense then seeing most of their outside shots clank off every inch of the rim.
“We made it a point of emphasis to be up on their shooters,” Kendall said. “We wanted to make them drive around us and lead them to our bigs underneath.”
Standing underneath was 5-11 forward Mackenzie Lehman and 6-1 center Journey Thompson, who redirected shots. Makenna Marisa and Isabella Mills were limiting the Black Hawks to difficult shots. They finished the night shooting 13-for-59 (22 percent).
“We just didn’t shoot the ball well,” said Bethel Park coach Jonna Burke. “I’ll tell you what, I credit their length and defense. We did get looks at the rim but just didn’t finish. Their defense made it tough on us all night.”
Peters Township (27-0) advances to the PIAA quarterfinals for the first time since 1994. The Indians will play Norwin Friday night at a site and time to be determined.
Four different players for the Indians scored in double figures as they captured and held onto their double-digit lead with 2:51 left in the second quarter for the remainder of the game.
Mills made a baseline three-pointer and Thompson scored on a layup to put Peters Township ahead, 23-12, in the waning minutes of the second.
Marisa scored 18 points to lead the Indians. Lehman and Thompson added 14 and 13, respectively, and sophomore Jordan Bisignani reached double figures for the first time in her career with 10 points.
“It’s an awesome feeling,” Bisignani said. “When all five of us work together, that’s when we play our best. More opportunities are opened up and we can find each other.”
As shots fell for the Indians, nothing outside of being a benefactor at the free-throw line paid off for Bethel Park. The Black Hawks only made three field goals in the opening half and trailed 30-15 at halftime.
All four Bethel Park losses have been against Peters Township. The Indians are 7-1 in the last two seasons, knocking Bethel Park out of the WPIAL playoffs two consecutive years and the PIAA tournament Tuesday night.
“(Peters Township) is not a team you can spot too many points,” Burke said. “It’s different. An eight-point lead they might have is different than eight-point leads other teams have. We’ve been in those games all year. We fight back. With their offensive firepower it’s hard. That’s why they are a great team. That’s why they haven’t lost. That’s why they are number one.”
Finally catching fire in the fourth quarter, Maria Cerro led the Black Hawks with 18 points, nine coming in the final eight minutes. Olivia Westphal added 13.
Peters Township extended its lead to upwards of 20 points five times in the third and fourth quarters. It’s largest lead was 24 points, 56-32, when Bisignani made her second three-pointer with 3:55 left in regulation to reach her milestone.
“There is nobody out there on the court trying to get theirs,” Kendall said of the balanced offense. “It showed tonight. It was just about taking care of business.”