Mars’ Nicole McCloud (21) dribbles through Central Valley’s Seairra Barrett (5) and Lauren Hamilton (1) in a WPIAL Class AAA girls basketball first-round playoff game Wednesday at Butler High School. The Warriors defeated the Planets 53-45.
BUTLER TWP — Central Valley seemed along for the ride during the first two quarters. In the second half, the Warriors were in the driver’s seat. After trailing Mars 24-18 at halftime, Central Valley shot 50 percent (16-of-32) from the field and committed just six turnovers in the third and fourth periods combined to grab a 53-45 win in a WPIAL Class AAA first-round girls basketball playoff game Wednesday evening at Butler High School. Leading the Warriors’ resurgence were seniors Seairra Barrett, a forward, and center Kiana Law, who combined to score 29 of their 43 points in the second half. “I told the girls at halftime that as bad as we played in the first half, we were down by just six points,” said CV coach Kim Tirik. “We felt that if we could come out and get the lead, Mars would fall back. I thought they were intimidated by our bigs late in the game.” Victory was still there for the taking for Mars, which received a pair of two-point baskets from Nicole McCloud to tie the game at 42 with under four minutes to play. The Warriors (15-7) then reeled off a 6-0 run before Mars’ Elise Sheehy and Ali Goetz combined to hit three free throws, cutting the Planets’ deficit to just 48-45 with 53.7 seconds left. But CV closed the game on a 5-0 run, including a steal and layup from Sydney Sutter for a six-point edge with 28 seconds on the clock. “They changed their defense up in the second half,” Mars coach Tony Howard said of the Warriors. “It put us on our heels and I should have had us better prepared for it.” The Planets (15-7) benefitted from 15 Central Valley turnovers in the first half and out-rebounded the Warriors 17-8 in that span. Bonnie Workman made a pair of 3-pointers in the first quarter and Sara Getsy scored eight of her team-high 14 points in the second period to help Mars lead at the break. Central Valley, however, grabbed the momentum in the last few minutes of the third quarter. Barrett’s conventional 3-point play gave her team a 32-28 edge with 1:39 left in the period. “I thought we did well in our half-court defense,” said Howard. “When we were scoring, it gave us a chance to set our defense, but we had some turnovers in the second half and they (Warriors) are tough to stop in the open floor. Their size took its toll.” Barrett ended the game with 28 points and Law scored 15. “She can get the rim,” Tirik said of Barrett, “so she’s going to outjump anybody on the court. We wanted to throw it up to (Barrett or Law) and let them go get it. That was our game plan and we executed it in the second half .” The 2013-14 season yielded for the Planets a share of the Section 1 title with Hampton. The two teams split their two games during the regular season. “I’m proud of the girls for their ability to beat Hampton,” said Howard. “Last year, we were manhandled in the playoffs (a 56-31 loss to Elizabeth Forward in the first round). I’m proud that we came out tonight and competed with a team that is probably one of the top five teams in the WPIAL.”