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Mars stays perfect in section play

Mars’ Vita Vargo (4) drives for a layup during the Planets’ 35-34 girls basketball win over Shaler Monday night. (Steven Dalton Special to Butler Eagle) 1-9-2023
Lady Planets hold on for 35-34 victory in defensive scrap with Shaler

ADAMS TWP — Mars scored two points in the final six minutes. They were just enough.

Annalyn Isaacs laid a shot in with two minutes left for a four-point lead over Shaler in a Section 2-5A girls basketball showdown Monday night on Mars’ floor. The Titans answered with a trey by Bayleigh Perez with 1:46 remaining.

But the Titans could not score again as the Lady Planets (9-2, 4-0) held on for a 35-34 victory, their seventh win in their last eight games.

“I figured this would be a tough, defensive game,” Mars coach Dana Petruska said. “It was everything I expected. We lost three starters from last year and we’re off to this kind of start (4-0 in section play).

“The girls are all buying in. It’s pretty exciting, what’s going on.”

Shaler (10-3, 2-2) had two chances to take the lead in the final minute, but could not do so. Perez missed the front end of a one-and-one with 32 seconds left. Both teams turned the ball over in the waning moments with the Titans getting an inbounds opportunity in the frontcourt with 3.2 seconds to play.

Shaler tossed the ball inside to 6-foot-0 senior forward Mackenzie Barr, but Mars’ 6-2 senior Lauren Atwell blocked her layup attempt at the buzzer to preserve the Planet victory.

“Just go straight up,” Atwell said in describing her defensive stance. “I had been playing with four fouls, so I knew I couldn’t afford to give one up there.

“This was a physical game inside. They have two big girls down low and I’m not used to facing that. I think that’s how I got into foul trouble.”

Atwell scored only two points, but had a game-high eight rebounds for the Planets. She had a pair of assists as well. She had three fouls in the first half.

“Lauren played well with those fouls,” Petruska said. “She didn’t seem to be getting any calls the other way, but she stood in there and played hard.”

Shaler entered the game leading the section defensively, allowing only 39 points per game.

“Defense is our strong suit,” Titans coach Cornelious Nesbit said. “We bring it every night. That’s why we can go on the road, in anybody’s gym, and compete. We got the play we wanted at the end.

“The refs were going to swallow their whistles in that situation and that’s fine. We weren’t looking for a foul. We had to make a play there and we didn’t.”

Shaler’s lone lead of the night was 2-0 in the game’s first few seconds. The game was tied on three occasions and Mars never led by more than eight points. The Planets extended a three point lead to seven early in the fourth period when Oivia Donelly sank the first free throw, missed the second, Alexis Cashdollar grabbed the rebound and Isaacs canned her third trey of the night.

That outburst gave Mars a 33-26 edge with 6:28 to play.

Shaler’s loss snapped a five-game winning streak. The Titans had won nine of their last 10.

“They play good defense, too,” Nesbit said. “This game could have gone either way.”

Donnelly had 12 points and five rebounds for the Planets, scoring seven of her team’s 10 points in the third quarter. Isaacs scored 11 points while Vita Vargo contributed eight points and three steals.

“Oivia is an unselfish player. She wants to get everybody involved,” Petruska said. “At the same time, she knows when to step up.”

Perez had 11 points, six rebounds, four assists and four steals for Shaler. Barr had 11 points and seven rebounds.

“I feel like we’re an underdog this year,” Atwell said. “But everyone’s doing what they have to do. I’m excited about where we can go because I think we can go far.”


Bayleigh Perez 3-10 3-5 11, Lexi Pylenda 1-3 0-0 2, Haley Kostorick 3-6 0-0 8, May Engel 0-0 0-0 0, Noelle Roth 0-4 0-0 0, Bella Battaglia 1-2 0-2 2, Mackenzie Barr 3-14 5-6 11, Jorja Bernesser 0-5 0-0 0. Totals: 11-42 8-10 34.


Vita Vargo 2-6 3-4 8, Alexis Cashdollar 0-5 0-2 0, Annalyn Isaacs 4-6 0-0 11, Cecilia Christy 1-2 0-0 2, Lauren Atwell 1-6 0-0 2, Olivia Donnelly 5-9 1-2 12, Carmella McDole 0-0 0-0 0. Totals: 13-34 4-8 35.

Shaler 6 8 11 9 — 34

Mars 11 8 10 6 — 35

3-point goals: Shaler 4 (Perez 2, Kostorick 2), Mars 4 (Vargo, Isaacs 3, Donnelly)

JV: Mars, 40-20 (S: Talor London 11, M: Mya Moore 12)

Thursday: Mars at North Hills

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