NEPA Sports Nation

Booth, Ranieli make sure PA stands alone as last unbeaten

By Tom Robinson,

YATESVILLE – Pittston Area is the last unbeaten team standing, boys or girls, in District 2 basketball.

With the backcourt combination of Kallie Booth and Daniella Ranieli leading the way, Pittston Area topped visiting Wilkes-Barre Area, 40-35, in a matchup of the last two unbeaten teams with first place in Wyoming Valley Conference Division 1 and more on the line Monday night.

But while the game was the biggest on Monday’s schedule and perhaps the biggest played to date this season, Pittston Area coach Jeff Gregory chose not to overemphasize the win.

“It’s the same thing I said the other night at Hazleton,” Gregory said. “They’re big games, but they only count as one game. And, on the flip side, they only count as one loss.

“It was a little bit magnified because of both teams’ records, but it was more about getting the home win and protecting the home court.

“There’s a long way to go.”

Booth and Ranieli made sure the Lady Patriots will head there with the division lead and a 12-0 overall record.

Booth finished with 14 points, 6 rebounds, 3 assists and 2 steals. Ranieli added 13 points and the defensive play that combined with Ava Callahan to clinch the game.

With Pittston Area protecting a three-point lead, Ranieli blocked a 3-point attempt with about five seconds left.

Taylor Baiera steered the rebound to Callahan, who secured the win by hitting both free throws with 3.2 seconds left.

Booth and Ranieli combined to give Pittston Area the late lead in a game that had featured 10 first-half lead changes.

Wilkes-Barre Area never led in the second half, but it did catch Pittston Area in both the third and fourth quarters.

Neither team had held a lead of more than four points when Diamond Thornton, who scored a game-high 16 points and grabbed 7 rebounds, hit a 3-pointer to lift the Wolfpack into a 32-32 tie with 7:18 left.

Ranieli answered with a 3-pointer to put Pittston Aread to stay with 6:25 left, then Booth followed with a three-point play with 4:30 remaining for the game’s biggest lead, 38-32.

Emma Krawczeniuk’s 3-pointer with 1:38 left was the only scoring from then until Callahan’s late free throws.

Part of the lack of scoring was Pittston Area missing the front end of a pair of one-and-ones, but another part was Pittston Area’s ability to hold on to the ball and run time off the clock on a night when it committed just seven turnovers against a quick and tough defensive team.

“We think that if we can get it into the last three or four minutes that we can hold the ball a little bit and make teams come and get us,” Gregory said after the Lady Patriots improved to 13-2 in games deciding by seven or fewer points since this same point last season. “ … We’ve been a lot of battles over the last two years.

“It’s not new to them. They’re experienced and they just have a knack now to know how to win at the end. This group is pretty resilient and toward the end, they’re pretty good at pulling things out.”

The late slowdown was just one reason for reduced scoring in the second half.

A game highlighted by offensive efficiency in the first half was dominated by defense in the third and fourth quarters.

Booth had two 3-pointers in the first 2:45 and Ranieli added one 5:09 into the game for leads of 6-2 and 11-7.

The Wolfpack kept coming at the Lady Patriots with Thornton scoring 11 first-half points and giving the team its last lead by converting her own rebound into a three-point play and 25-23 lead with 2:05 left in the second quarter.

Booth had two baskets and Ranieli somehow scored while falling down from being fouled as Pittston Area scored the last six points of the half for a 29-25 lead.

The Patriots did not score another point until 2:09 remained in the third quarter and didn’t have another field goal until 7:25 remained in the game.

Wilkes-Barre Area, however, only managed to outscore Pittston Area, 4-1, in the third quarter.

Krawczeniuk finished with eight points and four assists for the Wolfpack (3-1 in the division and 11-1 overall).

The game was a rematch of last season’s playoff in which Pittston Area won the division title after both teams went 12-2. Pittston Area is ranked second among Big Schools in the Riverfront Sports Super Six Basketball Power Rankings of District 2 teams while Wilkes-Barre Area is fourth.

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