NEPA Sports Nation

PA fights off fast Berwick start

By Tom Robinson,

YATESVILLE – Sometimes, boasting the most-decorated, one-two backcourt combination in District 2 is not quite enough.

Pittston Area needed more when it hosted Berwick in Wyoming Valley Conference Division 1 girls basketball Monday night for the first basketball league game in District 2 this season.

Grace Callahan and Maddie Karp provided it while helping the defending champion Lady Patriots run away with a 52-33 victory after trailing at halftime.

With Rachel Whitenight off to a blazing shooting start and Berwick effectively defending Kallie Booth and Daniella Ranieli, the Lady Bulldogs led by four midway through the second quarter and carried a 24-22 lead into halftime.

Callahan’s inside scoring and a series of hustle plays by Karp kept Pittston Area close until its defense overwhelmed Berwick in the second half.

“We definitely got some help from our role players, as we would call them,” Pittston Area coach Jeff Gregory said. “I say that to our kids all the time. ‘We know who they’re going to come and try to take away’. That’s why when our role players step up, we become that much better of a basketball team.

“Tonight, in the first half, that’s what kept us in the game.”

Karp and Ava Callahan joined the scoring in the second half.

Pittston Area held Berwick to a single, long, banked-in 3-pointer in a 27-3 start to the second half before the Lady Bulldogs scored six points in the game’s final 1:16.

Booth, the reigning division Player of the Year and the only currently active player from last season’s all-District 2 team, wound up with a game-high 15 points along with 4 assists and 4 steals.

With Ranieli, a first-team, division all-star last season as a freshman, missing her first 10 shots, the Lady Patriots needed other sources of offense.

Sophomore forward Grace Callahan, in the starting lineup with senior Taylor Baiera sidelined by an ankle injury, missed her first shot then made her last five. She finished with 10 points and 5 rebounds, 4 of them offensive.

“I thought Grace was great tonight,” Gregory said. “She made some baskets for us early in the first half that we needed because we were struggling to get going.”

Karp and Ava Callahan each scored nine points and grabbed seven rebounds.

Karp led the 31-15 rebounding dominance with six on the offensive end and matched Booth for the team lead of four steals. Ava Callahan dished out a game-high six assists.

Ranieli wound up with seven points, six of which came in the fourth quarter.

Berwick made half its 3-point attempts in the game and was particularly hot early.

Whitenight had three 3-pointers in the first quarter, two of them in the last 52 seconds. She went the length of the floor to pull up at the 3-point arc and beat the buzzer with the last one, pulling the Lady Bulldogs within 12-11.

When Whitenight hit again with 3:45 left in the half, it made her 4-for-4 and the team 6-for-8 from long range to that point. That was good enough for a 22-18 lead.

Pittston Area needed only seconds to take control in the second half.

Ava Callahan stuck a 3-pointer from the left corner on the first possession, 15 seconds in.

Before Berwick could get out of the backcourt, Booth deflected a pass and Karp came up with it, leading to Booth making one of two free throws.

Those were the first 4 of 10 straight points, 7 of them by Ava Callahan, to start the second half.

After Carly Ochs banked in her shot to pull Berwick back within 32-27 with 2:42 left in the third, the Lady Patriots outscored the Lady Bulldogs 17-0 over the next 9:26.

Booth drove for a three-point play with 1.2 seconds left in the third quarter, then fed Karp for another three-point play to open the fourth-quarter scoring.

Ranieli followed with her first field goal, a 3-pointer with 6:40 left, finishing off Berwick, 45-27, with 6:40 left.

The unbeaten Lady Patriots, ranked second among Big School girls teams in the Riverfront Sports Super Six Basketball Power Rankings of District 2 teams, slowed the pace the rest of the way.

Whitenight finished with 14 points and 2 blocked shots to lead Berwick. Ochs did not miss a shot while adding 7.

Alyssa Lewis made her only 3-point attempt and dished out five assists.

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