NEPA Sports Nation

Ranieli steals lock up PA victory

By Tom Robinson,

HAZLE TWP. – Daniella Ranieli came across the lane to get low and knock away an entry pass that she chased into the corner to save.

Then, the sophomore guard held her ground at midcourt and jumped to knock down a pass, which she also was able to control.

Those two steals, both in the last 40 seconds, and four free throws by Ranieli in the same timeframe Thursday night helped Pittston Area finish off host Hazleton Area, 44-37, in a game that helped reduce the number of teams tied for first place in Wyoming Valley Conference Division 1 girls basketball.

“She made some big plays for us down the stretch, then finished it with her free throws,” Lady Patriots coach Jeff Gregory said.

Pittston Area remained unbeaten overall while handing Hazleton Area its first WVC loss and second defeat overall. The win set up Monday night’s home game against Wilkes-Barre Area for sole possession of the division lead and for the right to stand alone as the last unbeaten basketball team, boys or girls, in all of District 2.

Despite playing without team leader Lacie Kringe because of a knee injury, Hazleton Area battled Pittston Area into the final minute.

The Lady Cougars were ahead 32-28 going into the fourth quarter and were within 38-35 with possession in the final minute when they seemed to have an open pass into the low post.

Ranieli recovered quickly, coming across the lane.

“I saw her come over and back screen me, so I cheated over it,” Ranieli said. “I hit the ball. I thought it was going to out of bounds, but I saved it.”

Ranieli was then fouled and hit both free throws.

“When it comes to free throws, you have to make them, those are a big part of the game, especially when it gets close to the end,” said Ranieli, who finished 8-for-10 from the line.

Haley Yost brought Hazleton Area back within three one last time, but Ranieli then hit two more free throws with 18.3 seconds left.

The Lady Patriots contained the Lady Cougars as they tried to hurry up court, but Ranieli’s last steal led to two Kallie Booth free throws with 4.1 seconds left to close the scoring.

Booth matched Ranieli for a team-high 16 points.

The Lady Patriots outscored the Lady Cougars, 16-5, in the fourth quarter behind eight points by Ranieli, five by Booth and a 3-pointer by Ava Callahan.

Ranieli’s steals were two of six made by Pittston Area in the fourth quarter after Hazleton Area went through three quarters with just four total turnovers. Booth and Rowan Lazevnick also had two each.

Sophia Shults led Hazleton Area with 11 points. Brianna Kennedy grabbed 10 rebounds.

“We’re just happy to be able to come down here and find a way to win,” Gregory said. “It’s a tough place to play.”

Pittston Area held Hazleton Area scoreless for the first 6:56 to take an 8-2 lead after one quarter.

The Lady Cougars outscored the Lady Patriots, 30-20, over the middle quarters.

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