This season's Bishop Guilfoyle Catholic High School Lady Marauders are a talented but young team that plays with composure far beyond its years.
Nonetheless, the Lady Marauders grew just a bit more in Saturday's 49-40 first-round PIAA Class A playoff victory over Venango Catholic at the Altoona Area High School Fieldhouse.
BG shook off an early 8-2 deficit and made necessary defensive adjustments in the second quarter that helped the Lady Marauders take control of the game, 23-16 by intermission. BG (21-5) moves on to face Serra Catholic of District 7, a 60-52 winner over Cochranton Saturday, in a second-round game on Wednesday night at a site and time to be determined.
Venango Catholic's quick start, fueled by buckets from senior guard Lindsay Homan and junior forward Allison Guth, along with a 3-pointer from junior forward Taylor Moltz, didn't surprise BG coach Mark Moschella.
"We knew we were going against a good basketball team,'' he said. "We did everything we could do to get our players prepared. Defensively, I thought we shut off the key a lot better after giving up that big first-quarter lead.''
BG forged a 13-12 lead after one quarter on a corner jumper by freshman guard Macy Adams, and sophomore forward Brayley Lewis came off the bench to ignite a spark for the Lady Marauders early in the second period.
After senior forward Annie Dombrowski's field goal put BG ahead, 15-12 to open the second quarter, Lewis was fouled while making a back-door layup and converted the free throw to wrap up the traditional 3-point play and give BG an 18-12 lead.
"I felt like we were working together better in the second quarter,'' said the 5-foot-11 Lewis, who finished the game with nine points. "I feel like I helped the team, but this is a team sport, and we were all doing it together.''
Freshman Karis Taddei's free throw and another by Dombrowski gave BG a 20-12 spread midway through the second quarter.
"Coach [Moschella] was telling us before the game to play [all out] on every play,'' Taddei said. "We just tried to keep our heads in the game. I think we really started getting stops on the defensive end, boxing out, and rebounding.''
BG held Venango Catholic, the fourth-place finisher out of District 9, to just two second-quarter field goals while forcing several turnovers.
"The second quarter was very uncharacteristic for us,'' said Venango Catholic coach Tom McNellie, whose team finished a 19-7 season. "We didn't score, and we turned the ball over more than we have all year. That's a credit to Bishop Guilfoyle, though. They really tightened up their defense.''
The second quarter - which BG carried, 10-4 - set the tone for the remainder of the game. With freshman standout Lili Benzel scoring a game-high 19 points, BG took a 35-28 lead after three quarters. Venango Catholic moved to within 41-38 on Homan's two free throws early in the fourth quarter, and to within 44-40 on a pair of Moltz free throws with 2:27 left in the game, but could get no closer the rest of the way.
Benzel made 10 of 14 free throws for BG, including seven of eight in the fourth quarter, when BG converted 14 of 18 free throws and two Venango Catholic starters fouled out.
"We just couldn't get any closer than three points,'' McNellie said. "Bishop Guilfoyle made their free throws, which is the sign of a good team.''
Both teams played solid defensively, forbidding each other to get into the game offensively. Moltz led Venango Catholic with 13 points, while Homan and junior Allison Guth scored 10 apiece.
"Both teams defended extremely well, and made it difficult for each other to get good shots,'' Moschella said.
Next up for the Lady Marauders is District 7 runner-up Serra Catholic, a perennial force in the state playoffs.
"We've only got a couple days to get ready, but it's good for our young kids to experience playing in the state tournament,'' Moschella said. "We've just got to keep playing hard and see where it takes us.''
VENANGO CATHOLIC (40): L. Homan 4 2-2 10, Kuhn 1 0-0 2, A. Homan 2 1-4 5, Moltz 4 4-4 13, Guth 5 0-0 10, V. Dziekciasz 0 0-0 0, T. Dziekciasz 0 0-0 0. Totals - 16 7-10 40.
BISHOP GUILFOYLE CATHOLIC (49): Adams 2 4-7 8, McGhee 0 3-6 3, Benzel 4 10-14 19, Taddei 2 1-2 5, Dombrowski 2 1-2 5, Irvin 0 0-0 0, Scipioni 0 0-0 0, Lewis 3 3-3 9. Totals - 13 22-34 49.
SCORE BY QUARTERS
Venango Catholic12 4 12 12 - 40
Bishop Guilfoyle Catholic13 10 12 14 - 49
3-point goals: Venango Catholic 1 (Moltz); Bishop Guilfoyle 1 (Benzel).
Records: Venango Catholic (19-7); Bishop Guilfoyle (21-5).
Officials: Joe Stephen, Mike Felus, Bill Zamboni