WEXFORD — Despite Dana Petruska’s warning, the Mars girls basketball team was unable to avoid an offensive slump.
With her Planets locked in an 18-18 stalemate with Oakland Catholic after two quarters of Thursday’s PIAA Class 5A second-round playoff, Petruska hoped to stop the lull before it happened.
“We talked about it at halftime,” said Mars’ coach. “It’s our M-O sometimes to have one of those quarters when we struggle to score. The girls start thinking too much and try to do everything perfectly.”
Petruska’s fears became reality in the third period when the Planets managed just three points on 1-of-10 shooting.
Oakland Catholic took the lead for good in a 47-37 victory at North Allegheny High School.
Mars (18-8) missed its first nine attempts from the floor in the third quarter, but the Eagles were slow to pounce on their struggling foe, holding a tenuous 24-18 lead with 2:39 left in the period.
Lauren Wasylson finally sank a trey with 41 seconds left that cut Mars’ deficit to 28-21, but Gabby Gevaudan answered for Oakland (24-4) with a 3-pointer of her own at the buzzer for a 31-21 lead.
The Planets rebounded with a 16-point fourth quarter, but it was too little, too late. Mars shot just 31 percent (13-of-42) from the field in the game.
“We had so many shots tonight that went in and out,” Petruska said.
The offensive end was only half the battle for Mars. Defensively, the team needed to find a way to contain 6-foot sophomore center Sierra DeAngelo, who scored 17 points in a 54-41 win over Mars in the WPIAL quarterfinals Feb. 25.
“After watching enough tape on a team, you notice tendencies,” said Petruska. “We switched things up defensively and I thought Oakland Catholic had to work a lot harder tonight than they did against us the first time.”
One change was the insertion of 5-11 freshman forward Caroline Barent into the starting lineup. Petruska estimated that Barent had seen three minutes of varsity action prior to Thursday’s game.
“We had to go big,” said Petruska.
Mars succeeded in holding down DeAngelo, who scored just three field goals and eight total points. But the Planets’ ineffectiveness on offense — they scored just five points in the first quarter — had them fighting an uphill battle almost the entire game.
With no other Eagles’ player reaching double digits in points, Alexis Sestric played a critical role with her outside shooting. The sophomore guard nailed four treys. One of them, with 5:14 left in the game, pushed Oakland’s lead back to double figures at 36-24.
“Alexis can hit the outside shot, but we don’t like to live by the 3-pointer,” said Oakland Catholic coach Shannon Kearney. “It’s risky, but Mars was packing it in defensively.”
The Planets trailed 18-13 late in the first half before Tai Johnson’s trey and Wasylson’s bucket tied the score.
Wasylson paced Mars with 16 points and Johnson added 13.
Petruska has now guided the Planets to both the WPIAL and PIAA playoffs in each of her two seasons after returning to the program. She previously coached at Mars 1986-2005.
“This season was a great experience,” she said. “I’m hoping this group works hard in the offseason.”
OAKLAND CATHOLIC 47
Sierra DeAngelo 3 2-2 8, Julianna Skowron 1 0-0 2, Jayde Boyd 4 0-0 8, Alexis Sestric 5 0-0 14, Anna Sproule 2 0-0 4, Gabby Gevaudan 3 2-2 9, Haley Zoglmann 1 0-0 2, Mia Cuccaro 0 0-0 0. Totals: 19 4-4 47.
Lauren Wasylson 5 2-2 16, Tai Johnson 5 1-2 13, Bella Pelaia 3 0-0 8, Nicole McCloud 0 0-0 0, Caroline Barent 0 0-0 0, Daria Hockenberry 0 0-0 0. Totals: 13 3-4 37.
Oakland Catholic 10 8 13 16 — 47
Mars5 13 3 16 — 37
3-point goals: Oakland Catholic 5 (Sestric 4, Gevuadan); Mars 8 (Wasylson 4, Johnson 2, Pelaia 2).