McNeil sparks JFK's triumph
The senior came off the bench to help the Eagles open up a huge lead.
By DOUG CHAPIN
ANDOVER -- Senior Sarah McNeil sparked a 22-6 run from midway through the third quarter to midway through the fourth quarter as Warren Kennedy High defeated host Pymatuning Valley 44-33 on Monday in the Division III sectional girls basketball tournament.
Normally a starter, McNeil came off the bench in the third quarter and helped the Eagles turn a 22-20 deficit into a 42-28 lead.
The Eagles' leading scorer during the season, McNeil scored six points on 3-of-4 shooting, had two rebounds, two steals and an assist in the decisive eight minutes.
She also provided leadership and confidence, seemingly lifting the play of her younger teammates.
Lineup changes: Several Kennedy players who have started or seen significant action this season did not play until the second half as Eagles coach Denise Smith went with a younger lineup early.
"We made a couple of lineup changes today because of tournament play and our opponent," Smith said. "We'll continue to switch the starting lineup around."
Junior guard Krystal Naples did start and led the JFK offense with 13 points, nailing 3-of-5 3-pointers, including two in the 22-6 run that decided the game. Renee Black added eight points for the Eagles.
"Renee Black did a wonderful job for us," Smith said. "As a sophomore, that's the first time she's started a varsity game for us."
Rosalyn Reynolds led Pymatuning Valley (5-16) with seven points and 10 rebounds.
Pressure: JFK (14-7) utilized a press, which became more and more effective as the game progressed. The Eagles forced 26 turnovers and held the Lakers to 10-of-40 shooting from the floor, including a 1-of-7 performance in the final quarter.
The Eagles advanced to play Grand Valley in a sectional final on Thursday.
"Our half-court defense will be important against Grand Valley," Smith said. "They have some good size. We'll have to rebound better than we did tonight."
The other final Thursday night will feature Badger against top-seeded Cleveland Villa Angela-St. Joseph.
The Vikings (20-1), the top-ranked team in the state in Div. III, blasted LaBrae on Monday, 103-24.
Senior Natalie Bate scored 11 points to lead LaBrae (0-21).