The Tigers will meet Corry Saturday at Westminster in the first round of the District 10-AAA playoffs.
By BILL ALBRIGHT
HERMITAGE, Pa. -- After splitting a pair of regular season games, Grove City High won the third meeting with Sharon 55-53 Wednesday to determine the seedings of the two Mercer County Athletic Conference girls basketball teams.
Top-seeded Grove City (21-4) will play Fort LeBoeuf in the opening round of the District 10-AAA playoffs at 4 p.m. Saturday at Westminster College's Buzz Ridl Gymnasium, while second-seeded Sharon (21-3) will face Corry at 5:30 p.m.
Sharon tied the score at 50 with a minute left but had to put Grove City on the free throw line, and the Eagles responded. Shannon O'Neil and Hannah Gargasz each hit two and Amber McFeely had one to put the game away.
Nicole Valentino drained a 30-foot shot at the buzzer for the Tigers' last three points that set the final score.
Good start: Unlike the first two meetings, Sharon got off to a fast start as they led from the opening tip until building a 28-23 halftime lead.
The Tigers' leading scorer, Julie Bell, had just four points in the first half, but the Tigers' lead didn't surprise coach Mary Jo Staunch.
"We got off to a good start and didn't get down like we did so many times this year," said Staunch. "I have said all year that two or three of these kids always step up and get the job done."
Valentino led all scorers with 18 points -- 12 in the first half. Bell added 15 -- 11 in the second half -- and Gina Fragle had 11.
"[Fragle] was shooting with a lot of confidence tonight," said Staunch of her point guard. "She also was taking the ball to the hoop, and those are the things we need from her going into the playoffs."
Poor start: Grove City coach Roger Flynn said his team didn't play well in the first half.
"I thought we played very poorly, especially in the first couple of minutes, and as a result, we dug a hole for ourselves," said Flynn. "We were fortunate to be ahead at the end, but the end doesn't occur unless we have the courage to come back during the rest of the game."
The Eagles tied the score at 38 when Hannah Gargasz hit one of her four 3-pointers 27 seconds into the final period, but Sharon scored six unanswered points to take a 44-38 lead.
Gargasz finished with 14 points, while Chelsea Smith led the Eagles with 15 and Amber McFeely chipped in with 10.
Grove City returned the favor with 10 unanswered points to lead 48-44 midway through the period.
"We were able to hang around," said Flynn. "The foul shots at the end made a big difference in the game. They were critical."
Mercer wins: In the preliminary game, Mercer posted a 59-56 overtime win over Reynolds in the Class AA division to enter district play as the top seed.
Leading Mercer in scoring were Candice Anderson (19 points), Shelah Bolyard (16) and Barbie Palmer (10), while pacing the Raiders were Michelle Cullen (16), Jessica Saul (13) and Heather Miller (13).