By Chris Rossetti
CLARION, Pa. – Keystone used a fast start and then held off a furious Winchester Thurston fourth-quarter rally to get a 61-54 win over the Bears in the opening round of the PIAA Class A girls’ tournament Saturday afternoon at Clarion University’s Tippin Gym.
Keystone, just like it did in the D9 title game against Elk County Catholic, got off to a quick start taking a 10-0 lead right out of the gate with Amber Hess scoring the Lady Panthers first seven points.
That start helped Keystone lead 22-7 at the end of the first quarter, and the lead grew to 17, 37-20, at halftime and stayed at 17, 48-31, at the end of three quarters.
But Keystone took some ill advised shots in the fourth quarter while also turning the ball over a few times allowing Winchester Thurston to rally.
Behind 6-foot-1 sophomore forward Ayanna Townsend, the Bears closed the gap to seven, 51-44, with 3:41. Townsend scored 10 of her game-high 20 points in the fourth quarter with six coming from the line. She finished off a double-double with 16 rebounds, including 11 offensive boards.
But Keystone made just enough plays to hold on for the win getting key baskets from Josselin Geer and Kaci Weaver to push the lead back to 11, 56-45, on a 3-pointer from Weaver with 2:19 left.
Winchester Thurston kept coming and actually got within six, 58-52, but with only 13.5 seconds left it was just a little too late.
Listen to Hess, who scored a team-high 17 points, talk about the win.
Keystone, which is in the second round of the PIAA playoffs for the first time since 2012, also got 16 points and six rebounds from Josselin Geer and 15 points and 13 rebounds from Taylor Geer.
Taylor did the bulk of the heavy lifting in the first half along with Hess scoring 10 points before halftime, while Josselin was key in the second half for the Lady Panthers with 12 points including seven in the third quarter.
Hear what Lady Panthers mentor Barry Foust had to say about the victory.
Keystone will now take on WPIAL champion Cardinal Wuerl North Catholic in the second round Wednesday at a site and time to be determined.
KEYSTONE 61, WINCHESTER THURSTON 54
Score by Quarters
Winchester 7 13 11 23 – 54
Keystone 22 15 11 13 – 61
WINCHESTER THURSTON – 54
Fay Bielloch 1 0-0 3, Sophie Buckholder 3 3-6 10, Ayanna Townsend 6 8-16 20, Hannah Kwiecinski 0 1-2 1, Luka van de Venne 4 0-0 12, Naomi Grossman 2 0-0 5, Kayla Small 1 1-2 3. Totals 17 13-26 54.
KEYSTONE – 61
Mackenzie Byerly 1 0-0 3, Kaci Weaver 2 0-0 5, Taylor Geer 3 8-9 15, Josselin Geer 6 3-6 16, McKenzie Hovis 1 1-2 3, Amber Hess 7 1-1 17, Tessa Weaver 1 0-1 2. Totals 21 13-19 61.
THREE-POINTERS – Winchester Thurston 7 (van de Venne 4, Bielloch, Buckholder, Grossman). Keystone 6 (Hess 2, Byerly, K. Weaver, T. Geer, J. Geer)