No one likes to lose in a championship game. But for the Serra Catholic High girls basketball team, a second chance awaits the Eagles as they begin the PIAA Class A tournament with a 3 p.m. game on Saturday at Gateway High School against District 10-A runner-up Cochranton.
It's a classic match-up featuring two teams experiencing profound disappointment. While the Eagles fell to Vincentian 54-46 in the WPIAL Class A championship game, Cochranton squandered an early nine-point lead before falling to Kennedy Catholic 67-45 at Farrell High's E.J. McCluskey Gymnasium.
Serra began Saturday's game with a 6-0 run against Vincentian. But the Royals -- who have won three WPIAL championships in the past four seasons -- had runs of 8-0 and 10-0 to take control of the game. A late Serra rally twice cut the margin to five points in the game's final minute.
Katie Sieg and Megan Sieg led the 23-3 Eagles with 13 and 12 points, respectively.
"They were knocking down their free throws," Serra coach Bill Cleary said about the Royals. "But (Maia Joiner) found her range (at the free-throw line). Their other kids stepped up, but the big deal was (Brenna) Wise's 20 rebounds and 18 points. That's quite a performance. She makes big plays for them. When they need a big play, she makes it. That's what great players do."
Kendall Dickson led the Lady Redbirds with 12 points -- all coming on four 3-point goals -- in the loss to Kennedy Catholic. Cochranton lost its lead and any momentum it had from the first quarter when the Lady Redbirds were outscored 40-11 in the middle two quarters.
Cleary said the team already had adjusted its focus to the PIAA playoffs.
"We're done (with the WPIAL playoffs), and I was proud of them," he said. "We made it (to the WPIAL championship game), and now our sights are set on the Giant Center (in Hershey for the PIAA championship game). It's another tournament, and we're going to play different people. I'm proud of this team. We got beat in the first round of the WPIAL tournament last year with the same kids. All of them grew up. We didn't win the game but I'm pretty proud of them."