N-G girls fall short in final

Reacting to their first loss , coming in their last game, are (from left) Neumann-Goretti's Christian Abowora, Kamiah Smalls, and Stephanie Brown. BRADLEY C. BOWER / For The Inquirer
Reacting to their first loss , coming in their last game, are (from left) Neumann-Goretti's Christian Abowora, Kamiah Smalls, and Stephanie Brown. BRADLEY C. BOWER / For The Inquirer
Posted: March 23, 2014

HERSHEY, Pa. - Ella Awobajo let out a passionate yell and pumped her fist.

The senior forward for the Neumann-Goretti girls' basketball team had just tied the PIAA Class AA state championship game with less than six minutes remaining.

A minute and a half later, however, Awobajo let out a different kind of yell, and the bewildered look on her face said everything.

She fell to her knees, unable to believe she had fouled out with 4 minutes, 21 seconds left in an extremely tight contest.

Despite a spirited second-half surge, the Saints failed to complete the comeback and fell to Seton-La Salle, 58-50, at Hershey's Giant Center.

"We were fighting the whole game to stay in it," N-G coach Letty Santarelli said.

"It shows a lot of character and composure on our end," Santarelli added. "We were able to hang in there - we didn't get too rattled. We just aren't used to trailing."

The Saints (29-1) suffered their first loss of the season after a run that included Catholic League and District 12 Class AA championships.

N-G shot just 16 for 66 from the field and 5 for 30 from three-point range. Still, the Saints went into the locker room at halftime down, 28-21 - trailing at intermission for only the second time all season.

"A lot of it was timing, our timing on offense," Santarelli said. "We were rushing. We were all not in time together running our offense, which never happened before."

Seton-La Salle - just as quick, aggressive, and athletic as Neumann-Goretti - posed problems for the Saints from the start and led by as many as 14 in the third quarter.

But the real difference in the contest wasn't how similar the two squads were, but rather, how well the Rebels (27-4) ran their half-court offense.

And a big factor was the dominant play of Yacine Diop down low. She collected 23 rebounds and scored 10 points.

"I don't think I'll forget her," Awobajo said. "She really killed us on the offensive boards - the second shot. We just can't let that happen."

The Saints led only once, with 5:27 left in the contest, when Sianni Martin hit two free throws for a 46-44 edge.

Neumann-Goretti, though, scored only four points after that.

In her last game in a Saints uniform, Awobajo scored a team-high 13 points. Ciani Cryor added 12, and Martin netted 10.

"This moment is not going to take anything away from me," Awobajo said.

"This is our first time being here and we lost, so definitely next season will be the season to win," Awobajo added. "And I'll be in the stands cheering for them."

Seton-La Salle 14 14 14 16 - 58

Neumann-Goretti 10 11 15 14 - 50

SLS: Nicolete Newman 17, Cassidy Walsh 11, Yacine Diop 10, Shaunay Edmonds 9, Naje Gabson 5, Morgan Henderson 3, Julie DeKlaven 3.

NG: Ella Awobajo 13, Ciani Cryor 12, Sianni Martin 10, Alisha Kebbe 5, Kamiah Smalls 4, AJ Timbers 4, Tanesha Sutton 2.


rallysports@phillynews.com

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