Palarino Helps Warriors Hunt Down Foxes In WPIAL Semifinals

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In an overtime thriller, the seventh-seeded Penn-Trafford Warriors outlasted the third-seeded Fox Chapel Foxes, 44-43, in the WPIAL semifinals on Tuesday night. The game was tight throughout and was tied 31-31 after three periods of play.  In a see-saw battle, the lead changed hands six times in the fourth quarter and overtime until the Warriors eventually claimed the win.

Tabbed to play at Duke University next season, Fox Chapel’s Erin Mathias might have been one the most publicized players in Quad-A, but on this night is was Penn-Trafford’s Maria Palarino who stole the headlines. The junior guard poured in a game-high 28 points and her torrid shooting helped the Warriors to a 24-22 lead at intermission.

Despite leading at the half, Penn-Trafford could not pull away in the second half and the game was tied, 31-31, heading to the fourth quarter. Off the bench, PT’s Emma Mull drained two important three-pointers to pull the Warriors ahead, 37-35, with 2:14 to play. A Taylor Cohen steal and layup with 40 seconds remaining tied the game for the Foxes at 37-37, but Palarino answered with a layup to give PT the lead back, 39-37, with 21 seconds to go. With 8.3 seconds left, Mathias was fouled by the Warriors and drained two clutch free-throws to force overtime.

In the extra stanza, Mathias, who finished with 15 points on the night, seemed determined to steer the Foxes toward victory with two put back buckets to give FC a 43-41 lead.  Penn-Trafford’s Katy Abreu tied the game with a baseline jumper and Palarino put the Warriors ahead, 44-43, with a free-throw with 1:25 remaining. 

Fox Chapel had its chances down the stretch but missed two three-point attempts in the final minute.  With 6.4 seconds remaining in overtime, PT’s Casey Aunkst could not connect on the front end of a 1-and-1 allowing the Foxes one more desperation rush up court.  Fox Chapel sophomore Kayla Slovenec had a clearing for a layup but missed in waning seconds and the Warriors escaped with a 44-43 win and a trip to the WPIAL Championship on Saturday.

Fox Chapel falls to 19-5 with the loss but still qualifies for the PIAA Tournament next week.  Penn-Trafford improves to 19-6 and will take on Section 1 rival Hempfield in the WPIAL finals.  The Warriors swept the Spartans in their regular season meetings.

For a photo gallery of the Penn-Trafford vs. Fox Chapel game courtesy of photographer J.J. LaBella, click here.