South Fayette team

South Fayette finished runner-up in state after falling to Archbishop Wood, 61-54, in the PIAA Class 5A championship game played March 25 at the Giant Center in Hershey. It was the first appearance in a state final for the Lady Lions, who finished the season at 28-3 overall.

One of the most successful girls’ basketball seasons at South Fayette came to a close on March 25 when the Lady Lions finished as state runners-up.

In their first-ever PIAA championship game, the Lions dropped a 61-54 decision to Archbishop Wood in the Class 5A final played at the Giant Center in Hershey.

For the Vikings (25-5), it was their third consecutive state championship and eighth in school history. They have been to the state finals 11 times since 2010.

Archbishop Wood, which featured seven seniors on its roster, used its experience to forge a first-frame advantage it would never relinquish. The Vikings buried five three-point baskets in the first nine minutes. They stretched their 20-8 first-quarter advantage to 37-24 by intermission before the Lions settled themselves.

“I think nerves were a huge factor, especially in the first half,” South Fayette coach Bryan Bennett said. “There was a lot of self-destruction.”

Erica Hall helped the Lady Lions regroup. The junior forward scored a team-high 17 points.

Because of the tenacious defense by Delaney Finnegan, Maddie Webber was held to eight points until hitting a 3-point field goal at the final buzzer.

Ava Leroux also finished in double figures for the Lions. The Elon University recruit fired in 10 markers.

The Lions rallied in the fourth quarter. A free throw from Julianna Rossi and field goal by Juliette Leroux cut the Vikings’ margin to 52-42. The Lions pulled to 56-48 with 1:16 to play on buckets by Hall. After Ava Leroux made it 56-51 on a three-pointer, the Vikings sealed the victory with three free throws down the stretch by Ava Renninger.

Menninger scored a game-high 21 points. Deja Evans finished with a double-double, 17 points and 11 rebounds. Kara Meredith followed with 13 tallies for Archbishop Wood.

The loss snapped a 22-game winning streak for the Lady Lions. South Fayette finished the year at 28-3. The Lions were undefeated section champions as well as WPIAL winners for the second season in a row.

“Our kids fought hard, but it just wasn’t our night,” Bennett said. “These kids aren’t quitters and they were going to fight to the end. Once the emotion of this settles down, they’ll realize that they had a great season.”

South Fayette graduates three starters including Webber, who is a Villanova recruit, Ava Leroux and Rachel Black as well as reserve Cami Feltz.

In addition to Hall, Lainey Yater returns to the point position. Both are juniors as is Rossi.

Ryan Oldaker and Juliette Leroux both saw significant playing time this season. They are freshmen.

Among the other returning players that contributed to SF’s success this season are: Ainsley Burns, Haylie Lamonde, Elle Astrorino, Alexis Toth, Taylor Oldaker, Alexa Antrum, Sydney Burns, Caroline Satler, Mia Deramo, Isabella Cesura, Hannah Patterson, Sondos Khattab, Taylor Solomon and Cierra Rexrode.

Almanac Sports Editor

An award-winning journalist, Eleanor Bailey has been employed by Observer Publishing Company since 1982. She is the sports editor at The Almanac and a contributor for the Observer-Reporter.

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