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Fields, Vincent Help Kennedy Catholic Hold off Strong Comeback Attempt by Portage; Golden Eagles in Quarterfinals for 5th Straight Season

Monique Vincent hit five first-half 3-pointers and scored 16 points to help Kennedy Catholic beat Portage. File photo by Paul Burdick.

NORTH HUNTINGDON TWP., Pa. – For nearly three quarters, Kennedy Catholic looked every bit the part of the defending PIAA champion in its Class 2A second-round matchup with Portage at Norwin High School.

Then it didn’t.

But in the end, the Golden Eagles survived to move into the quarterfinals for the fifth straight season with a 54-43 victory.

“A win is a win,” Kennedy Catholic head coach Justin Magestro said. “You either lose and go home or win and move on. You know, we won and moved on.”

Kennedy Catholic (22-4) built a 23-point lead, 43-20, with 1:33 left in the third quarter and looked like it was about to cruise into the next round.


But Portage (24-4), who gave the Golden Eagles all they could handle before falling in the Class 1A semifinals two years ago, stormed back and got within six, 49-43, with 3:02 to play.

Kennedy Catholic, though, got a big bucket from Layke Fields and then hit 3 of 4 free throws in the final minute to secure the victory.

“I thought for two-and-half quarters we played phenomenal,” Magestro said. “We really did. On both sides of the ball, defensively, offensively, press breaker, everything. Then, we had a lull. My hats go off to them. My hats go off to the Portage coach, their players. Their leadership really came through. Everybody knows we are a little bit young. I thought when we got into some tough times, no one really pulled it together for us. That’s something we are going to learn from. That’s a great learning opportunity. But I give (Portage) credit. They never quit. Those girls didn’t want that to be their last game.”

The Golden Eagles built their lead in two very different ways.

In the first half, Kennedy Catholic used a 21-1 run to build a 19-point lead, 33-14, with a minute to go in the half.


That run was constructed by taking a page out of Portage’s playbook.

The Mustangs live and die by the 3-pointer – they did so again Tuesday night – but it was the Golden Eagles who used the long ball to build the lead hitting seven first-half 3-pointers, including five from Monique Vincent. That tied for the second-most triples on the season by the junior guard.

“I was just feeling hot,” Vincent said. “They were leaving me open, so you have to make them pay for that.”

Kennedy Catholic went 7 of 13 from beyond the arc in the opening half, while Portage, which entered the game averaging 22.2 3-point attempts per game while making 5.4 per contest, was 3 of 13 from long range but missed its final 13 triples of the half after starting the game 3 for 3.

The Golden Eagles’ long ball advantage came because Portage was doing its darndest to hold off Layke Field, Kennedy Catholic’s 6-foot inside power.

But while the Mustangs were throwing double teams and occasionally triple teams at Fields, it opened up the outside not only for Vincent but also for freshman Tori Harvey and sophomore Bella Magestro, who each hit a 3-pointer as well in the second quarter.

“We’ve seen everything all year,” Justin Magestro said. “We’ve seen traps and zones and triples and box-and-ones and triangle-and-twos. We try to prepare for everything. But, when it comes down to it, it’s the game of basketball. You’ve got to defend on the one side of the court, and on the other side of the court, you have to put the ball in the hole. I’ll go with our conventional way of playing. Saddle up, play some D, and on the offensive side of the ball run some sets, pound it into Layke, and if they are doubling her kick it out to Mo and have Mo knock them down. Thank God, Mo got hot in the first half, and thank God, in the second half we were able to feed Layke and get her the ball and she was able to take advantage.”

Get it inside is exactly what Kennedy Catholic did in the second half with Fields scoring 13 of the Golden Eagles’ 21 points in the half while shooting 6 of 7 in the half and making her final six shots.

“It’s amazing,” Vincent said when asked what it means to have Fields to go to when Kennedy needed points. “She never lets us down. She always finishes. To be able to pound it into her when we need it really helps us be successful.”

With everything going so great for Kennedy Catholic, the 30-point Mercy Rule seemed to be more of a factor than having to hold off Portage.


But the Mustangs, and especially senior Jenna Burkett had other ideas.

Burkett knocked down back-to-back 3-pointers and hit a free throw in the final 1:14 of the third quarter to help Portage get within 16, 43-27, going to the final eight minutes.

Then the Mustangs, who had already turned up the defensive intensity in the third quarter forcing nine Kennedy Catholic turnovers, continued to force the issue turning the Golden Eagles over nine more times.

That coupled with nine points from Burkett had the Mustangs within six, 49-43, following a Burkett basket with 3:02 to play that ended a 23-6 run.

“It was more about what we weren’t doing,” Magestro said of the turnovers. “The things we had control over, we didn’t do a good job We will go back to the chalkboard and in practice tomorrow, and we have to go over those types of things. But, when you put yourself in a position to win or lose, you have to make things happen. I think everything that happened tonight that was a negative for us was all controllable. It was all in our hands. We have to learn from it. Which I know they will because they are great kids, they are resilient, and we won’t let that happen again.”

For her part, Vincent said the players just need to communicate better to clean up the turnovers.

“I think it was within us,” Vincent said. “We have to talk. We have to communicate. We really needed to just go meet the ball, take care of it ourselves.”

With their season and their championship defense on the line, however, Kennedy Catholic found a way to hold off Portage.

First, after Harvey fouled out, Vincent came away with a key steal, and then Fields scored on the other end to push the lead to eight, 51-43, with 1:50 to play.

“I think (our experience) really helped us,” Vincent said. “You know they were going to foul you. Be strong with the ball and be composed.”

Watch Vincent’s full postgame interview

Field’s big second half helped her finish with a 22-point, 10-rebound double-double, her 20th double-double of the season.

Vincent added 16 points and Harvey seven.

Burkett had a game-high 23 points for Portage while Brooke Bednarski added nine points.


Kennedy Catholic will face Bishop McCort, a 77-40 winner over Clairton, in the quarterfinals on Friday at a time and location to be announced. It is a rematch of last year’s quarterfinal game at Norwin won by Kennedy Catholic, 60-48.

NOTES: After taking the 13 first-half 3-pointers, Kennedy Catholic took just three in the second half and didn’t make any of those … Portage finished the game 7 of 28 from beyond the arc. That included 15 straight misses by the Mustangs … Portage turned the ball over 16 times.


Score by Quarters

Kennedy Catholic 13 20 10 11 – 54
Portage 13 3 11 16 – 43


Madison Pflleger 0 0-0 0, Monique Vincent 5 1-2 16, Bella Magestro 2 1-4 6, Layke Fields 10 2-3 22, Lochyln Shimrock 0 3-4 3, Tori Harvey 3 0-0 7. Totals 20 7-13 54.


Ashlyn Hudak 1 0- 2, Alex Chobany 2 0-0 5, Britton Myher 0 0-0 0, Payton Noll 0 0-0 0, Cami Burkett 2 0-0 4, Brooke Bednarski 3 1-2 9, Jenna Burkett 9 1-2 23. Totals 17 2-4 43.

Three-pointers: Kennedy Catholic 7 (Vincent 5, Magestro, Harvey). Portage 7 (Jenna Burkett 4, Bednarski 2, Chobany 1).


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