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Mercyhurst Prep Blitzes Avonworth With 23-0 run, Advances to PIAA Class 3A Semifinals

Mercyhurst Prep's Mari Nixon.

SLIPPERY ROCK, Pa. – Mercyhurst Prep ambushed Avonworth in the first quarter, and the rest was history.

Avonworth scored the first basket of the game, which was followed immediately by a 23-0 run by the Lakers (24-3), who never looked back in a 54-41 win in the PIAA Class 3A quarterfinals.

Olivia Kulyk came out blazing, knocking down her first four 3-pointers of the game to lead the offensive assault.

“We knew we had to hit them hard at first,” Kulyk said. “Getting a big lead was really important. As you can see, they came back, they fought for the win. Getting a lead in the first half was very important.”

See Kulyk’s full interview:


Avonworth (24-3) did indeed have a run in them. Mercyhurst Prep nearly got to the running clock mercy rule in the third quarter after a Seana Thrower 3-pointer made it 44-16 just two minutes into the third quarter.

The Antelopes clawed back, getting as close as 10, 51-41 on an Eden Schleis steak and layup with 1:35 to play.

The lead never got below double digits, however.

“They’re a good basketball team, they’re well-coached,” said Mercyhurst Prep coach Dan Perfetto. “We knew they were going to make a little run. We got a little careless, lost a little bit of intensity defensively and just said we have to get back to playing the way we did in the first quarter if we wanted to advance. I thought the kids really responded.”

Perfetto felt Kulyk’s strong start helped her younger teammates’ confidence as well.


“To be honest, it helps younger kids, they relax a little bit,” Perfetto said. “Olivia is very unselfish. She’ll distribute the ball. She has confidence in her teammates to knock down shots and attack the basket.”

One of those teammates was sophomore Mari Nixon, who was also in double figures with 14 points.

The scoring often was set up by plays on the defensive end by the Lakers.

“Our defense was really pushing each other and talking,” Nixon said. “Each stop led to offensive points.”

See Nixon’s full interview:

Mia Manginin had back-to-back layups to extend the lead to 31-8 in the second quarter, and Mercyhurst Prep held a 38-14 advantage at halftime.

“We talked about being aggressive,” Perfetto said. “I thought our defense got us a lot of points. We had a lot of hands in passing lanes, we got out in transition and we were unselfish. We shared the basketball and made a lot of shots.”

Mangini and Thrower added six points each in the win.

Becca Goetz had 20 points and Greta O’Brien 15 for Avonworth.


The win puts the Lakers in the PIAA semifinals for the first time since 2011. It also set up a date with Westmont Hilltop, a 47-41 winner over Shady Side Academy, in the semifinals. That game will be on Monday at a site and time to be determined.

“It means a lot,” Perfetto said. “This group is special. They’ve been working really hard, they have bought in all year, even when things weren’t going well. They stuck together. You can see we’re having fun and enjoying it.”


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