By Eric Keppeler
Special to The News
Ainsley Boras scored 21 points to send defending Class B champion Nardin back to the Monsignor Martin Association finals with a 52-26 win over Buffalo Seminary on Sunday at Villa Maria College.
The top-seeded Gators will take on No. 2 Park, which outlasted Christian Central Academy, 42-34, in the other semifinal.
The finals are 6 p.m. Friday at Villa Maria.
“It’s a great accomplishment because we have a very young team. Going into the season, we thought that might hurt us – but actually, having that ability to grow and learn has really helped us,” Nardin coach Kendra Brim said.
Fourth-seeded Buffalo Seminary overcame a slow start but still trailed, 22-13, at the half. It would have been even closer had the Red Tailed Hawks done better than 2 for 14 from the free-throw line.
But the wheels came off in the second half.
“Honestly, in the first half, we played pretty well, other than our free throws,” Seminary coach Eva Cunningham said. “But in the second half, we just fell apart a little bit. We weren’t composed enough in the second half. We were turning the ball over and not making shots, and that all added up. And Nardin played a great game.”
Nardin’s Katie Kostelny scored 11 of her 13 points in the third quarter as the Gators pulled away, leading 40-20 after the third quarter.
“You have to put all four quarters together. We had a little slump in the second quarter – but when we got to the third and fourth quarters, we were aggressive and we stuck to what we know,” Brim said.
Lilly Johnsen topped the Hawks with 10 points.
In the other semifinal, Christian Central just couldn’t handle 6-foot-3 junior Ronnie Nwora, who dominated the boards and dropped in a game-high 25 points.
The Crusaders made some adjustments and tried to deny Nwora the ball, while senior Charly Hearon sparked the team on offense.
“The plan was to double down, even triple down and try and remove (Nwora) from the game. We dared them to have someone else beat us. But a couple of rebounds didn’t go our way, and they got some easy baskets,” CCA coach Tawan Slaughter said.
After falling behind, 11-2, CCA found its game and trimmed the deficit to 18-17 at the half.
Park led 30-27 after three quarters, and it remained a one-possession game for most of the rest of the game. The Pioneers hit enough free throws at the end to seal the victory.
Sea Warren added 11 points for Park, while Hearon paced CCA with 23 points.
“We had to change our defense. We were getting beat on their screen, like 15 times in a row. So we stepped back a little bit and packed it in. And we took care of the ball when we had to,” Park coach Samantha Hutchins said.