In 43 years of coaching, Luann Grybowski has seen her fair share of spectacular performances. After all, Neshannock’s legendary girls basketball coach has won 726 games and counting in her illustrious career, and she has been blessed with some fantastic players over the years.

But even Grybowski had to stop and marvel at the game star senior Mairan Haggerty put together on Monday night.

Using the basketball court inside the shoebox gym at Neshannock High School as her canvas, Haggerty painted a masterpiece that will likely go down as one of the signature moments of her storied career. The Seton Hill recruit scored a career-high 37 points, pulled in 16 rebounds and made the most of her 6-1 frame to play terrific defense all night long, all while setting up her teammates for open looks throughout the game.

The result? An ultra-impressive 72-55 win for the Lancers against section rival Laurel, a team that had won 15 games in a row and had beaten Neshannock handily, 59-35, in the teams’ first meeting on Jan. 5. The two-time defending WPIAL champion Lancers (12-6, 6-1) moved into a tie with the Spartans (15-2, 6-1) for first place in Class 3A Section 1, with three section games remaining for each team.

“I have told [Haggerty] since the beginning of the year, that she should be the best player on the floor night in and night out, at both ends of the floor,” Grybowski said. “She only had one turnover tonight. She rebounded like crazy. She shot the ball extremely well, and she defended [Laurel senior] Regan Atkins.

“There’s not a more complete game by a kid than that.”

Neshannock has won back-to-back WPIAL titles and three of the last four, and the Lancers cemented their status as a bonafide dynasty with their first PIAA championship last March. But each of those titles came in Class 2A, and many wondered how Neshannock would fare after bumping up to Class 3A while losing some important pieces from last year’s team — none more vital than all-state point guard Neleh Nogay.

Luckily for the Lancers, they still had a two-time all-state selection returning in Haggerty, along with a pair of returning starters in Megan Pallerino and Nogay’s younger sister, Aaralyn. And of course, they still have the winningest active coach in the WPIAL patrolling the sidelines in Grybowski. Still, Neshannock stumbled to a bit of a slow start, falling to 3-4 after seven games and 5-5 after the lopsided loss to Laurel.

The Lancers have bounced back in a big way to win seven of their past eight games, though, and Monday’s win inside a packed house against a heated rival could serve as a springboard to another deep playoff run for this battle-tested bunch.

“I said from the beginning, we have to find our identity,” Grybowski said. “We played tougher tonight. We didn’t get the ball taken off of us. We played hard. … The effort, the attitude and the toughness — if we can bring those three things, everything else should fall into place.”

Although Haggerty was certainly the main attraction, she received quite a hand from her supporting cast — including a big-time performance from the smallest player on the court.

According to Grybowski, senior guard Aviana DeLillo, stands only 5 feet 2 inches with her sneakers on. She’s not usually a scoring threat either. On Monday night, though, she had the green light from 3-point range, and DeLillo made the most of it, finishing with four 3-pointers and a career-high 18 points.

“We had a goal tonight,” DeLillo said. “We had our minds set to playing our hearts out tonight, minute to minute, and I think that’s what we did. … My 3s haven’t been hitting in other games, and they were just on tonight.”

The game started at a frenetic pace, with Laurel opening up a 19-15 lead after the first quarter that swelled to a seven-point advantage early in the second. Neshannock then started to chip away at the Spartans’ lead until going on top, 28-26, on an and-one layup by Haggerty late in the first half. Laurel took a 31-30 lead into the break, but momentum seemed to be firmly on the Lancers’ side — and the third quarter proved it.

Coming out of the break, the teams traded buckets until a putback by Haggerty gave Neshannock a 36-35 lead midway through the third quarter. That opened up the floodgates for the Lancers, who then closed out the quarter on a 17-6 run to take a 53-41 lead into the fourth. Haggerty scored 16 of her 37 points in that pivotal third quarter to help put the game away.

“We definitely are a second-half team,” Haggerty said. “I think after tonight, we can definitely gain a lot of confidence from this game as a team, and hopefully we can carry it on through the playoffs.”

Now, with a signature win in its back pocket and more big-game experience than most teams can ever dream of, Neshannock is looking like a major threat to three-peat as WPIAL champions — and this time to do it up in Class 3A. Not many would have expected it a few weeks ago, but if you’ve been following this team over the past few years, you know never to count out a team with Grybowski calling the shots.

And of course, having one of the best all-around players in the state doesn’t hurt, either.

“I think she’s fighting for the No. 1 spot,” Grybowski said.

Steve is a sports writer at the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, but he's currently on strike. Email him at

Steve Rotstein

Steve is a sports writer at the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, but he's currently on strike. Email him at