A group of Lions tangled with a team of Tigers Saturday at North Allegheny High School.

And, oh my, the host Tigers found out that trying to beat the Lions is a real bear.

In a showdown of teams considered among the WPIAL championship favorites in the two largest classes, Class 5A South Fayette used a late surge to topple Class 6A North Allegheny, 46-43, in what was a terrific non-section matchup on the final weekend of the regular season.

Maddie Webber scored a team-high 17 points and Lainey Yater added 12 for defending champion South Fayette (20-2), which won its 14th consecutive game. South Fayette’s only losses were to Class 6A Norwin by three points and St. Thomas Aquinas, N.J., by one.

“It was a huge win for us,” said Yater, a junior guard. “I feel like we’re on a good roll and I feel like we’re ready for the playoffs.”

North Allegheny (16-5) lost despite an outstanding performance from senior guard and Pitt recruit Jasmine Timmerson, who scored a game-high 22 points and dished out a few dazzling assists. The Tigers saw their eight-game win streak come to a close.

In a game that South Fayette led by as many as 12 points in the first quarter, North Allegheny came alive and took a 35-32 lead into the fourth. Timmerson’s basket put North Allegheny in front, 39-34, with 6:13 left, but that’s when South Fayette went on an 8-0 run to go ahead.

“We got the momentum back and we wanted it badly,” said Webber, who scored six points in the fourth. “We weren’t going to give up.”

But it wasn’t Webber (a Villanova recruit) or 6-foot-3 teammate Ava Leroux (an Elon recruit) who hit one of the game’s biggest baskets. Stepping up in the clutch was Yater, whose deep 3-pointer with 3:40 left gave South Fayette a 42-39 lead. It was a basket that Yater said she didn’t even think was going to go in.

“I screamed ‘Off,’ but it went in,” Yater said, smiling.

Lydia Betz scored on a putback to bring North Allegheny within 42-41, but Yater went to the free-throw line on three consecutive possessions just as North Allegheny went cold. Yater connected on four of her six attempts to extend the South Fayette lead to 46-41. North Allegheny’s Cam Phillips scored a bucket at the buzzer to cut the lead to three.

“She’s huge,” South Fayette coach Brian Bennett said of Yater. “She doesn’t receive enough credit because of Maddie and Ava. She’s a talented basketball player. I think she’s going to have a successful college career at any level she wants. She’s the spark plug of our team. She gets us going in transition every day. She’s a tough defender. She’s a huge part of our success.”

South Fayette was 17 of 41 from the field (41%), while North Allegheny was 20 of 46 (43%). Betz also finished in double figures for North Allegheny with 10 points.

North Allegheny trailed, 20-12, midway through the second quarter before going on an 8-0 run to get back into the game. Timmerson scored six of those points and had eight in the quarter. A back-and-forth third quarter saw three ties and three lead changes. South Fayette won despite making only two field goals in the fourth quarter when the Lions were 7 of 14 at the line.

“I think we definitely got better today, and that’s what we’re looking for before the playoffs,” Timmerson said. “It was a tough loss, but I think we learned from it for sure.” 

The individual matchup between Webber and Timmerson — two of the WPIAL’s top players — was a good one. Timmerson had 15 points at the half and had 20 after three quarters, but was limited to just one field goal in the fourth.

Bennett said that while it was his first time seeing Timmerson play in person, he did watch lots and lots of film of her the past few days.

“She’s the real deal,” Bennett said. “She was by far the toughest game plan of the season for us at this point trying to focus on stopping her. I think we did an OK job at times, but she made big plays.”

Afterward, a certain group of Lions were in a jolly mood as they head into the playoffs on a roll.

“It’s really important for us to get that win because we want to try to get the No. 1 seed,” Webber said. “And it gives us a lot of confidence, especially playing a 6A team. They obviously have Jasmine, who’s really good, so that helped us a lot. That gave us a lot of confidence.”

Brad is a sports writer at the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, but he's currently on strike. Email him at beverett@unionprogress.com.

Brad Everett

Brad is a sports writer at the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, but he's currently on strike. Email him at beverett@unionprogress.com.