In what resembled a football score, Neshannock took a 17-10 lead on No. 1 and defending champion Avonworth early in the second quarter of Saturday’s WPIAL semifinal contest.

What followed was an all-out blitz, one that vaulted Avonworth back to the championship game.

Greta O’Brien scored 22 points, including the 1,000th of her career, and Avonworth used a 23-0 second-quarter run to flip the tables on No. 4 Neshannock and roll to a 72-51 win in a Class 3A semifinal at North Allegheny.

It was the 16th consecutive win for Avonworth (22-1), whose only loss was to Class 5A semifinalist Armstrong in December. Avonworth will meet No. 2 Shady Side Academy (23-2) in the championship game at 3 p.m. Friday at Petersen Events Center. The Antelopes defeated Shady Side Academy, 41-35, in last season’s semifinals.

“It feels so good,” said O’Brien, a junior guard. “We worked so hard this season for this, and I’m so excited to play on Friday.”

Playing one of the WPIAL’s top programs (Neshannock won back-to-back WPIAL titles in 2021 and 2022 and a PIAA title in 2022) and all-time greatest coaches (Luann Grybowski has 749 wins in 44 seasons), Avonworth was out of sorts in a first quarter that saw the Antelopes commit seven turnovers as they fell behind, 15-10. Nina Medure had two 3-pointers off the bench late in the quarter for Neshannock, which pushed its lead to seven points on a drive by Payton Newman 10 seconds into the second quarter.

However, Avonworth’s Emma Obersteiner banked in a 3-pointer 20 seconds later, and then, as they say, things began to escalate quickly. The Antelopes would score another 20 points in a row before Neshannock’s Kaitlyn Fries drilled a 3-pointer to end the run at 23-0 with 47 seconds left in the half. The Lancers went more than seven minutes without a point, were outscored, 24-5, in the quarter, and trailed, 34-20, at the half.

“We just tried to settle down and play our basketball,” Avonworth coach Nick Dizon said, “because we like to play fast, too, but the big thing was we want to make sure we run when we want to, not when they want to. I thought from the second quarter on we did a better job of that, whereas in the first quarter we were kind of playing at their pace and how they want to play.”

It was more of the same in the third quarter as Avonworth used a 7-0 run to begin the half to go up, 41-20, and then took their largest lead of the game, 55-29, following an Obersteiner 3-pointer with 50 seconds left.

Avonworth’s Fiona Mahan, an Alabama soccer recruit, scored 13 points in her team’s 72-51 win against Neshannock in a WPIAL Class 3A semifinal Saturday at North Allegheny. (Alexandra Wimley/Pittsburgh Union Progress)

O’Brien, who missed Avonworth’s quarterfinal victory with a concussion, tallied 10 points during the 23-0 run in the second quarter and tacked on another nine in the third quarter. She scored her 1,000th point on a follow with 3:19 left in the third.

“I knew she was going to come out like a cannon,” Dizon said. “The WPIAL playoffs aren’t the same without her. She’s always been here. Having her back and her having that moment and playing really well for us, I was super happy for her.”

Fiona Mahan (13 points), Rebecca Goetz (12 points) and Obersteiner (11 points) also finished in double figures for Avonworth. Mahan’s contributions came off the bench. She’s verbally committed to play soccer at the University of Alabama.

Fries led Neshannock with nine points, while Medure and Rian Owens added eight apiece. Outside of Fries, who is a senior, every player on this very young Neshannock team is a freshman or sophomore. 

Other Class 3A semifinal

Shady Side Academy limited No. 3 Beaver Falls (16-7) to its lowest point total of the season to advance to the final for the first time since 2019 courtesy of a 41-26 win at Mt. Lebanon. Maggie Spell scored 17 points and Karis Thomas and Cassie Sauer tacked on 11 apiece for Shady Side Academy, which won its 17th consecutive game. The first half featured only 21 points, with Shady Side Academy leading, 14-7. Beaver Falls cut its deficit to 27-21 after three quarters before being outscored, 14-5, in the fourth. Taylor Pullen accounted for 18 of Beaver Falls’ points. Avina Norman, the team’s leading scorer on the season, finished with four. The Tigers won their first section title since 2008 this season and were hoping to reach the final for the first time since 1989. They lost to Shady Side Academy, 57-46, in last year’s first round.

Neshannock coach Luann Grybowski speaks with freshman Sophia Bonner during the team’s 72-51 loss to Avonworth in a WPIAL Class 3A semifinal Saturday at North Allegheny. (Alexandra Wimley/Pittsburgh Union Progress)

Class 2A semifinals

• Sophomore Erica Gribble scored 26 points, including the 1,000th of her career, and Mya Morgan had 22 to help No. 1 Greensburg Central Catholic (19-6) return to the final for the first time since 2016 after a 73-38 mercy-rule win against No. 12 South Side (15-10) at Peters Township. The Centurions, who lost in the quarterfinals the past three seasons, had little difficulty against South Side as they led by 13 points after one quarter and by 19 at the half to win for the 12th time in their past 14 games. Bailey Strnisa was the only South Side player to score in double figures, as she had 15. The Rams, the only double-digit seed to advance to the semifinals in any class, had beaten No. 5 Chartiers-Houston and No. 4 Fort Cherry the previous two rounds. The Rams were trying to reach the final for the first time in program history.

• In a game that saw the teams miss a combined 29 free throws, No. 3 Serra Catholic (21-4) earned a spot in the final for the first time since 2021 by outlasting No. 2 Aliquippa (21-4), 42-36, at Mt. Lebanon. Abby Genes scored a team-high 13 points for Serra, which won its eighth consecutive game. The Eagles held a 31-22 lead after three quarters before holding on for the win. Serra was 11 of 20 from the free-throw line, while Aliquippa was 10 of 30. Carla Brown scored a team-best 22 points for Aliquippa, which lost in the semifinals for the second year in a row. The Quips were aiming to advance to the final for the first time since winning four consecutive titles from 1987-1990. Serra hopes the third time will be a charm against Section 3 rival Greensburg C.C. after losing to the Centurions, 66-53 and 59-47, in the regular season.

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

Brad Everett

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