Monday, March 13, 2023 | 10:06 PM
Standing at 5-foot-4, senior Knoch girls basketball player Nina Shaw may be easy to overlook off the basketball court.
But on the hardwood, Shaw has a giant presence and has been a big part of the Knights success the last couple of years.
“Her confidence level is very high right now, and she plays well when things get tight,” Knoch coach Chris Andreassi said. “Her command of the offense is great. She gets us into our offense and even calls plays.”
Shaw was at her best Saturday in the opening round of the PIAA Class 4A girls basketball playoffs as she helped Knoch jump out to a commanding lead over District 9 champion Punxsutawney.
Knoch led after one quarter, 20-9, and then held on until the fourth quarter when the Knights outscored the Chucks, 18-7, to seal the deal on a first round win 53-44.
“She never blinked,” Andreassi said. “We got off to a double-digit lead, but Punxy got back in the game and eventually took the lead. She hit big shots and drew fouls and made great passes for assists. In the last 5 minutes, we only gave up a meaningless layup with 12 seconds left. Our team played great defense, but she eliminated their best scorer.”
Shaw led all scorers with 18 points, and teammate Cece Kosecki added 12 points.
“We were comfortable, and we knew what we had to do,” Shaw said of the strong first quarter. “The momentum kind of changed in the middle of it, so we really focused on our defense, which allowed us to come out with that win.”
Knoch made it all the way to the WPIAL championship game a year ago, losing to Blackhawk in the district 4A title game.
“I knew we had another chance, so the second chance, we had to make it count,” Shaw said. “I just think we knew that business wasn’t done, we knew our season wasn’t done yet so we kept pushing.”
Shaw, who will play at Cal (Pa.), has been a leader for Knoch in her time there. The Knights were under .500 the season before Shaw began her career.
“She understands the game and as a senior, she has great communication on the floor,” Andreassi said. “Her communication on defense has helped make us a much better defensive team since the beginning of the year. She also communicates to her teammates offensively and to me. Her suggestions have often led to scores on offense because she watches film to prepare for games and helps with matchups.”
Punxsutawney had been ranked in the top five in the state and was 22-1 coming into its first-round state playoff game.
Knoch improves to 18-9 with the win and faces another team that spent most of the year in the state rankings: WPIAL runner-up Blackhawk.
The game is a rematch of the 2022 WPIAL Class 4A championship game won by the Cougars, 55-35.
“This is the third year in a row that we’ve played them in the playoffs with a lot of the same players,” Andreassi said. “We know them well and they know us, so there shouldn’t be a lot of surprises. Coach Lodovico is a great coach, and they will be prepared. I want our girls to enjoy the moment.”
2023 Trib HSSN Girls Basketball Players of the Week
Week 9 – Ava Walker, North Catholic
Week 8 – Maddie Webber, South Fayette
Week 7 – Kaley Rohanna, Waynesburg Central
Week 6 – Madison Zavasky, Pine-Richland
Week 5 – Mairin Haggerty, Neshannock
Week 4 – Iyanna Wade, Clairton
Week 3 – Shaye Bailey, Freedom
Week 2 – Rylee Kalocay, Upper St. Clair
Week 1 – McKenna DeUnger, Charleroi