It was the most significant win for the Greater Latrobe girls’ basketball team to this point in the season.

And it got the Lady Wildcats back in the playoff hunt.

Greater Latrobe used a strong defensive effort to score a big road victory, defeating Penn-Trafford, 44-41, during a WPIAL Class 5A Section 3 game Tuesday.

“The girls did a great job of executing the game-plan,” Greater Latrobe coach Mark Burkardt said. “While Penn-Trafford hit several three-point shots, we controlled the paint the majority of the game and limited them to 41 points.”

The win has the Lady Wildcats tied with Penn-Trafford for the fourth and final playoff spot in the section. Woodland Hills (7-0, 11-2), Oakland Catholic (6-1, 10-2) and Penn Hills (4-2, 6-7) currently hold down the top three spots.

Greater Latrobe improved to 3-4 in the section and 6-6 overall. Penn-Trafford dropped to 3-4 and 7-5.

Greater Latrobe opened the season with just two wins in its first seven games. But the Lady Wildcats have found a mid-season groove, as they’ve now won four of their last five games.

The Lady Wildcats are back in action Thursday (7:30 p.m.) at Albert Gallatin in a section game. Greater Latrobe suffered a one-point home defeat, 58-57, against the Lady Colonials last month.

“I see us getting better every day, both at practice and on game nights, and I am excited for the second half of the section schedule,” Burkardt said.

GL guard Rachel Ridilla led all scorers Tuesday at Penn-Trafford with 18 points, which included five three-pointers. Sophomore forward Anna Rafferty was one back with 17 points and nine rebounds.

Emma Blair had just three points, but she led all players on the boards with 11 rebounds and was also key in forcing Penn-Trafford to alter shots from the outside with her length.

“Anna and Rachel were both outstanding with an inside-outside attack,” Burkardt said. “Rachel hit a few key three-pointers to either put us in the lead or answer one of theirs. I think Anna played the best varsity game of her career.”

Penn-Trafford knocked down eight three-pointers, but it was the one the Lady Warriors missed that proved the be the most significant.

The Greater Latrobe defense also played a hand in the miss.

Trailing by three points, P-T got the ball back with approximately 30 seconds left in the game, but the Greater Latrobe defense proved to be stifling. The Lady Wildcats deflected passes and only allowed one long, contested three-point try from Bella Long at the buzzer that missed its mark, leading to the big GL victory.

Long led Penn-Trafford with 14 points, including a trio of three-pointers. Maura Suman also hit three three-pointers and tallied 11 points. Allie Prady knocked down two treys for six points, while Kenzie Powell also had six points for the Lady Warriors.

Greater Latrobe’s defensive plan had Penn-Trafford confused, as the Lady Warriors forced tough shots throughout the first quarter. The Lady Wildcats held Penn-Trafford without a point for nearly six minutes and built an early 10-0 lead.

Had it not been for several missed shots in close, the lead could’ve been as much as 18-0 in favor of the Lady Wildcats. Ridilla had the first six points of the game for the Lady Wildcats.

Penn-Trafford made offensive adjustments early in the second quarter and got the sharp-shooting Long into rhythm, as she scored eight points in the first three minutes of the period. That allowed Penn-Trafford to erase its early deficit, as the Lady Warriors took their first lead of the game, 17-15, with 5:01 to play in the half.

Ridilla again stepped up, scoring six of the next 10 points for the Lady Wildcats, including a rare four-point play, as Greater Latrobe led by seven points, 24-17.

The second half was a series of runs by both teams as they traded leads seven times in the half.

Greater Latrobe worked to use its size advantage involving Rafferty and Blair, and persistence paid off in the fourth quarter as the Lady Wildcats spread the floor and created space. That allowed Rafferty to score seven of the Lady Wildcats’ final nine points of the game.

The Greater Latrobe defense did the rest in the final 30 seconds.

Greater Latrobe also won the junior varsity game, 36-24.

Josie Straigis led the team with 13 points while Lizzie Planinsek followed with 12. Camille Dominick also tallied six points and 10 rebounds.

——— GREATER LATROBE (44)

Ridilla 6-1-18; Rafferty 8-1-17; Weatherton 0-0-0; Blair 1-1-3; Vitula 1-1-4; Watson 1-0-2; McNeil 0-0-0; Li Planinsek 0-0-0; Shearer 0-0-0; Dominick 0-0-0; Stragis 0-0-0; Le Planinsek 0-0-0; Burkhard 0-0-0. Totals, 17-4(10)—44

PENN-TRAFFORD (41)

Piconi 0-0-0; F Czesnakowski 0-0-0; J Czesnakowski 0-0-0; Long 5-1-14; Prady 2-0-6; Suman 4-0-11; Powell 2-2-6; Palladino 1-0-2; Jones 0-0-0; Setzanfand 0-0-0; Hilty 0-0-0; Cleland 1-0-2. Totals, 15-3(8)—41

Score by Quarters

Greater Latrobe 10 14 7 13 — 44 Penn-Trafford 4 19 8 10 — 41 Three-point field goals: Ridilla-5, Vitula; Long-3, Suman-3, Prady-2 JV: Greater Latrobe, 36-24

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