Alli McGrath

Pitt-Johnstown's Alli McGrath dribbles down the baseline during a 2018-19 game.

The Pitt-Johnstown women’s basketball held what appeared to be a comfortable 13-point advantage over visiting Edinboro University on Saturday evening at the Sports Center.

But after the Fighting Scots fought back to lead by as many as six points late in a PSAC contest, the Mountain Cats seemed to be headed for a disappointing setback.

There was one last plot change for coach Mike Drahos’ team. Senior Alli McGrath made a steal and hit a game-tying 3-pointer with 33 seconds left, and Pitt-Johnstown outscored Edinboro 13-6 in overtime for a 78-71 victory.

“It means a lot to us especially because they were ranked third in the PSAC,” said McGrath, who scored 16 points and had nine rebounds, four assists and three steals. “That’s a huge win for us going into the playoffs. They were on a six-game winning streak so I’m happy we were the ones to break it.”

Pitt-Johnstown is 13-10, 8-9 in the PSAC Western Division. Edinboro is 12-8, 10-6.

UPJ ended an 11-game losing streak against Edinboro, including an 86-55 setback on the road on Jan. 8.

“I was unbelievably proud of our team,” Drahos said. “We did a fantastic job. They’re a really good team and they’ve been on an unbelievable hot streak.

“They won eight of their last nine games. The average margin of victory was like 20 points a game. They were blowing some teams out. They handled us up there and took it to us. We came out tonight with a lot of energy.”

Pitt-Johnstown senior Gabrielle Smith had a game-high 22 points and 10 rebounds. Smith scored eight points in overtime.

UPJ freshman Makalyn Clapper of Penn Cambria High School had nine points, three steals and three assists. Clapper was one of the players tasked with defending Edinboro’s Michaela Barnes, who had 19 points, including 11 of 13 on the free-throw line.

“She is amazing. She’s a great dribbler and shooter,” Clapper said. “She can do everything but I’ve got to keep the mind-set of locking her down. It helped us out in the end and we won.”

Pitt-Johnstown led 21-14 after one quarter and 38-27 at halftime.

A Smith layup pushed the margin to 13 (42-29) with 7:26 remaining in the third quarter. But Edinboro outscored the Cats 23-13 in the quarter to enter the fourth trailing only 51-50.

The Fighting Scots opened the fourth on an 8-1 spurt to lead 58-52 after a Barnes layup with 7:01 left.

McGrath’s fourth 3-pointer of the game tied it 65-all in regulation. Pitt-Johnstown went 11-for-25 from 3-point range.

“We just have to keep our focus,” Clapper said. “We didn’t get down. We kept pushing. We were staying head strong. We just kept playing defense and it turned out to be a win. Edinboro is a good team. That’s a good momentum-booster for us.”

Mike Mastovich is a sports reporter and columnist for The Tribune-Democrat. He can be reached at (814) 532-5083. Follow him on Twitter @Masty81.

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