ST. MARYS — The saying goes it is tough to beat a team three times in one year.
Tonight, the Punxsy Lady Chucks will test the saying and look to prove it wrong in their case.
After sweeping the season series in games that were not in doubt for most of the contests, Punxsy will try to best St. Marys in the District IX AAA girls' basketball semifinal.
The tip-off will be at 7 p.m. in St. Marys Area High School gymnasium.
The winner of tonight's contest will move on to face Bradford on Saturday, Mar. 2, at Clarion University at a time to be determined.
"It will be an intense and exciting ball game," predicted Lady Chucks' head coach Randy Reitz. "St. Marys is playing a lot better of late."
Both teams have claimed victories in three of their last four games heading into the matchup.
Punxsy (13-9) had a three-game win streak before its season finale. The wins came at home, against the same St. Marys team, and via road wins at DuBois (32-30) and at A-C Valley (59-39).
The Lady Chucks finished their regular season with a tough 57-43 loss at defending champion and D-IX top-seed Bradford last Friday night.
After dropping the decision in Punxsy, St. Marys (14-8) wrapped up its season with three consecutive home victories.
The Lady Dutch home wins came over DuBois Central Catholic (38-29), Elk County Catholic (32-26) and Johnsonburg (42-37).
Usually, when you sweep an opponent during the season and finish ahead in the league standings, the result would be a home playoff game for the third meeting.
Due to D-IX AAA playoff seeds being determined solely on overall regular season wins, though the Lady Dutch have the home court tonight by virtue of having one more victory, 14 to 13.
No matter the semifinal location, coach Reitz will have his team ready to play.
"The girls have worked hard to get ready. They are excited and will play a very good basketball game," noted the coach.
The Lady Chucks did just that very thing and played a very good basketball game in the first two meetings.
On Jan. 5 in St. Marys, Punxsy built a lead by as many as 22 points.
The Lady Chucks won the first period, 10-6, before more than doubling up the Lady Dutch, 16-7, in the second quarter for a 26-13 halftime tally.
Punxsy continued to increase its cushion and held an 18-point margin, 39-21, after three frames. St. Marys made a hard-charging effort in the final quarter, 18-8, but ended far short, 47-39.
Taylor Newcome led Punxsy with 10 points in a balanced attack.
Jensen Constantino added nine tallies, with Allie Fye and Anna Horner producing eight points.
St. Marys' Adair Gennocro pumped in a game-best 26 points in the loss.
Two weeks ago on Feb. 5, Punxsy exerted itself again. Despite being behind 8-6 after the first period, the Lady Chucks bounced back in a big way.
Over the final five minutes of the second period, Punxsy netted the final 13 points, and 14 of the last 15, to open a 23-15 halftime advantage.
The Lady Chucks increased the difference to 37-25 as the Lady Dutch again tried to come back before the 41-35 final.
Shaina Painter led the Lady Chucks with 12 points in the second meeting.
Constantino and Newcome posted 11 and nine points, respectively.
The Lady Dutch saw Gennocro and DeAnna Yost both have eight points.
The key to Punxsy's success tonight is simple according to Reitz.
"Defense. Any time you go on the road in the playoffs, you have to play solid defense and rebound," explained the Punxsy coach. "We will also have to do a good job on Gennocro. We have to know where she is at at all times and not lose her."
Punxsy has arguably the most balanced scoring of any D-IX girls' hoops team.
Newcome leads the club with a 9.3-point average and scored 19 points in the two earlier games.
Constantino had 20 points in the two games and is second with an 8.0 average.
Alyssa Reitz (6.3 ppg) and Painter (5.2 ppg) are third and fourth.
Nicole DiPietro and Emily Horner chip in 4.4 points, while Fye adds 3.9 tallies per night.
Anna Horner (2.7 ppg) and Ashley Reitz (2.1 ppg) round out the Lady Chucks' nine-player rotation.
Gennocro's 19.5 points per game leads the St. Marys offense. Kiana Hoohuli averages almost double digits herself, at 9.5 ppg.
The two foes finished their regular season scoring line separated by only four points.
In 22 games apiece, Punxsy netted 964 points for a 43.8-point average over St. Marys' 960 points (43.6 ppg).