West Branch surges late, but falls to Portage in D-6 playoffs|
Friday, February 22, 2013
By Andy Stine Sports Writer
HOLLIDAYSBURG - If nobody believed West Branch girls basketball head coach Dan Socash in saying his team is better than a seventh seed, they may be thinking again after Thursday evening's action-packed contest at the Hollidaysburg Junior High School.
The Lady Warriors had second-seeded Portage on the ropes late in the fourth quarter, but a few mistakes were costly in the long run. Meanwhile, Portage sank late free throws to put West Branch away, 58-50, in a District 6 Class A quarterfinal thriller.
The Lady Mustangs went 14-for-22 from the foul line in the final period after going 4-for-11 in the first three quarters.
"I think that we proved tonight that we aren't a seven-seed," said Socash. "That's just the seed that they give us. Tonight we had two great teams playing each other. I told the girls that both teams deserved to win it."
"I'm exhausted. The girls are exhausted. Our girls proved that they are one of the top teams (in the district), and I'm so proud of them."
Both teams were forced into nine turnovers in the opening quarter, but Portage still managed to net 15 points in the first eight minutes in part to the 3-point threat in freshman guard Katie Nolan. Nolan sank a pair of treys in the quarter, while Emily Chobany also put in six points.
In the middle of the second quarter, the Lady Warriors found themselves trailing by 13 points, but cut the deficit to seven by the break. Lady Warrior junior Christie Sabol sank three layups in the final minute of the half to go to the locker room with the Lady Mustangs ahead, 27-20.
Although West Branch hit more shots to begin the second half, the Lady Warriors were unable to cut down the Portage lead as the Lady Mustangs ended the third quarter ahead, 41-34.
Portage extended its lead to 11 points late in the third quarter, but MeLesha Ahlberg's 3-pointer and Janene Couteret's layup and foul shot kept West Branch in the game heading into the fourth quarter.
"I told them, ‘Hey, we're going to wear them down. We're going to keep fighting and we're going to wear them down because we've done that,' " said Socash. "I thought they were going to break before we did, and they did. We just came up a little short."
Brianne Nye and Ahlberg each had a bucket to start off the fourth quarter for the Lady Warriors after a Chobany free throw. With 5:40 to go, Nye hit a 3-pointer high off the glass to pull the Lady Warriors within a point.
After a pair of free throws from Olivia McCabe and another from Chobany, Nye hit her second trey of the period to keep it within one. After a Madison McCracken free throw, Missy Croyle gave West Branch the lead with a jumper with three minutes to go. It was the Lady Warriors' first lead since 2-0 to begin the game.
The Lady Mustangs tied the game with 2:01 to play on three more free throws from Chobany. Chobany was 9-for-14 from the charity stripe in the period.
With 1:05 to play, Ahlberg's free throw put West Branch ahead, 50-49. Chobany was fouled again on Portage's next two possessions, making three of four free throws to put Portage up, 52-50 with 30 seconds to go.
After a Lady Warrior turnover, Portage guard Lexi Wozniak sank two more free throws with 12 seconds to go. Portage added another free throw and a 3-pointer on a baseball throw at the basket from McCabe at the buzzer. The long-range trey was the only field goal made by Portage in the final quarter.
McCabe, a 6-foot-1 junior forward, had 16 points and 11 rebounds for the Lady Mustangs.
"Both teams are great teams," said Socash. I think that we proved that we aren't a seven-seed. Both teams deserved to win and it wasn't us this time. That's just the way it is. These girls are just phenomenal. There are no words to say.
"In the locker room, I told them we played as hard as we could. We gave it all."
The contest was the last career game for Ahlberg, Couteret and Nye in a West Branch uniform. The Lady Warriors ended their season at 15-8.
"Those three girls could go down as one of the winningest girls in West Branch history. Those seniors with their fight and competitiveness, they can't be replaced."
"It would've been even more magical to win this game. The scoreboard wouldn't let us. That's it. That's a 21-2 team. I'm at a loss for words for how proud I am of this team. It just doesn't feel like we lost."
Portage will play sixth-seeded Juniata Valley on Monday at a site and time to be determined. The Lady Hornets upset third-seeded Claysburg-Kimmel on Thursday, 31-28.
Nye 3 0-0 8, Couteret 4 3-5 11, Ahlberg 4 1-5 11, Sabol 7 1-7 15, McCracken 0 1-2 1, Kolesar 0 0-0 0, Croyle 1 2-4 4, Miller 0 0-0 0. Totals: 19 8-23 50.
Chobany 7 9-15 23, Zatek 1 1-2 3, Ramus 0 0-1 0, E. McCabe 1 0-0 2, O. McCabe 5 5-11 16, Nolan 3 0-0 8, Wozniak 1 3-4 6, Jubina 0 0-0 0. Totals: 18 18-33 58.
Three-pointers: Nye 2, Ahlberg 2; O. McCabe, Nolan 2, Wozniak.
Score by Quarters
West Branch 8 12 14 16-50
Portage 15 12 14 17-58