MARTINSBURG - It seemed as if playoff basketball was being played in the Cove Friday night as Tyrone and Central went to battle in high school girls' action.
It was actually still a regular season game but everything about the contest had the look and feel of the postseason.
And with the district playoffs looming just around the corner, the Lady Dragons took a monumental step in the right direction with a 54-53 Mountain League Allegheny Division win on senior Kathryn Blattenberger's off-balance shot in the middle of the key with 19.9 left in the game.
"That's just the way it happened. She did the exact same thing when we were up at Clearfield," Central coach Shelly McCune said. "She came up big for us [tonight], It wasn't exactly who we wanted to have the ball, but she came through for us and I'd do it again."
"I've been told to go [to the hoop] confidently," Blattenberger said. "I knew we needed the points. I went with confidence and I just put it in. This gives us great momentum."
The Lady Eagles had their chance to tie or take the lead, but when Nicole Gripp spun in the lane to attempt a shot, Lady Dragon Ashley Smith blocked it. Blattenberger recovered and was quickly fouled with 6.5 ticks remaining.
Tyrone was given yet another chance when Blattenberger missed both free throws, but Smith grabbed the offensive rebound and dribbled out the final seconds to secure the win. It was the Lady Eagles' first Mountain League loss.
"That girl hit a great shot," Tyrone coach Luke Rhoades said. "Players make plays, and that's what she did."
After trailing since 4:25 (5-4) of the first quarter, Central completed its comeback, and went on top when Sarabeth Bean broke a 42-42 tie at the 3:23 mark of the fourth.?She knocked down her team's only 3-pointer from the top of the key.
The Lady Eagles regained the lead with 39.3 to play when a mad scramble at mid-court saw Morgan Taylor come up with the loose ball and drive in for an uncontested layup. That made the score 53-52 in Tyrone's favor before the late-game heroics of Blattenberger put an end to any celebrating by the visitors.
"I told the girls we needed to stay focused and just play the game we wanted to play," McCune said. "Every individual on the court stepped up tonight."
Tyrone jumped all over Central in the first quarter and led 14-6 at the end as Gripp matched the Lady Dragons' output with six of her own.
It seemed as if every time Central would make a run, even if it was only two or three buckets in a row, Tyrone always had an answer that thwarted its earlier comeback attempts.
After Tyrone led by as many as 10 in the second quarter, the Dragons twice got within three points, but 3-pointers by Alex Brooks and Gripp swung momentum back in the Eagles' favor.
"I thought we had our chances early to get our lead up into double digits. We had some unforced turnovers that really hurt," Rhoades said. "You let a good team hang around, eventually they get you at the end We just didn't make the play when we needed to."
Tyrone entered the final quarter with a 38-32 cushion, but Central turned up the defense and made its free throws just as they had all night (19-for-22), and won the quarter, 22-15.
Lindsey Smith, who proved to be unstoppable for Central, led all scorers with 19 points, while also pulling down 17 rebounds. Taylor McKnight tallied 13 points and Bean contributed 11 as the Lady Dragons improved to 14-6 overall and 6-2 in league play.
Gripp, who managed just two points after halftime, fronted Tyrone with 13 points, while Olivia Stever added 11, 10 of which came after halftime.
"This [win] is good motivation," McCune said. "The kids have been playing tough all year. I think this really shows them that they are a good team."
GAME NOTES: Before the game, Central honored it's 1991-1992 District 6 Class AAA championship team. Those players able to attend were McCune, Christine (Imes) Gojmerac, Tricia (Wareham) Baney, Stephanie (Pastva) Thompson, Wendy (Mock) Boyles, Heather (Blair) Ebersole, Erin (Kitt) Lewis, Betsy (Feathers) Robison. Those unable to attend were Nichole (Lehman) Bishof, Nikki Sollenberger, Kelly Groff, Rhonda Dodson and Betsy Keithley. That squad, Central's second district champion in girls' basketball, was coached by Dave Hoenstine and assisted by Betsy Wineland and Tom Goss. The team also recognized one of their top fans, Bob Lape.
TYRONE (53): Gripp 5 2-2 13, Stever 2 6-11 11, Swogger 2 2-3 6, Taylor 4 0-0 8, Hettinger 3 0-0 7, Brokenshire 1 0-1 2, Brooks 2 0-0 6. Totals: 19 10-17 53.
CENTRAL (54): L. Smith 7 5-6 19, McKnight 4 5-5 13, A. Smith 2 3-3 7, Blattenberger 2 0-2 4, Bean 2 6-6 11, Shriver 0 0-0 0, McGraw 0 0-2 0. Totals: 17 19-22 54.
SCORE BY QUARTERS
Tyrone14 10 14 15-53
Central 6 14 12 22-54
3-point field goals: Tyrone 5 (Brooks 2, Gripp, Stever, Hettinger); Central 1 (Bean).
Technicals: Tyrone 1 (Stever).
Records: Tyrone (17-3 overall, 7-1 Mountan League Allegheny Division); Central (14-6, 6-2).
Officials: Michael Price, Scott Muthler, Rob Koppenhaver.