EBENSBURG - The Penn Cambria High School girls basketball team lost by 31 to Bishop McCort in December.
One quarter into Monday's District 6 Class AA playoff game, the teams' roles had been reversed and the Lady Panthers were flying high with a nine-point lead.
As the second quarter began, the Lady Crushers started to use a full-court press, and Penn Cambria's hot air balloon of momentum deflated almost immediately. Bishop McCort erased the deficit in less than 2 minutes, captured the lead near halftime and held it throughout most of the second half in a 53-44 victory at Bishop Carroll Catholic High School.
Mirror photo by Gary M. Baranec
Penn Cambria’s Megan Wheeler shoots over Bishop McCort’s Larissa Swank on Monday night.
"They stepped their pressure up, and I think that's what won them the game," Penn Cambria coach Bruce Frycklund said. "Their defense really got in our face and played well."
McCort forced 24 turnovers in the game, but 16 of those came in the first half and most of those were during the second quarter in which Penn Cambria was outscored, 21-9.
Larissa Swank took over the game from the paint, scoring 14 first-half points and finishing with 22 points and 13 rebounds. The Lady Crushers held the Lady Panthers to just one field goal in the second quarter and only three in the third. On several possessions, Penn Cambria failed to advance the ball past half court.
"We cranked up the pressure coming out of the first quarter," Bishop McCort coach John Hahn said. "We were just letting them bring the ball up, and then I wanted us to take that away and make them work for it. We played well once we did that."
Early in the game, Bishop McCort concentrated on taking away Penn Cambria's top offensive weapon Brianna Kearney by doubling down on her. That meant Megan Wheeler was free on the outside. Wheeler, one of three starting sophomores for PC, scored the first 10 points of the game for the Lady Panthers as they took a 10-2 lead.
"They sagged a lot on Brianna early, and Megan Wheeler is a terrific shooter," Frycklund said. "We reversed the ball to her, and she hit some shots."
Penn Cambria stretched its lead to 16-5, but McCort called a timeout with 25 seconds left in the first quarter and set up a play for Swank who finished the quarter with a layup that helped turn the momentum.
McCort advances to take on top-seeded Forest Hills later this week. Penn Cambria loses just two seniors, Kearney and Vicki Regan.
"We were feeling pretty good in the first quarter and at halftime," Kearney said. "I know, though, that the girls will be good next year. We just couldn't get our shots to fall, and we had some trouble getting the ball up the court."
Despite the loss, Frycklund said Penn Cambria redeemed itself from the loss in December.
"We played a good game tonight," Frycklund said. "When we first played McCort this year, they ran us right out of the gym. They won by 31. We wanted to play them in the playoffs. We won 15 games this year, and we're really happy with our kids."
PENN CAMBRIA (44): Kearney 4 3-3 11, Mulhern 3 2-2 10, Krug 1 2-2 4, Shingler 2 1-1 5, Wheeler 6 0-0 14, Roberts 0 0-0 0. Totals - 16 8-8 44.
BISHOP MCCORT (53): Sheridan 0 1-2 1, Kegg 4 1-2 11, Barbin 1 4-5 6, Daley 2 2-2 6, Swank 10 2-2 22, Bridges 2 0-0 5, Krouse 0 0-0 0, Herbal 1 0-0 2, Krupa 0 0-0 0. Totals - 20 10-13 53.
SCORE BY QUARTERS
Penn Cambria16 9 8 11 - 44
Bishop McCort7 21 13 12 - 53
3-point goals: Penn Cambria 4 (Mulhern 2, Wheeler 2); Bishop McCort 3 (Kegg 2, Bridges).
Records: Penn Cambria (15-8); Bishop McCort (15-8).
Officials: Sue Kovensky, Jerry Kauffman, Jim Klausman.