GREENSBURG - Morgan Lemin came into Tuesday night's PIAA Class AA girls basketball play-in game against Greensburg Central Catholic needing 12 points to reach 1,000 for her career.
She got it. And she'll have an opportunity to add to it.
Tussey Mountain, which had a comeback bid fall short in the District 5 championship game, made this one stick, erasing a seven-point deficit in the final five minutes to crash the first round of the state tournament with a 60-59 road victory.
"This is amazing. Just amazing,'' said Lady Titan senior forward Morgan Gates, who scored seven of her 11 points in the final quarter and was one of four Tussey players to score in double figures.
Lemin and Abby Abbott-Watkins, who hit four free throws in the last 54.1 seconds to provide the difference, led the Lady Titans with 15 points apiece. Katie Runk scored 10, including a huge 3-pointer with 4:45 left that snapped a 6 1/2-minute scoring drought for Tussey and ignited a 15-7 run to close out the game.
Lemin also had 11 rebounds and two steals.
The District 5 runners-up had to hold their breaths at the end as Central Catholic guard Italia Biondi broke free for a layup on an inbound play under the Tussey basket, but was able to celebrate as time expired. The Lady Titans (19-6) will play District 6 champion Forest Hills on Friday at 6 p.m. at Richland High School.
"Let me catch my breath,'' Tussey coach Todd Gates said, needing a moment to compose himself as he received a cascade of congratulations from Lady Titan fans. "I didn't think it was going to end up very good.''
It didn't look like that five minutes earlier, either, when Tussey, which had a nine-point advantage at the 5:13 mark of the third quarter, found itself trailing by seven. Caitlin Foster assisted on Runk's trey, though, and Morgan Gates scored five straight points - the last off a high-low feed from Lemin - to put Tussey back in the lead by one.
"A lot of teams just focus on Morgan Lemin, but I wanted to show that she's not our only big girl. The rest of us can step up, too,'' The younger Gates said. "I don't think I ever knew we were down seven. I never look at the scoreboard. Morgan and I talk a lot, and we said, 'We're fine. We're good.'''
The game went back and forth down the stretch until Abbott-Watkins made four straight foul shots, the last two of which gave the Lady Titans a 60-57 lead. Nikki Adisey drove for a Central Catholic bucket to make it a one-point game, and the Lady Centurions (17-7) got the ball back when they forced a turnover on a Tussey inbound play with 10.9 seconds left but couldn't overtake the Lady Titans.
"I couldn't think of anything. I was so happy and scared at the same time,'' said Abbott-Watkins of the decisive foul shots. "I felt confident after I made the first two.''
Lemin reached her milestone in the third quarter, banking in a hook shot at 5:36 to stake Tussey to a 38-28 lead. The game wasn't stopped to recognize the accomplishment, though, and Lemin said, while she was happy to reach 1,000, it wasn't foremost on her mind.
"I was just worried about us coming in here and winning,'' Lemin said, " because it might be our last game.''
Tussey started five seniors. Greensburg Central Catholic only had two seniors on its roster. Abbott-Watkins thought the experience helped pull the Lady Titans through - Tussey has been to interdistricts three times in this senior class's four years.
"I think so,'' Abbott-Watkins said. "After playing together all these years, I think it tells.''
Lady Centurions coach Don Favero concurred.
"When you have 18-year-olds against 14-year-olds, it makes a difference,'' Favero, who is retiring from coaching after 42 years, said. "I thought we had it. It just rolled out. I'm so proud of these girls.''
Greensburg Central's Heather Bosco led all scorers with 21 points. The much bigger Lady Centurions gave Tussey problems in the first half by blocking six shots, coming back from an early 9-3 deficit to take a 23-19 lead before the Lady Titans ended the first half on a 15-2 spurt.
"A lot of people were saying 'We aren't going way up there. It's a Catholic school. They have such good girls. You guys don't stand a chance,''' Morgan Gates said. "This just proves that we can come from a small town and we belong in it.''
TUSSEY MOUNTAIN (60): Foster 3 0-0 8, Runk 4 0-0 10, Abbott-Watkins 5 4-4 15, Gates 3 5-6 11, Lemin 6 3-4 15, Claycomb 0 1-2 1, Rupert 0 0-0 0, Lynn 0 0-0 0. Totals - 21 13-16 60.
GREENSBURG CENTRAL CATHOLIC (59): Biondi 1 4-6 6, Mellinger 3 0-0 8, Appleby 3 1-4 7, Adisey 3 2-3 8, Deglau 1 0-0 2, Larkin 2 1-2 5, Bosco 9 1-1 21, Hess 0 0-0 0, Kosor 0 0-0 0, Zadylak 1 0-0 3. Totals - 22 9-16 59.
SCORE BY QUARTERS
Tussey Mountain18 16 11 15-60
Greensburg Central Catholic19 6 18 16-59
3-point goals: Tussey Mountain 5 (Foster 2, Abbott-Watkins, Runk 2); Greensburg Central Catholic 4 (Bosco 2, Mellinger 2).
Team records: Tussey Mountain (19-6); Greensburg Central Catholic (17-7).
Officials: Margie Byers, Jim Christ, Mike Shelehada.