INDIANA - Deanna Jubeck prepared for South Park about as thoroughly as a high school basketball coach could for a second round interdistrict playoff game.
Afterwards, she still wasn't sure the team she watched on film was the same team her Hollidaysburg Lady Tigers played at IUP's Memorial Field House on Wednesday night.
"They shot the ball better than I've seen a team shoot the ball all year. Better than I've seen them shoot the ball on I can't tell you how many scouting films we had on them, six scouting films,'' Jubeck said. "We never saw them shoot the ball the way they did tonight.''
Mirror photo by Patrick Waksmunski
Courteney Storm looks to pass during Hollidaysburg’s loss to South Park on Wednesday.
Jubeck's District 6 Class AAA champions, who had been riding quick starts to big wins late in the season and in the playoffs, had the tables turned on them by the Lady Eagles. Hollidaysburg ran into a buzzsaw as District 7 runner-up South Park shot 53.1 percent from the field and placed all five starters in double figures in a 68-47 victory, ending the Lady Tigers' season at 16-9.
"We needed to come out with a knockout punch,'' said Hollidaysburg junior center Morgan Griffith, who led three Lady Tigers in double digits with 16 points to go along with 13 rebounds and two blocked shots, "and they definitely knocked us out from the beginning. We underestimated them, I think. We didn't think they'd come out at us like that.''
South Park (24-3) made four of its first five shots - three coming from the outside - to take a 9-2 lead and forcing Jubeck to take a timeout 2:14 into the contest. It didn't do much to slow the Lady Eagles down: They had 22 points by the end of the first quarter and led 38-19 late in the second.
Before the Lady Tigers mustered a mini-run in the middle of the third period, South Park had assumed a 46-26 advantage and was well on its way to a PIAA quarterfinal showdown with traditionally powerful Archbishop Wood out of the Philadelphia Catholic League.
"They came out and hit everything. They made every shot,'' said a stunned and teary-eyed Rachel McClain, who made three 3-pointers and scored 11 points in her final game in a Lady Tiger uniform. "We started hitting. But they'd come down and score. Then we'd hit again, and they'd come down and score. We knew we had to cut it to seven by the end of the third quarter, but we just couldn't do it.''
Shelby Lindsay and Halie Torris fronted the Lady Eagles with 18 points apiece, scoring right around their averages. However, the player who sparked South Park was 5-foot-7 senior guard Carly Zandier. Zandier came into the game averaging around seven points but hit two quick jumpers for the Lady Eagles' first four points and went 3-for-3 from the field in the first quarter.
"It was huge [to shoot the ball well early], and she got us going. It's not that she doesn't have the talent, but we have other scorers. Today was her day,'' South Park coach Reggie Wells said. "I knew they were good shooters with a good girl inside, and, when they get momentum, it's hard to stop them. So we just tried to keep them from getting off to a good start.''
Zandier had 10 points by halftime and finished with 12.
"I was feeling pretty good. My shot was going in. I was confident. We needed to get [started] off strong in the first quarter. We just started off as a team and got those four points in the board right away,'' Zandier said. "Sometimes our team struggles with the first quarter.''
Already with a decided height advantage, South Park made 26 of 49 shots, much of it coming from the perimeter. In a rush to try to keep pace, Hollidaysburg committed 22 turnovers, including 10 in the first quarter, and began to live and die from beyond the 3-point arc.
"They played a great matchup zone,'' McClain said. "It was hard to get off shots with their length.''
Hannah Mercer ended up with 10 points for the Lady Tigers, who were knocked out in the second round of states after winning the 6-AAA title for the second year in a row. Hollidaysburg previously had not been beyond the first round since 1997.
"I thought [the season] went great,'' McClain said. "We had our ups and we had our downs, but these girls were great. I couldn't ask for a better team.''
Jubeck's team will graduate four seniors: McClain, leading scorer Alex Gildea and reserve forwards Ashley O'Donald and Morgan Uzmack.
"Playing with Alex and Rachel for so long and Ashley and Morgan, it's incredible that it's over. It's going to be so different next year without them. I just want them to do good, and it's going to be hard without them, I know,'' Griffith said.
Griffith, Mercer and fellow starter Susie Ellis all will be back next year as the Lady Tigers move up to Class AAAA, along with top reserves Courteney Storm, Ashley McClain, Michele Muir and Amy Tomassetti. But Jubeck wanted to focus more on the departing seniors.
"This team wanted to make its own legacy. It wanted to put its name into the record book at Hollidaysburg, and I think they did that. Alex and Rachel put their heart and souls into this team,'' Jubeck said. "If we can get kids to put in the time and energy they did, then the future's big for us.''
SOUTH PARK (68): Mikelonis 4 1-4 10, Zandier 5 2-2 12, Lindsay 6 5-5 18, Torris 7 3-3 18, Raymond 4 2-4 10, Quinn 0 0-1 0, Miller 0 0-0 0, Noss 0 0-0 0, Davison 0 0-0 0, Stanley 0 0-0 0, Mosi 0 0-0 0, Smith 0 0-0 0. Totals - 26 13-19 68.
HOLLIDAYSBURG (47): Mercer 5 0-0 10, R. McClain 4 0-0 11, Ellis 2 0-0 5, Gildea 1 1-2 3, Griffith 6 4-8 16, Storm 1 0-0 2, A. McClain 0 0-0 0, Uzmack 0 0-0 0, O'Donald 0 0-0 0. Totals - 19 5-10 47.
SCORE BY QUARTERS
South Park22 16 17 13-68
Hollidaysburg12 12 13 10-57
3-point goals: South Park 3 (Torris, Mikelonis, Lindsay); Hollidaysburg 4 (Ellis, R. McClain 3).
Team records: South Park (24-3); Hollidaysburg (16-9).
Officials: Carla Smith, Scott Reffner, Rob Burns.