EBENSBURG - In the estimation of girls basketball coach Luke Rhoades, Tyrone could not have picked a more inopportune time to play subpar basketball.
"We picked probably the worst time of the year to not execute," Rhoades said after the Golden Eagles' 53-43 loss to Westmont Hilltop in a District 6 Class AA quarterfinal-round playoff game Saturday night at Central Cambria High School. "And if you don't execute at this stage of the game, you're probably going to lose the game."
The third-seeded Lady Hilltoppers will face No. 2 seed Bellwood-Antis in a semifinal game Tueday at a site and time to be determined. The Lady Devils eliminated Central Cambria, 55-28, on Saturday. Top-seeded Bald Eagle Area eked out a 35-33 win over Marion Center on the other side of the bracket.
Westmont Hilltop senior Erin Rodgers led all scorers with 20 points. Classmate Paige Lamberson added 11 points.
Under the glass was where Westmont thrived and from where it fueled the transition game. The Hilltoppers outrebounded Tyrone, 49-25, and repeatedly outraced the Golden Eagles to easy baskets.
Alyssa Miller paced Westmont Hilltop with 12 rebounds, followed by Rachel Roper (nine). Rodgers got in on the act, adding eight boards.
"Westmont played really outstanding defense. They really did a good job of staying on our shooters," Rhoades said. "And we really didn't rebound the ball well. And that was the big difference early. I really felt we were playing right with them except we didn't rebound the ball well.
"[Against] a team like that, you can't give them second opportunites. And that was the big key. ... If you give up second and third shots at this stage of the game against a team that good, you're going to find yourself coming up short more times than not."
Meanwhile, Tyrone scoring leader Nicole Gripp managed a team-high 16 points. Only two came before halftime, however. By that time, Westmont Hilltop had assumed a 28-20 lead.
"Tonight, they definitely shut her down," Rhoades said. "They did a really good job keeping her in check."
Hilltoppers coach Jodi Hillegass refused to delude herself or her team into thinking Gripp would be held in check forever.
"I told them at halftime Gripp's going to step up," Hillegass said. "[In] just the game we scouted against Tussey Mountain, she scored 12 in the fourth quarter, and she pretty much carried the team on her back. I knew she was a great player who was capable of doing that."
Tyrone drew within two, 32-30, on a 3-pointer by Jordyn Swogger. The junior added 10 points.
Westmont replied, however, with a 10-0 run that stretched into the first two minutes of the fourth quarter. The Hilltoppers led by as many as 14, 48-34, after Miller hit two free throws with 3:52 to play.
The Golden Eagles finished with year 17-7. Rhoades' heart went out especially to senior starters Gripp, Alexis Brooks, Alayna Hettinger and Morgan Taylor, plus senior reserve Stephanie Hammond.
"It's tough," Rhoades said of the season reaching its conclusion. "We lost some tough games this year. But honestly, that's definitely disappointing. We had a goal; like most teams, we wanted to get into the district championship game."
TYRONE (43): Gripp 7 0-1 16, Swogger 3 1-2 10, Taylor 2 1-2 5, Brooks 2 0-0 5, Hettinger 1 0-0 3, Christine 1 2-2 4. Totals 16 4-7 43.
WESTMONT HILLTOP (53): Rodgers 8 3-4 20, Flick 3 1-3 7, Miller 2 5-8 9, Lamberson 4 0-0 11, Roper 2 0-0 4, Hoover 1 0-0 2. Totals 20 9-15 53.
SCORE BY QUARTERS
Tyrone10 10 10 13 - 43
Westmont Hilltop15 13 11 14 - 53
3-point field goals: Tyrone 7 (Swogger 3, Gripp 2, Brooks, Hettinger), Westmont Hilltop 4 (Lamberson 3, Rodgers).
Team records: Tyrone (17-7), Westmont Hilltop (20-4).
Officials: Mike Gaydosh, Jim Harnish, Lou Garzarelli.