On a night when the Bishop Guilfoyle Lady Marauders honored three graduating seniors for their contributions to the basketball program, a pair of outstanding freshmen provided assurance that the team's future is on very sound footing.
With 5-8 freshman forward/guard Lili Benzel scoring a game-high 24 points and her classmate, 5-5 guard Macy Adams, adding 15, Bishop Guilfoyle won what could very well be a preview of next month's Laurel Highlands Athletic Conference championship game by outlasting Westmont Hilltop, 55-52 Wednesday in a battle pitting the conference's section leaders at the Pleasant Valley gymnasium.
Benzel scored 12 third-quarter points, including a pair of 3-pointers, to lead a late third-period rally in which BG, which improved to 11-2 overall, wiped out a 35-33 Westmont lead with a 10-4 run to go ahead, 43-39 after three quarters.
Mirror photo by Patrick?Waksmunski
BG’s Lili Benzel puts up a shot in traffic against?Westmont defender Katie Flick.
Benzel's 3-pointer from the right corner put BG ahead to stay, 36-35. After Adams worked inside for a field goal to give the Lady Marauders a 38-35 lead, Benzel added another basket in traffic to give BG a 40-35 advantage.
Four free throws by two different players later brought Westy back to within a point, 40-39, but Benzel drained another big 3-pointer from the right side just before the period ended to give BG its 43-39 edge after three stops.
"We worked better together as a team in the third quarter than we did in the first half,'' Benzel said. "[Westmont] is obviously one of the better teams that we've played this year, and I thought we all played well together as a team. That's how a team should play.''
BG coach Mark Moschella knows that he has a couple of good young players in Benzel and Adams.
"They did a lot of good things tonight,'' he said. "They do play older than freshmen. I think they're getting better every game, which is a key for us.''
Field goals by Benzel and Adams helped BG to its biggest lead of the night, 47-40 early in the fourth quarter, but in a game that was nip-and-tuck from start to finish, Westmont would be heard from again.
The Lady Hilltoppers (11-3 overall) got a pair of free throws from junior Megan Zolnosky, two from junior Bridget Moyer, and two more from sophomore Katie Flick to draw to within one point, 47-46 with 2:26 left.
"BG is a very good team,'' Westmont coach Jodi Hillegass said. "It's a loss in the book for us, but I'm proud of how hard my girls played tonight.''
She also had praise for BG's dynamic freshman duo.
"We know that they are their scorers,'' she said of Benzel and Adams. "They're freshmen in class, but they don't play like freshmen. They have 13 games under their belts now. They've got some varsity experience, and they're two very disciplined players.''
Benzel put the capper on her fine night by hitting five of six free throws in the final two minutes. Sophomore Alyssa McGhee also registered a pair of free throws with 22 seconds showing on the scoreboard clock, giving BG an insurmountable 55-48 advantage.
After a first quarter in which both teams scored 12 points to set the tone in the hard-fought game, BG moved in front at intermission, 23-17, courtesy of three field goals and a free throw by Adams in the second quarter.
Before the game, BG honored three seniors: Annie Dombroski, Jenna Irvin and Emily Adams, who is currently sidelined with a broken nose. Irwin collected seven rebounds and Dombroski had six for BG, while Zolnosky and senior forward Alyssa Miller scored 10 points apiece for Westmont. Miller also grabbed a game-high 12 rebounds.
Both coaches were happy that their teams got a test which will prepare them for the postseason competition that begins next month.
"This was a great conference game,'' Hillegass said. "I thought that both teams played very well from the start of the game until the end. It's just unfortunate that one team had to lose.''
BG swings back into action tonight when the Lady Marauders travel to Bedford for another Laurel Highlands Athletic Conference matchup.
WESTMONT HILLTOP (52): Zolnosky 4 2-4 10, Moyer 1 2-2 4, Sheehan 2 2-2 6, Miller 3 4-5 10, Flick 2 2-6 7, Kaseler 0 0-0 0, Foster 2 3-4 7, Hoover 3 2-2 8, Fisher 0 0-0 0. Totals - 17 17-25 52.
BISHOP GUILFOYLE (55): McGhee 1 3-4 5, Dombroski 2 0-1 4, M. Adams 6 3-5 15, Benzel 8 5-8 24, Irvin 0 3-4 3, Taddei 0 2-4 2, Lewis 1 0-0 2. Totals - 18 16-26 55.
SCORE BY QUARTERS
Westmont Hilltop12 5 22 13 - 52
Bishop Guilfoyle12 11 20 12 - 55
3-point goals: Westmont Hilltop (Flick); Bishop Guilfoyle 3 (Benzel 3).
Records: Westmont Hilltop (11-3 overall); Bishop Guilfoyle (11-2 overall).
JV: Bishop Guilfoyle, 28-23. High scorers-Ray, WH, 5; Lewis, BG, 11.