Special to the Mirror
CRESSON - The Penn Cambria girls basketball team loves the underdog role it has played over the past couple of games.
Last Friday, the Lady Panthers knocked off perennial powerhouse Bishop Guilfoyle, which has won seven consecutive district titles. BG's loss allowed Forest Hills to control its own destiny to represent Section 1 in the Laurel Highlands Athletic Conference championship game on Saturday.
Wednesday night, Penn Cambria went 2-for-2 in spoiler attempts at home as it came back to knock off the Rangers, 53-42, to prevent Forest Hills from playing in the conference title game.
"It feels awesome because Penn Cambria is usually not that team that beats Bishop Guilfoyle and Forest Hills," PC senior Tori Shingler said about playing spoiler while also building momentum toward the playoffs. "It feels amazing."
It was the Panthers' first win over back-to-back district champ Forest Hills since 2009. The win allowed PC to extend its winning streak to five while also halting the Rangers' streak at seven.
Besides Shingler (game-high 15 points, seven rebounds) scoring the opening basket of the game, Forest Hills (15-6, 8-2 LHAC Section 1) led throughout the game until the 5:22 mark of the fourth quarter. The Rangers made their first seven field goals to take an early 14-7 lead. However, the visitors only scored 10 points in the second half.
"When you shoot 21 percent from the field in a game, you don't give yourself too much of a chance," Forest Hills coach Carol Cecere said. "In the first half, I felt we were moving the ball well. In the second half, everything seemed to go their way. They gave us the one shot and we didn't make it, that was it. That's what I thought was the difference. Of course we got in foul trouble and put them to the line and they made their foul shots. This is the one that got away but maybe we'll learn from it."
"In the first half, we came out trying to play a mixed-zone defense," Penn Cambria coach Rodger Fair said. "We switched up between some man and some zone. We weren't moving in the zone. They hit a lot of shots, got some easy baskets, and we weren't boxing out. Second half, we went all man-to-man. I thought they started throwing up some wild shots, got out of their game a little bit."
Penn Cambria's defense has been rock solid all year, giving the team a fighting chance night in and night out while only allowing 38.8 points per game.
"Only one team has scored in the 50s on us all year," Fair said about giving up 53 points to Central Cambria on Jan. 29. "We've been playing pretty good defense. When you're as tall as we are, if you rebound missed shots, they don't get too many second shot opportunities."
Penn Cambria (15-6, 8-2 LHAC Section 1) weathered the early shooting funk they experienced in the first half, making just seven field goals. The Panthers made up for that by getting to the foul line and consistently knocking them down. For the game, they went 24-of-32, including 12-of-17 in the fourth.
"We've been a good free-throw shooting team all year long," Fair said. "Some kids stepped up tonight that are seniors that have shot a lot of foul shots in their day. They made them when they counted."
FH's Jill Scott (10 points) hit a jumper to give her team a 39-35 lead just into the fourth quarter. The Panthers went on an important run to take the lead for good, scoring the next 10 points. Allie Vincent made both of her free throws at the 5:22 mark to grab the lead for the first time since the first basket of the game. Five different Panthers scored during the momentum-changing run.
"After halftime we just came out and said, 'We're still in this, we still got this,'" Shingler said.
After a Courtney Cecere putback, the Panthers went 8-for-10 from the charity stripe to ice the game. Senior Megan Wheeler finished with a double-double scoring 14 points and grabbing 11 rebounds.
"Wheeler is hard to defend on the inside," Cecere said. "She has a nice turnaround jump shot from the foul line."
Three Panthers scored in double figures as Shingler posted 15, Wheeler added 14, and Kaley Strittmatter finished with 10, hitting three triples. The scoring was needed as top scorer and point guard Kaitlyn Krug was held scoreless before getting hurt with 4:28 to play in the game.
The Panthers' depth has been a strength all season to pick up the slack.
FOREST HILLS (42): Peretin 4 0-0 9, Scott 5 0-0 10, Richards 1 2-2 4, Meier 3 0-0 6, Gallaher 4 1-2 10, Gregorich 0 0-0 0, Cecere 1 1-2 3, Smith 0 0-0 0, Delusa 0 0-0 0. Totals - 18 4-6 42.
PENN CAMBRIA (53): Strittmatter 3 1-2 10, Wheeler 4 6-7 14, Vincent 1 4-5 6, Shingler 3 9-12 15, Krug 0 0-0 0, Anderson 1 0-0 2, Link 1 0-0 2, Audley 0 4-6 4, Little 0 0-0 0. Totals - 13 24-32 53.
SCORE BY QUARTERS
Forest Hills20 12 5 5 - 42
Penn Cambria16 10 9 18 - 53
3-point field goals: Forest Hills 2 (Peretin 1, Gallaher 1); Penn Cambria 3 (Strittmatter 3).
Records: Forest Hills (15-6, 8-2 LHAC Section 1); Penn Cambria (15-6, 8-2 LHAC Section 1).
JV: Forest Hills, 33-30. High scorers-Cecere, FH, 7; Link, PC, 9.