JOHNSTOWN - It won't go down as the best basketball game of her career, but it might just be the sweetest.
Unable to get her shot going all game, Jordyn Swogger scored on a strong left-hand drive with just under 30 seconds remaining in overtime to lift Tyrone to a 40-39 victory over upset-minded Central Cambria in a District 6 Class AA first-round playoff game on Wednesday night at the Richland High School Sports Center.
With the win, the Lady Eagles improved to 18-4 and punched their ticket into a quarterfinal meeting with Juniata, the third seed, on Friday.
"You know what? That's what a true competitor does with the game on the line," Lady Eagles coach said of Swogger's layup with the game on the line.
Swogger actually finished fourth on her team with seven points - bruising forwards Emily Iuzzolino and Alexis Cannistraci tossed in 11 points apiece, and Kasey Engle scored eight. But, with the game on the line after Laura Stevens' putback had given Central Cambria a one-point lead in the final minute of overtime, Rhoades decided to put the ball in the hands of his 1,000-point scorer.
Swogger went to the basket hard and banked it in over a pair of Lady Devil defenders waiting underneath the hoop.
"I was off the whole game. I was definitely like, 'I have to get it together. I have to do this for my team.I don't want this to be my last game,'" Swogger said. "Coach said, 'You're either going to shoot a layup or kick it out.' I wanted it.
"I usually shoot my left-side layups with my right hand, but I didn't think about it, I shot it with my left hand, and it went in."
Taylor Boring scored 13 and Bri Wasser 11 to front Central Cambria, which finished the year 9-14. The 11th seeds coming in, the Lady Devils had lost a four-point game to Tyrone in holiday tournament action but fought back from six points down entering the fourth quarter to get the game into overtime.
Fittingly for a team trying to play Cinderella, the Lady Devils' biggest play came with it looking like Wasser was wearing glass slippers, sliding across the floor on her stomach to track down a steal at midcourt and pitching it ahead to Jordan Hayward, who went in for a layup that knotted the score at 35 with 50.2 second left in regulation.
"It was all adrenaline. I tried to keep calm and focus on what I had to do. I had to decide whether to try to get up or look up and see whether anyone was in the clear running," Wasser said.
Wasser had a chance to answer Swogger's heroics. She shook free of Swogger's defense for an open baseline jumper with about 10 seconds left in overtime, but it didn't go in, and Tyrone rebounded. Central Cambria got the ball back with 2.5 seconds left, however Wasser's desperation heave from midcourt was off the mark.
Tyrone presented a big challenge for the Lady Devils inside with the height and power of Iuzzolino and Cannistraci. Iuzzolino, a senior, had 10 rebounds, while Cannistraci, just a freshmen, pulled down seven boards, including two in the last 10 seconds - one off Wasser's baseline shot and another on the offensive end when Swogger missed a free throw.
Cannistraci also had three assists in the opening moments of the game. It was enough for Rhoades to remark that she, as one of his least experienced players, played like the one with the most experience.
Cannistraci said she wasn't very nervous.
"I play AAU over the summer, so I'm kind of used to the pressure, I think," Cannistraci said. "I just really wanted to win. I didn't want this to be our last game of the season."
The game went back and forth throughout. Boring scored five in the second quarter and Stevens scored on an offensive rebound in the last 10 seconds to give the Lady Devils a four-point lead after the first half. Tyrone, though, began pounding it inside in the third quarter, getting seven points from Cannistraci and a big 3-pointer from Swogger on an inside-out pass to carry the period, 15-5.
Central Cambria came back and had a chance to win it at the end of regulation, but Hayward's trey from the right wing came up short as time expired.
"I thought it was in. I thought that was our best opportunity, right there," Lady Devils coach John Dziack said. "I started one senior, one junior, two sophomores and a freshman, so I thought we played pretty well for as young as we are."
"Central Cambria had a great gameplan for us," Rhoades said. "He definitely had them ready to go."
"This was such an intense game," Swogger said. "I honestly was scared a lot of times this was going to be my last game."
CENTRAL CAMBRIA (39): Wasser 5 1-3 11, Stevens 3 0-0 6, Hildebrand 0 0-0 0, Boring 2 9-10 13, Hayward 3 0-0 8, Berzonsky 0 0-0 0, Bracken 0 0-0 0. Totals - 13 10-13 39.
TYRONE (40): Swogger 3 0-3 7, Engle 4 0-0 8, Christine 1 1-2 3, Cannistraci 4 3-5 11, Iuzzolino 5 1-3 11, Raftery 0 0-0 0, Kemp 0 0-0 0. Totals - 17 5-13 40.
SCORE BY QUARTERS
Central Cambria10 9 5 11 4-39
Tyrone 9 6 15 5 5-40
3-point goals: Central Cambria 3 (Hayward 2, Boring); Tyrone 1 (Swogger).
Team records: Central Cambria (9-14); Tyrone (18-4).
Officials: Dan Fletcher, Wes Sinclair, Mike Gaydosh.