EBENSBURG - Portage coach Lance Hudak asks that the girls basketball program be judged on what it has achieved over the last four years, not on one particular game.
The Mustangs shot just 1-for-21 from the floor in the first half and never recovered in a 59-42 loss to Berlin Brothersvalley in a PIAA Class A first-round tournament game at Central Cambria High School.
"This senior class has accomplished so much over the last four years," said Hudak, whose team finished the year 23-3 and has gone 75-26 the last four seasons. "They have turned our program into a state-level team, where we've been for the last few years. Don't let one bad game or one bad afternoon define what we have done this year [or] for the last four years."
The Mountaineers (22-4) will face Vincentian Academy in a second-round game on Wednesday at a site and time to be determined.
"Berlin is a senior team," said Hudak, whose team beat Berlin in the regular season. "They've been here. They've been in those big games."
Though disappointed by a third-place finish in the District 5 playoffs, Berlin coach Rachel Prosser is happy to be back in the state's Sweet 16.
"Our whole goal is to get back to the the position that we're in now," she said.
Four Berlin players scored in double figures. Shelby Coughenour led the Mountaineers with 18 points and 12 rebounds. Erica Craig added 14 points, followed by Aleesa Fieg (13 points) and Gina Trulick (10).
"What you saw tonight is what they're capable of," Prosser said. "They were patient, they were smart, they attacked when they could. They finished, they made foul shots, they went to the pass and protected the ball against some good defenders."
Oliva McCabe, Portage's 6-foot-1 senior pivot, led the Mustangs with 20 points, 12 rebounds and five blocked shots.
"They didn't get flustered when McCabe was scoring," Prosser said. "We took care of business and didn't really let them go on a big run in any way that would change our momentum."
Berlin's 2-3 zone defense, at the same time, frustrated the District 6 runners-up.
"I didn't think we'd match up against them so that was our best chance," Prosser said.
The Mountaineers held Portage to two free throws and a turnaround jumper by McCabe in the first period. McCabe's free throws, which she made at the 6:24 mark, represented the only time the Mustangs led the entire afternoon.
"How do you explain it?" Hudak said. "You can't explain it; it's sports."
Portage was 1-for-10 in the first quarter and missed all 11 field goal attempts in the second as Berlin breezed to a 25-7 lead at halftime.
"We're used to getting [seven points] in 20-30 seconds at times," Hudak said.
Berlin also attained a 37-24 edge in rebounds. Portage managed but one offensive rebound in the pivotal first half, during which the Mountaineers doubled up the Mustangs, 26-13, under the glass.
"If we get some boards in there offensively, it gives us a couple more opportunities to put the ball in the basket," Hudak said.
"If we had given them more than one shot, it would have been a little more difficult for us because they are an explosive team," Prosser said.
Portage regained its shooting touch in the second half as it made good on 12 of 24 (50 percent). But the Mustangs could only trim the difference to as few as 11.
Berlin also made 21 of 26 (80.7 percent) at the free-throw line. Trulick made all six such chances.
BERLIN BROTHERSVALLEY (59): Trulick 2 6-6 10, Craig 4 5-7 14, Coughenour 5 7-9 18, Fieg 4 3-4 13, McClucas 2 0-0 4, Spochart 0 0-0 0, Eckenroad 0 0-0 0, Simmon 0 0-0 0, Totals - 17 21-26 59.
PORTAGE (42): McCabe 8 4-4 10, Nolan 2 2-3 7, Wozniak 0 0-0 0, E.Chobany 1 5-6 7, Zatek 2 1-2 7, C.Jubina 0 1-2 1, K.Jubina 0 0-0 0, A.Chobany 0 0-0 0, Baker 0 0-0 0. Totals - 13 13-17 42.
Score by quarters
Berlin Brothersvalley11 14 17 17 - 59
Portage4 3 22 13 - 42
3-point field goals: Berlin-Brothersvalley 4 (Fieg 2, Craig, Coughenour), Portage 3 (Zatek 2, Nolan).
Officials: Dick Wagner, Tim Hite, Doug Moore.
Team records: Berlin-Brothersvalley (22-4), Portage (23-3).