Portage girls strengthen WestPAC hold

PORTAGE – No one will be confusing either Emily Chobany or Olivia McCabe with Lennay Kekua: Unlike Manti Te’o’s fictitious girlfriend, Chobany and McCabe are very much for real.

So are the rest of their Portage Area High School girls basketball teammates and the Lady Mustangs chances to get a very high seed in the District 6 Class A playoffs next month.

McCabe and Chobany combined for 42 points, and seven other Lady Mustangs cracked the scoring column as Portage made surprisingly easy work of perennial 6-A power Conemaugh Valley, 70-48, on Tuesday night at Len Chappell Gymnasium.

It was Portage’s second double-digit win against the Lady Jays this season, running the Lady Mustangs’ record to 14-1 while snapping Conemaugh Valley’s nine-game win streak.

“People actually take us seriously. They think that we can, that the last [win over Conemaugh Valley] wasn’t just a lucky fluke. We can actually beat teams that people put us up against,” said McCabe, who collected 22 points, 10 rebounds and two blocked shots.

Chobany added 20 points and five assists, while Katie Nolan and Lexi Wozniak sank five 3-pointers off the bench for Portage, which improved to 8-0 in the WestPAC North. The Lady Mustangs now have a two-game lead on Conemaugh Valley, with Conemaugh Township third in the section at 5-2.

“It’s no mystery coming into tonight how big this game was as far as the WestPAC North standings, the District 6 standings. This is a huge win for our program in that it’s a step closer to playing in those big-time championship games, which we’ve never had here,” Lady Mustangs coach Lance Hudak said. “It’s a credit to every girl in this program.

“We’re playing well.”

Finding an area in which the Lady Mustangs didn’t perform well was like finding a needle in a haystack. Conemaugh Valley scored the first bucket, then responded to a 13-2 Portage run to get within 13-11 before a 12-0 spurt broke it open.

If there was any doubt, Portage eliminated it by carrying the third quarter, 22-9, and pushing the lead to as many as 32 points early in the fourth. Conemaugh Valley was led by Emily McCray’s 10 points in falling to 11-3 overall.

“We were less than a hundred percent coming into the game, and we played far less than a hundred percent during the entire game. It was going to wear us down,” Conemaugh Valley coach Teri Cruse said. “We don’t let anybody score 70 points, and we let them do it at will.”

In fact, Portage only scored one point in the last 6:04 with its junior varsity players in the game. Through three quarters, the Lady Mustangs made 24 of 47 shots, six of nine 3-pointers, forged a 30-22 lead in rebounds, forced 12 turnovers and only turned the ball over seven times despite pushing the tempo.

Much of the credit for that last statistic has to go to Chobany. The 5-foot-5 junior point guard kept things under control, but showed assertiveness in driving to the bucket for the layup or the pass and also made 8 of 15 field goal attempts.

“I worked all offseason just shooting and trying to be an all-around player,” Chobany said. “I wanted to get more of my shots in, but I wanted to help my teammates by getting them the ball.”

They were coming through when she got them the ball. In addition to nine points from Nolan and six from Wozniak – both freshmen – senior Emily McCabe scored eight.

“If we subbed five at a time or two or three at a time, there was no let-up,” Hudak said. “You have kids coming in that can flat out shoot it, which we haven’t had.”

That’s important if the Lady Mustangs are able to build on the regular season success when the postseason rolls around.

“I’m a little bit surprised, but I know we worked hard for this,” Chobany said. “I’m just really happy to have a team like this that works this hard.”

Game notes: The officials from the varsity game never showed up, so Marc Myers and Corey Theys stayed from the JV contest and handled both sides of the doubleheader. … Portage’s “Herd” student section was dressed up in beach attire. … The Lady Mustangs travel to Blacklick Valley on Thursday.

CONEMAUGH VALLEY (48): Cekada 1 0-0 3, Hody 4 0-0 9, L. Stiffler 2 1-2 5, E. Smith 3 3-3 9, McCray 3 4-6 10, Miller 0 0-0 0, K. Smith 3 2-2 8, Hagerich 0 1-2 1, K. Stiffler 0 0-0 0, A. Smith 1 0-0 3. Totals – 17 11-15 48.

PORTAGE (70): Chobany 8 3-3 20, Ramus 1 0-0 2, Zatek 0 2-2 2, E. McCabe 1 4-8 8, O. McCabe 9 4-6 22, Nolan 3 0-0 9, Wozniak 2 0-0 6, Jubina 0 1-3 1, Baker 1 0-0 2, Crum 0 0-4 0, Benton 0 0-0 0. Totals – 25 14-26 70.


Conemaugh Valley11 15 9 13 – 48

Portage16 27 22 5 – 70

3-point goals: Conemaugh Valley 3 (Cekada, A. Smith, Hody); Portage 6 (Chobany, Nolan 3, Wozniak 2).

Records: Conemaugh Valley (11-3; 6-2 WestPAC North); Portage (14-1; 8-0 WestPAC North).

Officials: Marc Myers, Corey Theys.

JV: Portage, 26-23. High scorers-Kacie Smith, CV, 9; Kacie Baker, P, 11.