Portage moves past West Branch

HOLLIDAYSBURG – It took the Portage Lady Mustangs seven minutes, 59 seconds to record their first field goal of the fourth quarter in Thursday night’s District 6-A quarterfinal game with West Branch.

That shot was launched from half-court by Portage forward Olivia McCabe as time expired. The Mustangs would’ve walked away with a five-point win over the Warriors, but the buzzer-beater put an exclamation point on Portage’s 58-50 win.

“I just wanted to get it off,” McCabe said. “I was on one foot, threw it up, and looked away. Then everyone was screaming. I didn’t know it went in. Everybody always takes a last-minute shot to end it, and there it was.”

Fortunately for the Mustangs, they hit 14 free throws in the final frame to keep pace with the Warriors. Emily Chobany hit nine of those foul shots to add to her game-high 23 points.

Christie Sabol led West Branch with 15 points, though the Portage defense kept her from the score sheet in the fourth quarter. Brianne Nye shouldered much of the Warriors’ load in the fourth, scoring eight points, but fouled out with just over four minutes to play. After that, the two teams began swapping leads for the final few minutes.

“That last two minutes, I think we showed a lot of heart,” Portage coach Lance Hudak said. “I think we showed a lot of character. We’re going to take a lot from those last two minutes – making good decisions, the importance of making foul shots, playing good defense.”

While the end of the game excited the crowd at Hollidaysburg Junior High School, the beginning may have churned a few stomachs on the bench. In the first quarter, both teams combined for 23 turnovers and shot 1-for-6 from the foul line.

“We didn’t seem like we were in our game,” McCabe said. “We weren’t passing very well, we weren’t moving the ball, using screens. We were everywhere with the ball. I think we came in kind of excited from our last win [the WestPAC championship], and it just hit us. We weren’t ready for the transition. It’s just one of those nights. Everybody has them. We’ll get back next time.”

No. 2 Portage (21-2) will play Juniata Valley Monday night in the semifinals at a location yet to be determined. The Hornets defeated Claysburg-Kimmel, 31-28, Thursday night. And while the season ends for No. 7 West Branch (15-8), coach Dan Socash knows his squad went out like real warriors.

“I told them before the game that we’re not a seven seed,” he said. “I think we proved that tonight. It was two great teams playing each other. One won, but both deserved to win it.”

WEST BRANCH (50): Nye 3 0-0 8, Couteret 4 3-5 11, Ahlberg 4 1-5 11, Sabol 7 1-7 15, McCracken 0 1-2 1, Kolesar 0 0-0 0, Croyle 1 2-4 4, Miller 0 0-0 0. Totals – 19 8-23 50.

PORTAGE (58): Chobany 7 9-15 23, O. McCabe 5 5-12 16, Ramus 0 0-1 0, E. McCabe 1 0-0 2, Zatek 1 1-2 3, Wozniak 1 3-4 6, Nolan 3 0-0 8, K. Jubina 0 0-0 0. Totals – 18 18-34 58.


West Branch8 12 14 16 – 50

Portage15 12 14 17 – 58

3-point field goals: West Branch 4 (Nye 2, Ahlberg 2); Portage 4 (Nolan 2, O. McCabe, Wozniak).

Records: West Branch (15-8); Portage (21-2).