Second-half surge sinks Lady Devils
By Michael Boytim
Bellwood-Antis and Bishop McCort’s District 6 Class 2A championship was decided in the final seconds of the fourth quarter.
The key point of Monday’s PIAA semifinal rematch also came in the final seconds, but this time it was just before the half.
Haley Thomas broke a 29-29 tie with a traditional three-point play 39.5 seconds before halftime, and Mikayla Martin added a 3-pointer that put the Lady Crushers ahead by six.
“(The six points in the final 40 seconds) were huge,” Bishop McCort coach John Hahn. “The girls were pumped. They got in the locker room and said they wanted to get it to 10. They just believe in themselves.”
Bishop McCort carried the momentum into the third quarter, opening with a 10-1 run, in what eventually became a 68-57 victory at the Altoona Area High School Fieldhouse.
“I don’t know if it was deflating,” Bellwood-Antis coach Jim Swaney said. “Yeah it was a big run, but I wasn’t putting too much stock in it. It was a two-possession game at halftime. I truly thought that we’d come out in the second half and answer it with a run. Give them all the credit in the world, they seized control of the game in the third quarter.”
The Lady Crushers will play the winner of tonight’s Minersville and Mahanoy Area game in the PIAA Class 2A championship in Hershey Thursday at noon.
Hahn, who will be going to his first state championship game after losing in the semifinals twice before, told his players in the locker room the first few minutes of the second half would decide the game.
“We knew the first three minutes would be key,” Hahn said. “We knew if we could get up 10 or 12 points, they would have to start pressuring a little bit and we could get some easy baskets.”
Thomas finished with 26 points and 13 rebounds. She also picked off three Bellwood inbounds passes and turned them into easy layups.
“Haley is just so smart,” Hahn said. “She hung back a couple times and got us some baskets. She’s the smartest basketball player I’ve ever coached. She knows when to go and when not to go. That was big.”
Thomas will join Bellwood’s Swogger at Saint Francis next season. The B-A guard finished her career with a 20-point performance and was proud of what the team accomplished despite the loss.
“It shows a lot about this team,” Swogger said. “We had a rocky start, losing in the Forest Hills tournament and losing to McCort, but we stuck together and showed our teamwork.”
B-A freshman Alli Campbell, who scored 28 points in the district title game, finished with just 12 points, and her touches were limited.
“We played man in the District 6 final,” Hahn said. “We gave Haley Alli Campbell, and Alli had 18 at halftime. I’m telling Haley that (Campbell) was killing us. Haley said she was making a bunch of step-backs. Haley likes to cheat and go rebound, and we talked about it before this game and decided to go box-and-one.
“We let Swogger go. We knew she’d get her 20 points. We wanted to know where she was at, but our goal was to take Alli Campbell out of the game. We told the girls, whenever she gives up the ball, she doesn’t get it back. I think it really helped us.”
Campbell was held scoreless during the third quarter in which Bishop McCort took control.
“I think it slowed her down a little bit,” Swaney said. “When someone is playing you a box-in-one like that, some other kids have to step up and make shots. I think Emilie Leidig really did that tonight. She stepped up and helped us tonight, but that defense was probably effective for them.”
Leidig, also a freshman, finished with 15 points and made three first-half 3-pointers. The final one of those gave Bellwood-Antis a 29-27 lead late in the second quarter and was celebrated with an animated fist pump.
“We had opportunities, we just didn’t finish,” Swogger said.
Swogger made a 3-pointer early in the fourth quarter that got B-A back within 11, but Thomas responded immediately with a layup that started a 5-0 McCort spurt.
“Haley Thomas is a very good player,” Swaney said. “She’s one of the best I’ve ever seen. I think the parts that they have are so much better than what people give them credit for. They have six, seven kids that can really play this game.”
Makayla Carles made a 3-pointer with 1:17 left that made it a single-digit deficit, but the Lady Crushers made their free throws in the final minute to seal the game.
“The things that they hurt us on in every game we played them this year have been transition points and the offensive glass,” Swaney said. “Tonight was the same. We just didn’t get back a few times, and we left them get to the glass a little too much.”
BISHOP McCORT (68): Thomas 10 5-5 26, Gibbons 2 2-2 9, Yingling 5 3-4 13, Widmar 4 0-0 8, Wilson 0 0-0 0, Hunt 3 0-0 6, Martin 2 0-1 6. Totals — 26 10-12 68.
BELLWOOD-ANTIS (57): Swogger 7 4-5 20, Campbell 5 1-2 12, Carles 4 0-2 9, D’Angelo 0 1-2 1, Damiano 0 0-0 0, E. Leidig 6 0-0 15, Hollen 0 0-0 0, A. Leidig 0 0-0 0. Totals — 22 6-11 57.
SCORE BY QUARTERS
Bishop McCort 16 19 20 13 — 68
Bellwood-Antis 14 15 10 18 — 57
3-point goals: Bishop McCort 3 (Martin 2, Gibbons); Bellwood-Antis 7 (E. Leidig 3, Swogger 2, Campbell, Carles).
Records: Bishop McCort (25-4); Bellwood-Antis (25-5).
Officials: Diane Trachini, James Lipscomb, Theresa Buss.