Depth issues catch up with Lady Titans
JOHNSTOWN — Playing with just eight players is tough.
The Tussey Mountain girls basketball team proved it isn’t impossible, though, by putting together a 16-8 record going into Friday’s District 5 Class 2A championship game at the Pitt Johnstown Sports Center.
Winning with just seven players for most of the game, however, proved too tall of a task against top-seeded Windber in a 45-35 setback.
“The one thing that couldn’t happen, happened,” Tussey Mountain coach Todd Gates said. “Sophie (Brumbaugh) got into foul trouble.”
Brumbaugh, the tallest player for the Lady Titans, picked up three fouls in the first half and had to sit for the majority of the second quarter.
Before her foul trouble, Tussey Mountain was in control of the game, leading 9-5 after one quarter.
“At the beginning, we were really good,” Gates said. “I thought we could have put some distance on them. We couldn’t stretch the lead due to turnovers that were probably due to nerves.”
The Lady Titans forced 10 first-quarter turnovers in a man defense but had to switch to a zone when Brumbaugh got into foul trouble.
With the relaxed pressure, Windber was able to find some room for jump shots and took a 22-18 lead into the half.
“In the locker room we thought we’d be okay,” Gates said. “Sophie just sat almost a whole quarter and we were only down four. We thought we’d come out and take control, but then she picked up her fourth foul early in the third quarter. That pretty much did us in.”
That fourth foul came with 5:24 to play in the third quarter and Tussey Mountain down by just two.
The biggest benefactor of Brumbaugh’s foul trouble was Windber’s Makaela Cominsky, who was held scoreless in the first half but had 13 second-half points. She scored 10 in the third quarter.
“(Cominsky) absolutely got going because of Sophie’s foul trouble,” Gates said. “At halftime, we told Sophie to back off. We told her if she went to the basket, we’ll have to let her score.”
The Lady Titans managed just one field goal in the quarter and appeared to be running on fumes.
“Their defensive pressure wore us down,” Gates said. “With eight girls, we’re limited with what we can do.”
Windber won its first district title since 2011 and got a team-high 14 points from Alayna Elliott.
“This is a fantastic group of girls,” Windber coach Cory Pavlosky said. “They put in a ton of offseason hours with open gyms and everything else you go through. They put forth the effort, and they did everything we asked of them and we reached our goal.”
Though Windber turned the ball over itself 29 times, the Lady Ramblers constant pressure foiled the Lady Titans offense all night and forced 26 turnovers.
“The funny thing about it is, we don’t spend an obscene amount of time on defense at practice,” Pavlosky said. “We play competitive games against each other at practice, but we’ve been trying to lock down high-powered offenses all year. I think our pressure wore them down a little bit. We hit our stride when they got into foul trouble.”
Playing intra-squad scrimmages in practice isn’t something Tussey Mountain can do with just eight players on the roster.
“Back in October, I called Rod Brumbaugh, our athletic director, and said ‘we only have five girls, what are we going to do?'” Gates said. “I didn’t want the five who wanted to play to lose the season. He said ‘let me see if I can find some more,’ and he did. We had enough to put a team together.
“I wouldn’t have thought we’d be .500 at the start of the season, just simply because of our numbers. God had a big part in that. We had no injuries, no illnesses and one injury would have devastated us. Thank God we made it through injury free.”
Lexi Weimert led the Lady Titans with 14 points. Windber will play the fourth seed from the WPIAL on March 9 while Tussey will play Westinghouse in a PIAA play-in game at Taylor Allderdice High School at 6 p.m.
“We’re going to take a road trip and have fun,” Gates said. “It will help us get ready for next year, and we’re all back next year.”
TUSSEY MOUNTAIN (35): Weimert 6 2-4 14, Molosky 5 1-2 12, Garner 0 1-2 1, Park 0 0-0 0, Brumbaugh 2 2-2 6, Barnett 1 0-0 2, Wright 0 0-0 0, Hafer 0 0-0 0. Totals — 14 6-10 35
WINDBER (45): Leonardis 3 2-2 8, Toki 1 0-2 2, Tokarsky 2 3-4 7, Elliott 7 0-0 14, Cominsky 5 3-4 13, Karl 0 1-2 1, White 0 0-0 0, Roxby 0 0-0 0. Totals — 18 9-14 45
SCORE BY QUARTERS
Tussey Mountain 9 9 4 13 — 35
Windber 5 17 12 11 — 45
3-point goals: Tussey Mountain 1 (Molosky); Windber: none.
Records: Tussey Mountain (16-9); Windber (20-5).
Officials: Sarah Fye, Darius Deshong, Ted Oppegard