Lady Blue Devils earn trip to Hershey
LORETTO — Alli Campbell cringed and shook her head.
The Bellwood-Antis star sophomore had just shot an air ball seconds into a possession with her team down by seven and Blairsville in complete control of the teams’ PIAA Class 2A semifinal game at Saint Francis University’s DeGol Arena Monday night.
The situation was eerily similar to the one the Lady Blue Devils found themselves in during their District 6 semifinal loss to the Lady Bobcats.
But this time, Campbell and her teammates simply would not be denied.
Playing with increased aggression rather than the tightness they displayed in the first meeting, the Lady Devils got within one going into the fourth quarter before completing the rally and avenging their previous loss, 41-36.
“This is what we’ve worked for every day in practice,” Campbell said. “We play every day for this. We’re so excited about what’s in front of us.”
That next step is a big one, one B-A didn’t get to take last year after losing in the PIAA semifinals. The Bellwood-Antis girls will play in just their second state championship game and first since 1990. The Lady Blue Devils’ opponent will be Philadelphia’s West Catholic, which topped Penns Manor, 50-48, in overtime in the other semifinal.
The championship game will be at the Giant Center in Hershey on Thursday at noon.
“It feels great,” B-A guard Riley D’Angelo said. “It was revenge for the first game against Blairsville and for last year. It is the best feeling ever. We have been working toward this since I was in second grade. Even then, we talked about playing in the state championship game. I’m so happy we finally get to do it.”
D’Angelo is a major reason why B-A has a chance to win the program’s first state title.
She came up with an offensive rebound on Bellwood’s first possession of the fourth quarter and found Campbell, who drilled a 3-pointer. That shot gave the Lady Blue Devils their first lead of the second half and completed the comeback from seven points down in the third quarter.
Blairsville star senior Rena Enterline countered with a three-point play to put the Lady Bobcats back on top, but Blairsville never scored again.
On Bellwood’s next possession, D’Angelo drained the go-ahead 3-pointer with 5:37 to play.
“Oh,” said Campbell as she broke into a cheek-to-cheek smile. “That was the biggest shot of the game. That put us up, and I couldn’t have been happier. I was going crazy after that shot.”
Blairsville failed to score the next two times down the court, and the Lady Devils took over with 2:40 remaining. The Lady Bobcats committed a pair of fouls, but B-A still wasn’t in the bonus. With 1:08 to play, Haralson got tied up, and the jumpball gave possession to Blairsville.
Enterline took the ball deep into the paint but didn’t get a shot off before a turnover with 54.6 seconds left.
“We were going to go inside,” Blairsville coach Ralph McGinnis said. “There was a lot of contact down there, but it was like that the whole game, both ways. The bottom line is we made too many mistakes.”
Campbell, who scored a game-high 23 points, was fouled with 40.9 seconds left and made the first of two free throws. She missed the second, but Haralson came down with the offensive rebound.
“I had to make up for the turnover,” Haralson said. “I was going to give everything to get that rebound.”
The rebound led to a pair of D’Angelo free throws that made it a two-possession game. Blairsville failed to score in the final seconds, and Bellwood-Antis began a wild celebration.
“I had been waiting for an opening all game,” D’Angelo said. “It just so happened that it finally came in the last quarter. Coach was telling me to shoot all game, and I’m just so happy it went in and we won the game.”
D’Angelo wasn’t the only B-A player that played the role of hero. Haralson scored just four points in the first matchup but finished with 13 points and 10 rebounds on Monday. Along with Campbell, she was the only Lady Blue Devil that scored in the first half.
“We had (Haralson) completely out of the game last time,” McGinnis said. “She really wasn’t even a factor. This time she was, especially early on. Then at the end, she got some big rebounds. The size hurt us.”
Haralson, just a sophomore, is in her first year at Bellwood-Antis and was not on the team during last year’s run to the state semifinals.
“We wanted her to be more aggressive,” Bellwood-Antis coach Jim Swaney said. “I kept telling her all day in practice yesterday that Blairsville had no idea how good she was. Sakeria is a kid whose better days are ahead of her. She’s a heck of a talent, and as her offensive game grows, she’s only going to get that much better. She battled her heart out.”
Enterline led Blairsville with 20 points.
“We knew we couldn’t give up,” Campbell said. “We knew if we kept our minds in it and kept playing hard, it would work out for us.”
BELLWOOD-ANTIS (41): D’Angelo 1 2-2 5, Leidig 0 0-0 0, Campbell 8 5-6 23, Haralson 6 1-1 13, Hollen 0 0-0 0, Shuke 0 0-0 0. Totals — 15 8-9 41.
BLAIRSVILLE (36): Martin 1 0-0 3, McCulley 4 0-0 9, Potter 0 1-2 1, Rissinger 0 3-4 3, Enterline 7 6-6 20. Totals — 12 10-12 36.
SCORE BY QUARTERS
Bellwood-Antis 14 5 13 9 — 41
Blairsville 10 11 12 3 — 36
3-point goals: Bellwood-Antis 3 (Campbell 2, D’Angelo); Blairsville 1 (Martin).
Records: Bellwood-Antis (27-3); Blairsville (26-4).
Officials: Tracy Cornelius, Clark Adelman, Joseph Hanna.