Injuries, Obama catch up to Portage

PITTSBURGH — Injury-riddled Portage stayed with Obama Academy for three quarters on Thursday night in spite of playing without three seniors due to injuries.

The Mustangs went into a shooting slump late in the game however, and fell 45-38 as the Eagles pulled away midway through the fourth quarter in the District 6-8-9 Class 5A semifinal at Obama Academy in Pittsburgh.

“We’re a different team than we were a month ago after losing three seniors, which were a big part of our team. They averaged nearly 25 points a game,” Portage coach Lance Hudak said. “I’m proud of our kids to almost pull this off. We played with a lot of heart and that gave us a chance, but we couldn’t buy a bucket in the fourth quarter.”

Seniors Lauren Hudak, Kaelynn Wozniak, and Taylor Glass, a 1,000-point scorer were all injured in the last month. Other players were forced into bigger roles including junior Kara Dividock, who led the Mustangs with 15 points on five 3-pointers.

“Kara is a very talented player. Her range is ridiculous for a high school player,” Hudak said. “She’s been asked to score a lot more for us the last few weeks and she has.”

The third-seeded Mustangs (15-8) roared out the locker room as their hounding defense forced three early turnovers which fueled a 7-0 lead. Dividock hit a 3-pointer to crack the scoreboard, Abbi Riskus added a jumper, and Emma Kissell hit two free throws during the Mustangs early outburst. Riskus also scored in double figures with ten.

The second-seeded Eagles (16-7) finally scored midway through the first on a Talia Mitchell 3-pointer before both teams battled back and forth throughout the rest of the first quarter.

Obama took a 9-8 lead on a Machia Hairston 3-pointer late in the first quarter but Kissell hit two more free throws to give Portage a 10-9 lead after one.

Both teams were cold for the floor to start the second quarter but the Eagles then turned up some defensive heat of their own midway through the second and tore off an 8-1 run. Riskus hit a 3-pointer and added a free throw and Hanna Papcun added a layup but that was all the scoring the Mustangs could muster in the second quarter.

Samaree Perkins hit three layups in the second which helped the Eagles take a 22-16 lead at the break, but the Mustangs roared out of the locker room on both sides of the ball and outscored Obama 13-6 in the third quarter. Perkins led the Eagles with 13 points overall.

“We were there at halftime. I told our kids to cherish this opportunity and just play one quarter at a time” Hudak said. “Our press started working better (in the third quarter). We had to grind and play defense. We got steals and we made shots.”

Dividock hit a deep 3-pointer on the first possession of the third quarter but the Mustangs went on a drought for the next four minutes as the Eagles went on a 5-0 run to take a 27-19 lead. Dividock hit another 3 midway through the third to spark a Portage comeback and Riskus hit a layup to give the Mustangs a 29-27 lead. They led 29-28 after three.

The game was tied 29-29 through the first two minutes of the fourth quarter as neither team could score, but the Eagles found their rhythm and tore off a 7-0 run to take a 35-29 lead. Portage did not score in the fourth until Lauren Shaffer hit a free throw with 2:52 left in the game.

The Mustangs went on a 10-2 run before the Eagles scored their first field goal of the fourth, a Dividock 3-pointer, but it was too little too late. Portage was down by five with 30 seconds left but would get no closer.

Hudak thanked his seniors after the game for their hard work over the years. He is already looking forward to making another playoff run next season.

“I love our seniors. They grew up in this program. We have a lot of talent coming back. We know what we have to get better at and it starts now,” Hudak said. “You get better from March to November. If our girls commit to that, we’ll be a pretty darn good team.”

Obama Academy will face the winner of Friday night’s matchup between top-seeded Hollidaysburg and fourth-seeded DuBois. The championship game is Monday night.

“Our kids represented Portage tonight like the people we are, hard-working and proud,” Hudak said. We got that effort tonight.”

PORTAGE (38) Papcun 1 1-2 3, Dividock 5 0-0 15, Riskus 3 3-5 10, Kissell 0 6-6 6, Shaffer 0-2-4 2, Sossong 0 2-4 2. Totals: 9 14-22 38.

OBAMA (45) Mitchell 4 2-4 11, Hairston 3 0-2 7, Javonna Perkins 2 1-3 5, Samaree Perkins 6 1-4, 13, Creighton 2 3-8 7, Levitt 0-1. Totals: 13 7-22 45.

SCORE BY QUARTERS

Portage 10 6 13 9 — 38

Obama 9 13 6 17 — 45

3-point goals: Portage (Dividock 5, Riskus); Obama (Mitchell, Hairston)

Records: Portage (15-8); Obama (16-7)

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