Lady Panthers cruise to first-ever PIAA win

EBENSBURG — The Penn Cambria girls basketball team just continues to make history this year.

After clinching its first District 6 title in 26 years last week, this Panthers group has now become the first team in program history to advance to the PIAA Sweet 16.

Penn Cambria defeated District 7’s No. 5 seed Washington, 70-37, Friday night in the PIAA Class 3A first round at Central Cambria High School.

“That was history right there in the making. We never won a state game,” Penn Cambria coach Keith Saleme said. “It’s the first time in the program history that we ever won a state game. I’m happy for the program and the community, but it just shows how hard these girls work and how far they’ve come in such a short amount of time.”

Following a tight first quarter and a sloppy start to the second, the Panthers allowed Washington to hang in and keep the score tight, with a baseline jumper by Washington’s Carly Allen cutting the score to four.

With a 7-0 run, kick-started by a trey from Hannah Saleme, the Lady Panthers were able to quickly put Washington in the rearview mirror.

Three Panthers finished the game with double digits in points.

“I feel like at first we were a little shaky, but when one person hit a shot, we all started hitting them,” senior Emmy Harvey, who netted 10 points, said. “(Washington) wasn’t able to play just one person, so we all fired each other up and kept going from there.”

The offense was certainly moving well, highlighted by 18 points from Ryanna Hockenos.

While the pace on offense certainly kept Penn Cambria uplifted, the majority of momentum originated from the overwhelming press Penn Cambria has showcased all season long.

“We were watching film and didn’t really know what to expect, but from what we saw, we knew that we had to play hard on our pressure,” Hockenos said. “Our press worked really well. We tried to bring out our 1-3-1 tonight, and that worked really well, especially when we extended it.”

Creating numerous turnovers and transitioning the ball from defense to offense, Penn Cambria frustrated the Prexies (19-6) all night, which only fueled the Panthers more.

“When we frazzle a team, we are more into it because we can sense their frustration,” Harvey said. “Our press definitely helped with that, because they are used to dribbling through them and we were ready for it.”

The Prexies showed their frustration after the game, and were involved in an altercation with the Penn Cambria student section.

Several Washington players argued with the Panthers faithful, and a few players sprayed water into the crowd before being escorted to the locker room.

Washington coach Ron Moore was unavailable for comment.

Penn Cambria senior Makalyn Clapper said the difference in the game was that one team was more mentally-tough than the other.

“I feel that one of our best qualities is just to stay positive,” Clapper, who picked up 12 points, said “I feel like that’s what happened against Central Cambria (in the Laurel Highlands Atheltic Conference semifinals). We were down on oursleves, but were able to come back. Our seniors always pick each other up, and I feel like that’s what is so special about this team.”

Penn Cambria will move on to face Delone Catholic — the No. 2 seed from District 3 — and continue to add to the school’s history books.

“It’s super special that we are the team that’s come together and is achieving our goals,” Hockenos said. “We’re the first in Penn Cambria history to ever do this. We all feel pretty amazing about this.”

PENN CAMBRIA (70): Hockenos 7 4-4 18, Clapper 3 5-5 12, Harvey 4 3-7 10, H. Saleme 2 2-3 8, McCarthy 0 4-4 4, L. Guzic 1 5-5 7, Grove 2 0-3 4, Shuagis 0 2-4 2, Kunsman 0 1-2 1, M. Saleme 0 0-0 0, Maccia 0 0-0 0, Rabatin 0 0-0 0, Fitzsimmons 0 0-0 0, O’Donnell 0 0-0 0, C. Guzic 0 0-0 0, Cornell 0 0-0 0, Clossin 0 0-0 0. Totals — 19 26-37 70.

WASHINGTON (37): Allen 6 1-5 13, Oakley 2 1-2 5, Maurer 0 1-2 5, Finley 2 1-1 5, Thomas 0 2-2 2, Russell 1 0-0 2, Woods 1 0-0 2, Sa. Johnson 1 0-0 2, Sh. Johnson 0 1-2 1, Lewis 0 0-0 0. Totals — 13 7-14 37.

SCORE BY QUARTERS

Penn Cambria 14 18 16 22 — 70

Washington 9 10 9 9 — 37

3-point goals: Penn Cambria 5 (Harvey 2, Saleme 2, Clapper); Washington: None.

Records: Penn Cambria (21-6), Washington (19-6).

Officials: Clark Adelman, Sue Koversky, Tim Hite.

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