Tussey plays smart down stretch in win
EBENSBURG — A quick glance at the final score in Tussey Mountain’s 56-38 triumph over Purchase Line in the first round of the PIAA Class 1A playoffs Saturday doesn’t really tell the tale of the contest.
The Lady Titans were up by just four points early in the fourth quarter, and three key players, Maddie Garner, Keirsten Park and Kailee Leonard, had four fouls. Because Tussey Mountain normally plays just six players in its rotation, losing any of the three could have been disastrous.
Rather than save them for the end of the game, Tussey Mountain coach Todd Gates let the girls play through their foul trouble. It paid off with a 6-0 run that extended the lead to 10.
“We were in trouble,” Gates said. “If we get a couple starters fouled out, we’re in trouble. They played smart when they had to. I rolled the dice, and they stayed in the game when they had to.”
None of the three players fouled out. In fact, it was actually Purchase Line that lost a pair of players, Addaleia Beer and Madison Scalese, to five fouls late in the quarter as the Lady Titans pulled away.
Tussey Mountain made a remarkable 24-of-28 free throws, and Alexia Weimert led the way, going 10-of-11 and finishing with a game-high 20 points.
“Every practice we shoot a ton of foul shots,” Weimert said. “We really train for that, so when the games are close at the end, we can make our foul shots to win.”
The Lady Titans made just 14 field goals, including a pair of 3-pointers from Meghan Molosky, and struggled offensively when they couldn’t score in transition.
Purchase Line used its size to win the rebounding battle and got physical in the paint.
“We kept telling the girls, drive at them,” Purchase Line coach Kelley Goss said. “Make picks, and drive at them. We got them into foul trouble, but their good defensive players and ball pressure got the best of us.”
Weimert led the defensive charge for Tussey Mountain, picking off an inbounds pass three different times for layups that helped keep her team ahead.
“Getting this win is great,” Weimert said. “This is what we play for. The playoffs are the best part of the season.”
Molosky, who didn’t miss a free throw in six attempts, and Leonard each finished with 12 points.
“Megan and Alexia have been shooting like that all year,” Gates said. “If we have the lead in the fourth quarter, we’re probably not going to lose the game.”
Once Leonard’s jump shot put Tussey Mountain ahead 44-34 with five minutes to play, Gates had his Lady Titans hold the ball on offense.
“If we get into foul trouble, we’re going to slow it down and force you to put us on the line,” Gates said. “We’re not going back to play defense until we have to.”
Purchase Line, the District 6 runner-up, got 10 points each from Emileigh Syster and Beer.
“This is the first time we’ve made it to this game in 25 years,” Goss said. “It’s a great accomplishment. We had a lot of goals, but I didn’t think we were going to make it this far. I don’t think anyone did, so we exceeded everyone’s expectations, including our own. Now that we did it, I know we can get back here next year.”
Tussey Mountain will play WPIAL fourth-place finisher Vincentian, a 48-46 winner over Johnsonburg in overtime, on Wednesday.
“Every state playoff game is so difficult,” Gates said. “We’ll cherish every moment, and we’re really looking forward to the next round to see what happens, but it’s always good to win a state playoff game.”
TUSSEY MOUNTAIN (56): Weimert 4 10-11 20, Brumbaugh 3 3-4 9, Garner 0 1-2 1, Molosky 2 6-6 12, Park 0 2-2 2, Leonard 5 2-3 12, Taylor 0 0-0 0, Weaver 0 0-0 0, Wright 0 0-0 0. Totals — 14 24-28 56
PURCHASE LINE (38): Smith 2 0-3 4, Scalese 3 2-2 8, Syster 5 0-0 10, Beer 2 6-8 10, Balogh 0 0-0 0, Goss 1 2-5 4, Zurenko 0 2-2 2, Bingaman 0 0-0 0, Behrendt 0 0-0 0, Nichol 0 0-0 0, Misko 0 0-0 0, Ewing 0 0-0 0, Ward 0 0-0 0. Totals — 13 12-20 38
SCORE BY QUARTERS
Tussey Mountain 8 22 8 18 — 56
Purchase Line 8 16 8 6 — 38
3-point goals: Tussey Mountain 2 (Molosky 2)
Officials: Vicki Markiewicz, Tyler Fink, George Figura
Records: Tussey Mountain (18-9); Purchase Line (14-12)