B-A girls defeated in closing seconds
(Updated 10:55 a.m. Saturday)
By Michael Boytim
LORETTO — Frustration was a word nearly everyone from Bellwood-Antis kept repeating Friday night, and it was also the perfect word to describe almost everyone associated with the Lady Blue Devils.
B-A gave top-seeded Bishop McCort everything it had during the District 6 Class 2A girls championship game at DeGol Arena but came up two points short, 60-58, when Haley Thomas made a pair of free throws with 3.6 seconds left.
Thomas blocked Karson Swogger’s shot from behind with some contact in the final seconds, rebounded the ball and took it the length of the court to the basket. The ball was knocked out of bounds, and the official with the play directly in front of him signaled that the ball was out of bounds off Bellwood. It appeared as though the Lady Crushers would have the ball with the game tied at 58 and 3.6 seconds left, but referee Andy Brown signaled something different.
Brown called a foul, sending Thomas to the line.
“It’s very frustrating,” Bellwood-Antis coach Jim Swaney said. “I think two of the three officials just didn’t raise to the level of play that was happening. I’m not one to blame anyone on that, because we could have made more shots. We could have done some other things.
“But there were numerous occasions where (the officials) just didn’t have eye contact with each other. That’s frustrating that a game could be decided that way.”
The crew of officials — Brown, Greg Sipos and Dick Smith — do not work together often.
“I kind of got a block from behind,” Thomas said. “I try to do that every time I get beat. I got the ball with about 10 seconds left, and I knew I had to go. I ran down the court as fast as I could and tried to get a shot off. They called a foul.
“The foul shots were crazy. The crowd was so loud, but I just said in my head, ‘God, please help me make these foul shots,’ and it calmed me down and helped me through it.”
Thomas’ foul shots gave her 29 points, tops in the game — barely. It soured an impressive performance by Bellwood-Antis freshman Alli Campbell, who scored 28 points, including a nearly half-court 3-pointer to end the third quarter.
“It’s a very tough loss,” Campbell said. “No one is going to take this lightly. It was a good game, but I don’t agree with the call at the end.”
Thomas had given Bishop McCort the lead on two free throws with 2:06 to play, but Swogger answered with a jumper with 1:59 to go. Neither team scored again until Thomas’ final free throws.
Bellwood-Antis controlled the ball for most of the final minute, and Swogger drove to the basket after dribbling through a lot of pressure with about 15 seconds left.
“I don’t even know what to say,” Swogger said. “The clock was running out. We had to score. I don’t know. I don’t know.”
Despite the call and free throws, the Lady Devils still had a decent shot to win the game. Riley D’Angelo inbounded the ball past halfcourt to Swogger who dribbled around a defender and got an open look at a 3-pointer at the buzzer.
“We wanted to run Karson and Alli long,” Swaney said. “We wanted to get the ball in one of their hands. We thought we could take two dribbles, and both are very good 3-point shooters. Karson got one up and had a great look. It was right on, just a little short. She’s made a lot of those too.”
Swogger’s shot had everyone in the gym on edge.
“Machala (Gibbons) and I were saying how everything kind of stopped,” Thomas said. “She’s such a good 3-point shooter, and we were ready for her to make it. We knew she was capable of doing it.”
Bishop McCort coach John Hahn said he relaxed once Thomas came down with the ball late.
“The end of the game, when I saw the ball in Haley’s hands, I knew she was going to the hoop,” Hahn said. “I knew she was either going to make it or she was going to be fouled. That’s the way the season has been. When we need a clutch basket, Haley comes through.”
Bellwood-Antis and Bishop McCort will both be taking part in next weekend’s first round of PIAA playoffs. The Lady Crushers will play the seventh-place team from District 7, and the Lady Devils will play District 5 runner-up Northern Bedford. Both games will be March 10.
“We’re going to take the weekend off, and hopefully Monday we can reset,” Swaney said. “We have to get our minds straight, even though we’ll be thinking about this for a little bit, probably. We like our matchups in the first round. We’ll get ready for what’s after that, and we think we have as good of a chance as anybody.”
Swaney’s team certainly had plenty of chances to win Friday.
Bellwood-Antis led for the majority of the game and took a four-point lead going into the fourth quarter on Campbell’s heave. A pair of Aunna Yingling layups tied it for McCort, and the game went back and forth from there. The Lady Crushers never led by more than four, and Bellwood’s largest lead was six.
“District 6 2A is really tough,” Swogger said. “It would have been big if we would have won, but we’ve still got states. We have to come back Monday, work hard and play to win states.”
Swogger and Campbell combined to score 47 of Bellwood’s 58 points.
“We watched a lot of film on Bellwood-Antis,” Hahn said. “We played them in the first game of the year (a 62-55 McCort win), and they’ve gotten so much better. We wanted to shut down Campbell and figured Karson would get her points, but Campbell just lit us up in that first half.”
The championship was Bishop McCort’s third straight district title. The Lady Crushers also beat Bellwood-Antis, 59-54, in overtime in 2015.
“I thought it was our night when we came here,” Swaney said. “I still do. I thought it was our night coming in. I like this team.”
BELLWOOD-ANTIS (58): Swogger 7 3-3 19, D’Angelo 0 0-0 0, Campbell 9 6-8 28, Carles 2 0-0 4, Damiano 1 0-0 2, E. Leidig 1 0-0 2, A. Leidig 0 0-0 0, Hollen 1 0-0 3. Totals — 21 9-11 58.
BISHOP McCORT (60): Thomas 9 10-10 29, Gibbons 1 0-0 2, Yingling 3 0-0 6, Widmar 1 0-0 2, Wilson 3 1-2 7, Hunt 3 1-2 7, Martin 3 0-0 7. Totals — 23 12-14 60.
SCORE BY QUARTERS
Bellwood-Antis 16 24 10 8 — 58
Bishop McCort 14 22 10 14 — 60
3-point goals: Bellwood-Antis 7 (Campbell 4, Swogger 2, Hollen); Bishop McCort 2 (Thomas, Martin).
Records: Bellwood-Antis (22-4); Bishop McCort (21-4).
Officials: Greg Sipos, Andy Brown, Dick Smith.