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Lady Mustangs romp in Art Burkett final

PORTAGE — The Portage girls basketball team beat Penn Cambria at its own game.

Last season, the Lady Panthers’ full-court press was evident all season as the team frustrated opponents and forced several takeaways on a nightly basis.

During the championship game of the 26th annual Art Burkett Memorial Tip-Off Tournament Saturday Night at Len Chappell Gymnasium, the Mustangs halted the Penn Cambria attack with a lethal press of its own en route to a 73-47 victory.

“Watching (Penn Cambria) yesterday, we knew they were going to bring lots of pressure,” said Portage senior Kara Dividock, who was named the tournament most valuable player following a 17-point performance in the championship game.

“My dad (assistant coach Kirk Dividock) said ‘If you can handle pressure, you’re going to win games.’ We handled it, and they couldn’t.”

It has been a storied rivalry between Penn Cambria and Portage.

This is the ninth time in the last 10 years and fourth-straight that these two teams met in the championship game.

All the talk before the game paid off from opening tipoff.

Both teams played hard and physical on the ball, and in the first quarter alone, 19 fouls were called.

Much of that was credit to the Portage press, which overwhelmed and frustrated the Panthers.

Portage was awarded one-and-one opportunities from the charity stripe just six minutes into the game.

“The speed that we play the game at is very difficult to keep up with,” Portage coach Lance Hudak said. “When you have that relentless pressure, it wears on you physically and mentally. (Penn Cambria made) dumb fouls, threw up ill-advised shots, turned the ball over. That’s what our game is. You could see it tonight.”

Penn Cambria still deployed a strong full-court press, but it just was not to the same degree as the Mustangs.

The Panthers were only able to muster 14 points in the first half following several turnovers in their own end.

“We all have a high intensity,” said Portage senior Abbi Riskus, who also chipped in 17 points and was named to the all-tournament team. “We’re all excited about the game, and we play with a lot of energy. That leads to high turnovers. We’re all up in their face. Our press got the job done.”

Portage was also driven to rid itself of the sour taste from last year.

The Panthers upset the Mustangs in the previous edition of the tournament title game with, coincidentally, a powerful press.

The Mustangs swore that this year, the tables would turn.

“We had that chip on our shoulder to come back and win it,” Riskus said.

Penn Cambria was able to respond in the second half.

Lora Davis paced the Panthers with 12 points in the second half as her team cut into the deficit, but it ultimately was too-little, too-late.

“(Portage) outplayed us,” Penn Cambria coach Keith Saleme said. “They were the better team tonight.”

Penn Cambria had a taste of its own medicine Saturday night as the team typically is on the receiving end of full-fledged attack.

Saleme said that while he was happy with how his team attacked the ball, he wasn’t expecting his team to react negatively to pressure, especially in the first half.

“It’s more discouraging,” he said of being unable to handle the Portage press. “We practice against our press every day in practice, so we should be able to handle it. I think a lot of its the atmosphere — it got to us and got us rattled. It took us until the second half to settle down.”

Though it was a tough loss for the defending District 6 Class AAA champions, there is still plenty of optimism as the Lady Panthers get the season kicked off.

“Obviously there’s some disappointment, but it’s early in the season,” Saleme said. “That was a playoff-like atmosphere, and it gives me what we need to work on to get through a tough Laurel Highlands schedule.”

CHAMPIONSHIP

PENN CAMBRIA (47): Davis 5 5-6 17, Grove 3 2-2 8, Shuagis 2 3-4 7, Hite 3 0-3 6, Lilly 2 0-0 4, Maccia 0 1-2 1, Crossman 1 0-0 2, Fitzsimmons 0 1-2 1, H. Saleme 0 1-2 1, Rabatin 0 0-2 0, M. Saleme 0 0-0 0, O’Donnell 0 0-0 0, Cornell 0 0-0 0. Totals 16 13-24 47

PORTAGE (73): Dividock 6 2-2 17, Riskus 3 10-13 17, Swank 4 1-1 9, Hudak 3 1-2 7, Sossong 1 3-4 6, Kissell 2 2-7 6, Sease 0 5-6 5, Bartoletti 1 2-2 4, Wozniak 1 0-4 2, Shaffer 0 0-0 0, Giordano 0 0-0 0. Totals 21 26-41 73.

SCORE BY QUARTERS

Penn Cambria 7 8 12 20 — 47

Portage 18 22 13 20 — 73

3-point goals: Penn Cambria 2 (Davis 2); Portage 5 (Dividock 3, Riskus, Sossong).

Records: Portage (2-0); Penn Cambria (1-1).

CONSOLATION

CLAYSBURG-KIMMEL (48): Garver 7 0-0 18, Hartman 4 2-4 12, Claar 2 3-6 8, Haney 4 0-1 8, Riniger 1 0-0 2, Carson 0 0-0 0. Totals 18 5-11 48.

RICHLAND (75): Kinsey 12 3-3 27, Burke 3 6-6 12, Roman 4 4-4 12, Marshall 3 1-2 7, Bowser 1 0-0 2, Chase 0 1-2 1, Weaver 0 0-0 0. Totals 28 19-22 75.

SCORE BY QUARTERS

Claysburg-Kimmel 10 11 15 12 — 48

Richland 18 20 20 17 — 75

3-point goals: Claysburg-Kimmel 7 (Garver 4, Hartman 2, Claar); Richland none.

Records: Richland (1-1); Claysburg-Kimmel (0-2).

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