HIGH SCHOOL GIRLS' BASKETBALL: Stingers get defensive, upset Westmont
EBENSBURG — Jan Brocious wants her Marion Center Stingers to be the best defensive team in the district, and on Friday night, they played that part well.
The Stingers allowed just one field goal through the first 12 minutes of the game and held on in the second half for a 44-37 upset of No. 2 Westmont Hilltop in the District 6 Class AA girls’ basketball quarterfinals at Central Cambria High School.
Marion Center kept the Hilltoppers off-balance for most of the night and never lost the lead.
“Those girls have huge smiles on their faces tonight,” Brocious said. “We honestly want to be the best team on defense in District 6, and tonight, we came out and played the defense we know how to play. I told them they didn’t have to do anything more than just play to their ability because they are good players and we are a good team.”
Seventh-seeded Marion Center (20-4) raced to an 11-0 lead and shut out the Hilltoppers until the 2:46 mark in the first quarter.
“They started on that run before we even had an offensive set,” Westmont coach Jodi Hillegass said. “So that’s what started us out playing catch-up from the very beginning.”
The Stingers move on to the semifinals, where they will clash with third-seeded Juniata (20-2) at a site and time to be determined.
Juniata beat Tyrone, 44-36, on Friday.
“We’re just excited to keep playing,” said Chantel Glasser, who led Marion Center with 17 points.
“We know we aren’t ready to be done. We knew we could win this game. This was one of the goals we’ve been working toward all year, and we proved a lot tonight.”
The Stingers lost to the Hilltoppers in their second game of the season, 48-38, at the Marion Center tip-off tournament Dec. 7.
“We knew quite a bit about them,” Glasser said. “We played them in our tournament, we watched some film, and we executed our game plan well. It worked out for us.”
“They come to our tournament, and the last couple years, we let them get up on us in the first quarter,” Brocious said.
“We didn’t do a good job when we played them the first time. We fought back and lost by 10 points. We preached to the girls that if they really came ready to play, we could beat them. They believed that tonight.”
It didn’t take much convincing, and after jumping out to a 17-6 lead in the first quarter, Marion Center’s jitters disappeared.
“They’re a disciplined team,” Hillegass said of the Stingers. “They have their four senior starters, so we knew they weren’t going to want to come out and lose. They were playing with urgency and desire, and that was hard for us to match.”
Marion Center scored just four points in the second quarter but still took a 21-13 lead into halftime.
“I knew they weren’t going to just roll over and die in the second half,” Brocious said. “They were going to keep coming at us until the very end. They’re a good team, well-coached and a scrappy team. It was a battle out there.”
Megan Zolnosky hit a 3-point field goal late in the third quarter to pull the Hilltoppers within four, 28-24. But Marion Center answered with an 11-2 run that seemingly put the game out of reach.
“We don’t want to walk out of here without our best effort,” Hillegass said. “From the get-go, we always had to come from behind. We were chasing the whole game, and we couldn’t get over that hump. But we didn’t give up. Nobody wins until the end, so you have to play all the way through until the end. We still could’ve won the second half.”
The Hilltoppers gave themselves another chance, but it was too little too late. Zolnosky drained a second 3-pointer with 1:03 left in the game to pull within four again, but that was as close as Westmont would get.
Kearsten Brocious added 11 points for the Stingers, and Karlie Snyder led the team with six rebounds.
“We got rattled a little bit, but we calmed down for a second and knew that we could keep playing the way we know how,” Glasser said. “We just kept it together and kept fighting.”
They’ll have to fight some more if they want to knock out a strong Juniata team in the semifinals. Last year, Marion Center topped Bishop McCort in the play-in game before falling to top-seeded Bald Eagle Area in overtime in the quarterfinals.
“There are some very good teams in District 6 this year,” Brocious said. “We told the girls that there are no more easy games. We have to come with our game on or we go home. They understand that, and they want to keep going. The experience we gained from last year will definitely help, and they want this.”