HIGH SCHOOL GIRLS' BASKETBALL PLAYOFFS: Saltsburg drops heartbreaker in final seconds
HOLLIDAYSBURG — Saltsburg put together a rally Monday night that brought coach Janelle Reed to tears.
But while she was choked up with tears of joy following the game, her players were dealing with disappointment after falling short in a 49-48 loss to Williamsburg in the first round of the District 6 Class A girls’ basketball playoffs at Hollidaysburg Area High School.
“I have never been so proud of those girls as I was in the fourth quarter,” Reed said. “They never gave up.”
Down by as many as 14 in the first half, the 10th-seeded Trojans fought back and tied it at 47 on Abbie Okopal’s layup with 43.9 seconds left in the game. Reed called a timeout to stop the clock, but the No. 7 Pirates made their way down the floor and scored with 3.2 seconds remaining. After another timeout, Saltsburg opted for a court-long pass to Olivia Satler, who grabbed the ball and was fouled. Because of the double bonus, she went to the line for two free throws with a chance to tie the game.
That’s not how it went, though, and the sophomore missed her first foul shot before making the second one.
“You could just tell they didn’t want to lose,” Reed said. “They played with so much heart. ... It breaks my heart that they lost because they were amazing tonight.”
“We all just played as hard as we could out there,” senior Rachel Tandaric said. “We came back and tied it at the end, but we still lost.”
Okopal, who led the Trojans with 11 points, scored a layup to start the game and give Saltsburg its only lead of the night at 2-0. Williamsburg held a 25-17 advantage at halftime, but the Trojans’ press defense kept them in the game in the second half.
“I was actually hoping they were going to press us,” Williamsburg coach Jeremy Ebersole said. “We’ve been pressed all year by some pretty good teams, so we thought we could handle it. I don’t know what happened here tonight, but that’s something we’ll have to work on. We had too many turnovers.”
Without starting forward Abby Peace, who was out with a knee injury, Saltsburg was at an extreme height disadvantage against the Pirates. Williamsburg’s two starting forwards, Randilyn Peck and Madison Detwiler, combined for 43 of the Pirates’ 49 points. Peck finished with a game-high 24 points, and Detwiler added 19.
“I had an idea it was going to be like that,” Reed said of Williamsburg’s dominating play inside, “but I thought we could run on them. We did a little bit, and really, if we would’ve made our layups in the first half, we would’ve been all right. I kept telling the girls to drive on them because they’re going to call those fouls. They started in the end, and that’s what helped us get back in the game.”
The Trojans went on a 13-4 run in the fourth quarter leading up to the game-tying shot in the final minute, and their transition game seemed to have the Pirates frazzled. But the momentum shifted back to Williamsburg (10-12) when Peck calmly made the eventual game-winner in the final seconds.
Saltsburg finished its season with an 8-13 record after reaching the playoffs for the first time since 2010.
“A lot of it was nerves,” Reed said of the Trojans’ slow start. “These girls haven’t been in the playoffs. It’s just a heartbreaker to lose like this. For me in my first year, I couldn’t have asked for a better team. I’m so proud of them tonight. They may have lost, but they played amazing.”