HOMER CITY — Frank Nagy told his team to expect a game of runs, specifically 6-0 runs. And coincidentally, it was a 6-0 run in overtime that propelled the West Shamokin girls’ basketball team to victory in a clash of previously undefeated teams Monday.
After wasting a double-digit lead in the second half and needing to rally in the final minutes of regulation to force overtime, West Shamokin got a pair of timely 3s in the extra period from Sophie Fusaro and Lydia McIlwain and escaped the HomerDome with a 54-50 win over Homer-Center in a Heritage Conference girls’ basketball game.
“It’s funny how the game went because before the game, I told them that we’re going to go on a 6-0 run and then they’re going to go on a 6-0 run,” the West Shamokin coach said. “And our job is to push those runs to 10-0 and stop theirs at 6-0, and it’s funny because that’s pretty much how it turned out. They made one, we made one, and it went back and forth.”
Despite being held scoreless in the third quarter, Fusaro finished with a game-high 20 points, including 10 in the fourth quarter and overtime, to pace West Shamokin. She added six rebounds, three assists and three steals.”She was held scoreless in the third, which we were OK with,” Nagy said. “They were playing a box-and-one against her. But we feel confident that we have multiple scorers on the team. ... I guess Sophie in the fourth quarter, she didn’t accept being in the box-and-one anymore. She got more aggressive, and she was starting to make the most of her opportunities.”
Abby Oesterling added 12 points, nine rebounds and six assists. McIlwain finished with nine points, five boards and three assists, while Melissa Spohn added six points and a game-high 14 rebounds for the Wolves.
After holding a 12-point lead in the third quarter, West Shamokin found itself trailing 43-42 with about two minutes remaining in regulation. Unfazed by the moment, the Wolves tied the game at 45 and forced overtime. Fusaro and McIlwain’s 3s to begin overtime gave the visitors a 51-45 lead, and they never looked back.
West Shamokin’s veteran leadership proved to be pivotal down the stretch of a tight game, in Nagy’s estimation.
“I’m proud of our leadership,” he said, referring to the senior trio of Fusaro, Oesterling and McIlwain. “They’ve been through every game situation you can imagine. ... We really leaned on those three when things got tough at the end of regulation and in overtime. It’s big having those veterans on the court to show the younger players how to be there for each other. Without that veteran leadership, I don’t think we win that game.”
Homer-Center got off to a fast start out of the gate, taking a 9-3 lead early in the opening quarter. West Shamokin dominated the rest of the first half though, outscoring the Wildcats 23-10 to build a 26-19 halftime lead.
The Wolves continued to extend their advantage in the third quarter, taking a 12-point lead at one point. That’s when Homer-Center clamped down on defense and made its run to get back in the game. The Wildcats limited West Shamokin to eight fourth-quarter points, leading to a 45-45 tie at the end of regulation.
“You play good teams, you should make yourself better,” Homer-Center coach Tom Lasher said. “We played a good team tonight, we’ll play them again and get another shot at them. There are a lot of teams out there, talent-wise and record-wise, and I think there’s going to be a number of teams fighting for the
See WOLVES: B-3
WOLVES: From B-2
top spots (in the conference).
“We got better. But we played poorly in the first half. We came back and played much better in the second half, but we can’t get ourselves in holes like that all the time. We’ll hopefully learn from this one and continue to get better.”
Marlee Kochman scored a team-high 18 points to power Homer-Center, and Macy Sardone added 14 points. Kochman and Sardone combined for 21 of Homer-Center’s 31 second-half points to bring the Wildcats back from a 12-point deficit in the third quarter.
Meanwhile, Molly Kosmack was limited to one field goal and just six points.
“She was the main focus of our defensive game plan,” Nagy said. “With a good team like Homer-Center, we know you can’t stop everybody. We know that with the three M’s — Marlee, Macy Sardone and Molly — it’s pick your poison with them. ... Our poison was going to be with their guards. We didn’t wan to let Kosmack beat us. She absolutely dominated us last year, and it was really our mission to not let her.”
Just a freshman, West Shamokin’s Lily Jordan was tasked with defending Kosmack, and she showed she was worthy of a roster spot on the varsity team.
“Lily Jordan, she’s a varsity basketball player,” Nagy said. “She defended as good on Kosmack as we’ve defended post players. She used her speed to get on top and make it difficult. And when they did go to (Kosmack), they had to lob it. ... I didn’t even realize we held her to six (points) until the game was over. I thought we did a good job defending her, but I didn’t know it was that good. We had to live with guards making shots.”
At 5-0, West Shamokin is the last undefeated team left standing in the Heritage Conference, but Nagy isn’t putting too much stock into that just yet.
“In terms of the win tonight, at Homer-Center, that’s a huge win for us,” Nagy said. “They’ve already beaten Penns Manor. They’ve already beaten United, so theoretically they have those top teams out of the way. For us to get this win, it’s a monster one, but having coached a while, we understand and the players understand you can negate a win like this pretty fast with a loss. We’re not going to get too excited being on top of the conference tonight. Tomorrow, your focus has to turn to Penns Manor. Yes, it’s nice to be on top, but we know Penns Manor is coming to our place Wednesday for a dog fight and we’d better be ready.”
At the same time, Homer-Center came out of its four-game gauntlet to start the season with a 3-1 mark. Not bad considering the Wildcats in that stretch faced the other three teams who joined them in the Heritage Conference semifinals a year ago.
“We can still build on this,” Lasher said. “One game doesn’t make or break a season, most of the time. We’re still a good team, and we’ll continue to improve. It’s going to be a fun season.”
Both teams play Wednesday at home. West Shamokin (5-0, 3-0 conference) welcomes Penns Manor in another key conference matchup, and Homer-Center (3-1) plays host to Brookville in a non-conference game.