Six teams from the area advanced to the Round of 16, the sweet 16 if you will, in the PIAA basketball playoffs.
The first round featured some dramatic moments for many teams over the weekend, but especially for the Shade boys and the Conemaugh Valley girls.
When it looked as though the Panthers were on the ropes Friday night, they pulled together as a unit to defeat Elk County Catholic 48-44 and earn a Class A second-round berth against Lincoln Park Charter.
But the Blue Jays’ 46-37 win Saturday over District 4 champion Lourdes Regional was probably considered the biggest stunner, especially to the Red Raiders, who were anticipating a rematch with unbeaten Tri-Valley, the team CV will face on Wednesday.
Conemaugh Valley also came together as a team, with each player stepping in to fill a designated role against Lourdes.
The Blue Jays lost leading scorer Jen Percinsky a few weeks ago and instead of packing it in, Conemaugh Valley has adapted.
The Johnstown squad, which had a three-hour journey to take on the Raiders, only shot 24 percent from the floor, but outrebounded Lourdes handily, held its ground on defense and eventually wore the District 4 team down.
For the Jays, 5-foot-9 Courtney McCallay and 5-7 Emily McCray each had 11 rebounds, and all eight players had at least three rebounds. Overall, they had a 46-33 advantage on the boards, and all the second and third opportunities kept Lourdes at bay, especially in the fourth quarter, when Conemaugh Valley outscored Lourdes, 16-5.
“That's not really our game, but it’s kind of become our game since our leading scorer got hurt a couple of weeks ago,” Conemaugh Valley coach Teri Cruse told reporters after the game. “All of our girls who were shooting are streaky, and I thought Courtney McCallay and Emily McCray had great games.”
Lourdes head coach Mike Klembara said Conemaugh Valley had a great game plan.
“It’s nothing we don’t see in our league,” Klembara said.
“Probably half of the teams in our league shoot a lot of 3s and try to beat us on the boards. We just didn’t play defense like we were supposed to today. They controlled the boards offensively and defensively. And there’s no excuse for shooting foul shots like we did at this point of the season.”
Lourdes, which has won four straight district titles, made only 5 of 18 foul shots. Christina Perles, who scored 12 points and pulled down
11 rebounds, was 4-for-5 while the rest of the team was just
1 for 13.
“They beat us in the very fundamental things - rebounding, defense and foul shooting,” said Klembara, who said he didn’t think his players had a next round rematch with Tri-Valley on their minds. “I think we were focused. It was frustrating for us to play like we did after we played like we did a week ago against what I consider to be a good Line Mountain team (in the district final).”
Cory Isenberg is a sports writer for The Tribune-Democrat.