Claiming their third District 5 crown in four years, the Southern Fulton Indians used 23 points from Macey Hollenshead, a decisive size advantage and experience to take down Shade 75-51 in Wednesday’s District 5 Class A girls championship at Pitt-Johnstown’s Sports Center.
Southern Fulton only trailed 1-0 and 3-2 after both teams sloshed through sloppy play early in the first quarter. Once the Indians (23-3) righted the ship, it was only a matter of time before Southern Fulton could assert its will over Shade.
“That was a big key for us, we knew we had that (size) advantage,” Indians coach Terry Bard said. “The first quarter, we were a little bit sloppy. Just nerves I think. We were able to settle down in the second quarter and we made a change in defense and that kind of slowed down Emma (Spinelli) ... Those two things really helped us moving forward.”
While disappointed in defeat, the Panthers’ night wasn’t completely washed out. Sophomore Emma Spinelli scored a game-high 24 points and eclipsed 1,000 for her career early in the second quarter as she swerved around the Indians’ Maddie Mellott and scooped in an underhanded shot.
“I’m really glad, because maybe the next milestone - 2,000 - will be late in her senior year,” Shade coach Andy Muha said. “It wasn’t really a distraction this year ... She’s a treat. She makes the other girls great and she is one of the reasons why we were here (Wednesday).”
For Spinelli, her milestone wasn’t a solo effort.
“It was a great accomplishment for me, especially doing it my sophomore year,” Spinelli said. “I’d like to thank my coaches and all of my teammates. Without them, I couldn’t have done it.”
After Brittany Berkey staked Shade to its only two leads of the game, a lay-up from Ashley Roman put Southern Fulton ahead to stay. Hollenshead added a runner in the key before Celina Merchant knocked home a 3-pointer. A 15-foot jumper from Roman late in the frame ended the first with the Indians ahead 19-12.
After Spinelli’s highlight bucket cut Southern Fulton’s lead to 23-17, the Indians steadily built on their advantage, going 13 of 14 from the free-throw line with Hollenshead hitting all eight her attempts during the quarter.
“We thought maybe the (longer) floor would help us run a bit,” Muha said. “It didn’t happen. (Southern Fulton) did some things that we didn’t really see on tapes. The tapes we saw, the teams they played were a little bigger.”
The Panthers (21-5) never got closer than 15 points the rest of the way.
Spinelli was accompanied by Lexie Rapsky and Berkey in double-digit scoring with each scoring 10 points.
Allison Spade’s 15 points off the bench aided Southern Fulton, which received another 15 points from Roman and 11 more from Olivia Mottern. The Indians outrebounded Shade 36-24 with Roman grabbing 11 boards and Hollenshead snagging eight.
Shawn Curtis is the sports editor of The Tribune-Democrat. Follow him on Twitter at twitter.com/shawncurtis430.