By RICK WEAVER
Turnovers and cold shooting hampered Westmont Hilltop in a 47-37 loss to Blairsville in a non-conference girls’ basketball game on Wednesday night at the Blairsville Middle School gymnasium.
The Hilltoppers (8-2) committed 29 turnovers and managed to hit 33 percent (13 of 39) from the floor. Junior guard Megan Zolnosky led Westmont Hilltop with 13 points. Classmate Bridget Sheehan added 11 points.
“They hit their shots, and we turned the ball over,” Hilltoppers coach Jodi Hillegass said. “It came down to a couple of turnovers that are very uncharacteristic (of our play). We cleaned that a little bit more in the second half, but credit their defense. (Otherwise), I’m en-couraged.”
The first meeting between the schools since the 2012 District 6 playoffs carried the added prospect of Blairsville junior Chelsey Koren reaching the 1,000-points mark for her career. Needing 19 to reach the milestone, Koren wound up with 16. Not that she or anyone else from Blairsville minded.
“One thing about Chelsey is she put (the) game first,” second-year Blairsville coach Ralph McGinnis said. “She talked about it even beforehand; she said, ‘If it happens, it happens.’ “
Hillegass made clear the goal was not to prevent any impromptu on-court celebrations.
“She’s a great player,” she said. “(But) it is always nice to get that 1,000th at home.”
Nicole Boyer contributed 11 points, and Laurel O’Barto added 10 points for Blairsville, which has won seven successive games.
While the Hilltoppers prevented Koren from reaching the milestone, the Bobcats (8-1) held Alyssa Miller well in check. The senior, who entered the week averaging 14.1 points per game, scored only five points. She was 1 for 6 from the floor.
Westmont Hilltop led by as many as six points early in the second period. A 7-0 rally gave Blairsville its first lead, 16-15, with 5:39 to play. Boyer’s three-point play at the 4:54 mark put the Bobcats ahead to stay.
By that time, the Hilltoppers struggled to keep their game together.
“They were looking out of sorts, especially in the first half, because they were throwing every junk defense out there,” McGinnis said. “They were double[-teaming] Laurel, they were doubling Chelsey Koren. And that’s why we were running our sets against them. We prepared for all that junk.”
“We have to limit our turnovers,” Hillegass said. “[And] we have to run a better half-court offense.”
McGinnis viewed the victory as a quality win against a quality foe.
“This is why we did this in our schedule,” said McGinnis, who came to Blairsville after a three-year stint at Richland. “We’ve played Bellwood, Hollidaysburg, Delone Catholic, Bishop Guilfoyle and now Westmont. These are wins we have to have. They just make you better. Even sometimes a loss is better than beating some of the teams that are not as strong.”
“It was a tight game. I’m very proud of the way the girls played,” Hillegass said. “I would rather play the Blairsvilles, the Bellwoods, and the top teams in the district. In order to be the best, you have to beat the best.”