Berlin Brothersvalley was highly motivated to play Portage on Saturday in their PIAA Class A girls’ first-round basketball matchup at Central Cambria High School.
The Mountaineers, who lost at Portage earlier in the season, held the Mustangs to a single basket in the first half on 1 of 21 shooting Saturday and went on to a 59-42 victory.
“They came out and embarrassed us in the first half of that game at their place,” said Berlin’s Shelby Coughenour, whose team lost to Portage 52-47 in February. “We didn’t play like we know how and that was kind of what our coaches were telling us all week. We just came out and played finally as a whole team and it was awesome.
“We just got on a roll and never got off of it; the momentum just stayed with us,” added Cougenour, whose team will move into the second round on Wednesday against Vincentian Academy at a site and time to be determined.
Coughenour finished with a team-high 18 points, but Berlin’s other three seniors also scored in double figures with Erica Craig scoring 14, Alyssa Fieg adding 13 and Gina Trulick chipping in 10.
“I think honestly we’ve been waiting and waiting for our kids to come through and each and every one of them worked hard this week in practice to make this happen,” Berlin coach Rachel Prosser said.
“What you saw tonight from our seniors is what they are capable of. They were patient, they were smart and they attacked when they could. They finished and made foul shots. I think a lot of shooting foul shots in mental and they were ready to shoot those foul shots here tonight.”
Coughenour finished with 10 rebounds while Schyler McClucas added nine.
“Schyler is one of those kids that goes unnoticed but she does the little things each and every game,” Prosser said.
The Mustangs (23-3) led just once on a pair of free throws by Olivia McCabe in the opening minutes of the game.
McCabe also had the lone field goal for Portage in the first quarter.
After a tie at 2 on two Craig free throws, Craig put up a 3-pointer which put Berlin (22-4) ahead and it never looked back, taking an 11-4 lead after the first and increasing it to a 25-7 advantage at the half.
The Mustangs were 3 of 4 from the line for their only points in the second quarter.
“I don’t think we turned over the ball much and we rebounded well in the first half,” Prosser said. “If we had given them more than one shot, it would have been a little bit difficult for us because they are an explosive team. They didn’t have a
3-pointer in the first half and that was another big thing because 3’s add up quick.”
Katie Nolan finally ended the Portage basket drought with a 3-pointer and the Mustangs battled back, outscoring the Mountaineers 22-19 to trail 42-29 heading into the fourth. McCabe scored eight of her game-high 20 points in the third.
She came into the game with 1,496 points for her career, finishing up with 1,516.
But Berlin put the game away in the fourth going of 8 of 12 from the line in the fourth and 21 of 26 for the game.
“Seven points in a half – that’s what we’re used to getting in 20 or 30 seconds at times,” Portage coach Lance Hudak said. “Today, I don’t know why, you can’t explain it in sports. You play through.
“We went in at halftime and told them shots were going to start falling; it’s the law of averages. We came out the second half and played our basketball.”
Nolan, Emily Chobany and Paisley Zatek each had seven points for the Mustangs, who also got 13 rebounds from McCabe.
“Portage is a great team and they have such a great group of seniors and it feels amazing to win over that quality of a team,” Coughenour said. “Our four seniors didn’t want our careers to be over.”
Cory Isenberg is a sports writer for The Tribune-Democrat. Follow her on Twitter at twitter.com/CoryIsenbergTD.