Alexis Meck isn’t the first name that comes to mind when the Shade girls’ basketball team is the topic.
On Saturday, her name was the last in the scorebook as the Panthers edged Bishop Carroll 56-54 in a PIAA Class A first-round game at Pitt-Johnstown’s Sports Center.
Meck’s go-ahead bucket gave the Panthers the lead, breaking a 54-all tie in a game that featured 11 lead changes and six ties.
A couple of bounces going the way of the Panthers certainly helped during the game’s tensest moments.
“One of the things I told my girls in the timeout, the same thing I told them at Berlin: ‘Two minutes is a long time to stall the ball,’ ” Shade coach Andy Muha said. “Carroll started panicking at the end, they didn’t take a good shot and we got lucky. We got a steal. The good lord’s been with us. It worked out for us.”
Meck took a transition feed from Brittany Berkey and banked in a short-range shot with about 50 seconds remaining then preserved the lead that her bucket created by blocking a shot attempt by Bishop Carroll’s Courtney Link with 20 seconds remaining.
“That last minute was insane,” Meck said. “Each and every girl, we play our hearts out every game. To come this far, I couldn’t ask for a better group of girls.”
A late steal at the 10-second line and some creative in-traffic dribbling by Emma Spinelli helped the Panthers (22-5) hold on and advance to the second round while keeping their coach in a blissful state.
“It’s all gravy,” Muha said. “I could care less. Who. What. When. We’ll be there Wednesday. It’s all gravy and I’m just so happy for the girls.”
The Huskies (11-13) overcame a nine-point deficit in the second quarter and led by a point heading into the final quarter.
“We told those girls to fight and just take care of the basketball,” Bishop Carroll coach Crystal Horton said. “We had most our turnovers in the first half and they were unforced turnovers. We just overcame that. We were frazzled at the beginning, our girls say they were spazzing out a little bit and that’s what it looked like. Once we got our composure, we were able to come back in the game.”
Meck, who scored all 10 of her points in the second half, hit a pair of shots to sandwich a conventional 3-point play by Bishop Carroll’s Britt Krug to forge a 46-all tie. Lexie Rapsky pushed Shade ahead temporarily with a jumper before Link replied with a layup for the Huskies. A scooping layup by Link gave Bishop Carroll its penultimate lead before Spinelli, who scored 19 points, answered with a 3-pointer.
The Huskies’ Janelle Gueguen rattled home a 3-pointer late in the fourth to push the Huskies ahead 54-52. After draining a minute from the clock, a three-second violation against Bishop Carroll gave Shade possession, allowing the District 5 runner-up to knot the score on a Berkey jumper.
Meck’s transition basket put the Panthers ahead to stay, despite the Huskies getting repeated shots off in traffic.
After the teams battled to a 14-all tie in the first, a 9-0 run that spanned the end of the frame and the start of the second gave the Panthers a 23-14 edge. Spinelli, who scored a dozen points in the quarter, tallied five points during the run.
Spending the last 7:34 of the half in the bonus, Bishop Carroll nibbled back, going 6 of 6 from the line to pull within four at intermission.
Limiting Spinelli to three points in the middle frames was also key for Bishop Carroll as it battled back.
While Spinelli carries the brunt of the Panthers’ offensive workload, the scoring was still in capable hands.
“That’s what has happened all year,” Muha said. “Emma is the sparkplug for us, but she’s not our only player. I think (Saturday) in front of a lot of people, we showed that we still have some other kids who can play well.
Krug, who scored all but one of her 12 points in the second half, tallied the Huskies’ first six points of the third quarter before back-to-back buckets by Ellie Yahner drew Bishop Carroll even. A 3-pointer by Lea Sammarco gave the Huskies their first lead since holding a 10-7 lead in the first. After trading the lead four times on alternating scores, a driving basket by Krug pushed the Huskies’ lead to 43-40.
“She’s a game-time player,” Horton said. “She rose the occasion as a freshman. All I can ask of her is just to give her all and she does that day in and day out ... As she goes, we go.”
Meck’s layup late in the third cut the Huskies’ lead to one, setting up the frantic final quarter.
Berkey and Krug each had nine rebounds to lead their respective squads.
Shawn Curtis is the sports editor of The Tribune-Democrat. Follow him on Twitter at twitter.com/shawncurtis430.