---- — By Jon Gerardi
The Daily Item
WILLIAMSPORT -- As Athens coach Kelly Burkhart pulled her starters late in the second quarter, all five of them received a loud ovation from the Athens fans as the game was all but over.
As the final seconds ticked off the scoreboard inside the Magic Dome at Williamsport High School, Christin Dunkling and Danielle Stopper hugged one another at the end of the Athens bench as the team celebrated the ensuing 45-23 win in the District 4 Class AAA semifinals over Shamokin on Wednesday night.
The Wildcats advance to play Danville in the championship game at a site and time to be determined.
Shamokin played tough throughout the first half as Kelsey Yacko helped the Indians erase an 8-point deficit to tie the game twice late in the second quarter. Yacko's putback with 3 seconds to play tied the game at 17-all going into the half.
Athens came out on fire in the second half, though, while Shamokin's offense fizzled. The Wildcats' defense allowed just six total second-half points. The Indians scored just two in the fourth quarter and all four in the third came from the free-throw line.
"For some reason in the second half we didn't shoot and we didn't move," Shamokin coach Bill Callahan said. "We lost our girl too much (defensively) wide open and we've got to learn (from) it. We got a lot of young kids. Hopefully that's good experience and we'll move on from there."
Shamokin went nearly 10 minutes between the second and fourth quarter without scoring from the floor.
Senior guard Monica Dougherty played phenomenal all game for the Wildcats, scoring a game-high 15 while dishing out a game-high eight assists, swiping away four steals and grabbing four boards.
Stopper, Mackenzie Hafer and Dunkling all added nine points apiece as Stopper also grabbed nine rebounds.
"I thought the girls did a really nice job at certain times and at certain times, we left them wide open and you've got to be focused for 32 minutes," Callahan said.
After tying the game at 17-all to go into the half, Shamokin couldn't hang in the game, missing numerous shots. As a team, Shamokin shot just 18 percent (6 for 33) from the floor. Yacko's team-high seven points all came in the first half as well.
"We had plenty of looks...That's the difference of the game (missing shots)...," Callahan said. "That's a part of life. They did the little things and we didn't."
An Olivia Bonshock free throw with 3:32 to play cut the deficit to 23-19. That was the closest Shamokin would cut the deficit as Athens continued to increase it, going up by 11 with 42 seconds to play and holding a double-digit lead the rest of the game.