By Jon Gerardi
The Daily Item
WILLIAMSPORT — The state tournament hasn’t exactly been kind to the Lourdes Regional girls the past few seasons.
In the last four years, their celebration for winning a District 4 title was met shortly thereafter by the disappointment of a first-round loss in states. For the Red Raiders seniors, it’s an all-too-familiar feeling.
But the group of players that suit up for Lourdes this season is taking it one game at a time, a philosophy the girls have held all season long.
That’s what got them their fifth straight District 4 title and, ultimately, it’s what helped get them their first PIAA tournament win in five years Saturday in the Class A field against District 3 fourth-place finisher Upper Dauphin, 51-29.
“I think these girls are very determined to take it one at a time and we’ll see what happens.” Lourdes coach Mike Klembara said. “Absolutely (I’m proud of these girls). This is a great group of kids.”
Lourdes (21-5) wasted literally no time getting its offense started. The Red Raiders quickly got the tip and scored a Rachel Schultz layup just 10 seconds into the game. Schultz proved to be a big playmaker for the Red Raiders, scoring not a team-high 18 points and swiping a game-high eight steals.
“She’s quick, she’s very quick. We try to take advantage of her speed as much as we can,” Klembara said. “We’re a quick team, we’re a fast team. I think they’re very, very coachable. (We) probably didn’t play as smart as we could’ve played, but we’re fine.”
Schultz’s eight steals were part of a team-high 23 as the Red Raiders’ quickness also forced Upper Dauphin to turn it over 27 times.
“That’s our game. We got to steal, we got to press, we got to run the floor and things like that,” said Klembara. “I told our girls, What can they do to slow us down? And that’s force us to a half-court trap or force it to a half court offense, because that does kind of slow anybody down really and we were not able to hit shots that we normally hit.
“We had good looks at the bucket all the way down through. We had enough steals (but) we didn’t shoot the ball particularly well. We missed some easy layups early in the ball game (and) it could’ve cost us.”
Upper Dauphin (11-16) never took the lead, but made things interesting in the first half. Trailing by seven, the Trojans’ offense slowly erased the deficit when Katie Schwenk (11 points) hit a putback with 6:20 to go to tie the game at 13-all. That’s when Lourdes responded and essentially put the game away as it went on a 10-0 run, holding Upper Dauphin scoreless for nearly five minutes, to take control.
McKenzie Miller (11 points, 5 steals) hit a jumper with 1:40 to play in the first half for the Trojans which cut the deficit to eight, but that was the closest the Trojans came the remainder of the game.
Schwenk was solid for the Trojans, especially in the paint as she grabbed 16 boards (11 defensive) and recorded two blocks. Despite out-rebounding Lourdes, 39-33, the Trojans failed to take advantage of second-chance opportunities.
The Red Raiders held Upper Dauphin to just 14 second-half points.
While Schultz was pivotal to the Red Raiders offense, Nikki Komara added 14 points.
Miller scored the first points of the second half with a jumper that cut the Lourdes lead to just nine points. A 6-0 spurt by the Red Raiders pushed the lead to double digits and the Red Raiders kept the lead in the high teens from there, going up by 20 when Krissy Komara scored a jumper and then baseline layup in a 30-second span to close out the game.
With the win, the Red Raiders advance into the quarterfinals of the PIAA Class A state tournament on Wednesday against Girard College (35-33 winners over Notre Dame-East Stroudsburg) at a site and time to be determined.
By Jon Gerardi
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