By Scott Dudinskie
The Daily Item
COAL TOWNSHIP —
Shikellamy went the wrong direction off the opening tip and struggled to get things going the right way from there.
The Braves scored just two first-half field goals Saturday, yet trailed Shamokin by only 12 points at the break. They cut the margin to two points after the Indians suffered a horrendous shooting quarter. Then, for the second time in the game, Shamokin’s Sami Schiccatano sparked a run and the Indians went on to beat Shikellamy, 37-33.
“They’re a good team — don’t get me wrong — but we can play with them,” Braves coach Lew Dellegrotti said of the two-time defending Heartland-I champion Indians. “If we play two halves like we played the second half, we’ll be all right.”
Shamokin (4-3, 2-0 HAC-I) won its third straight game to move past .500. The Indians have won 29 of their last 30 HAC-I games since the start of the 2010-11 season.
Despite a healthy 21-9 halftime lead Saturday, the Indians nearly gave it all back by shooting 1-of-16 in the third quarter. The Braves (4-2, 1-1) pulled within 24-21 with 2:17 remaining in the third, but they scored just one more point the rest of the period.
Then, after Raven Fatool’s putback made it 26-24, the Indians ran off seven consecutive points, including a pair of Schiccatano layups.
The Braves scored six points, four at the foul line — while Shamokin missed five of six free throws — in the last minute-plus.
“We just haven’t been able to put teams away,” said Indians coach Bill Callahan. “We miss free throws and we don’t rebound well in the fourth quarter. If we rebound and make our free throws, it’s a different ballgame.”
The game began with Shikellamy playing to the wrong basket off the tip. Cory Yerger was fouled on a drive to the hoop and, when Dellegrotti brought the issue to the officials’ attention, play was halted and the teams walked to the other end for Yerger to take her free throws.
Foul shots were actually Shik’s only offense in the first quarter. Yerger barrelled to the hoop several times and made four of her six fouls.
Besides their senior forward’s aggressive play, the Braves didn’t get much going toward the basket. Most times the ball was passed that way it got kicked out and swung around the perimeter.
“We practice it, but to get them to do it in the game ...” said Dellegrotti. “We had a discussion at halftime and changed the whole (approach).”
Shikellamy scored its first field goal of the game 64 seconds into the second quarter; their next one came with a minute left. In the interim, the Indians had a 7-1 run that started when point guard Schiccatano posted up a smaller defender and converted a three-point play.
The Indians missed their first five shots of the second half while Shik pounded the ball inside and scored on six of seven possessions to get within three. All five Braves starters scored in the sequence, including Alexis Angstadt who scored her four of points in that span, well off her 15.4 season average.
“Shikellamy plays hard,” said Callahan. “Give them a lot of credit.”
Early in the fourth, Shaylee Pesarchick converted a three-point play and Schiccatano followed with back-to-back drives to the hoop, kissing her second runner high off the glass for a 33-24 lead. Schiccatano finished with eight points to go with five rebounds and three steals.
“We’ve been waiting for Sami to do that and she’s finally coming along,” said Callahan. “We just need to get everyone together and playing well (because) we look great at some points.”
Olivia Bonshock led the Indians with 10 points and 11 rebounds. Kelsey Yacko had six rebounds and five steals in addition to four points.
Bernadette Chaney had a double-double for Shik (10 points, 11 boards); Fatool had six and 10. Yerger added nine points and six rebounds.
“The girls played hard; they didn’t quit,” said Dellegrotti. “We learned a lot, and we’ll get better.”