The Lady Bucks defended their Class AAAA crown this past weekend with a hard-fought win over Valley West.
The Wallenpaupack Area girls basketball team turned in one of the gutsiest performances in recent memory Friday night at Scranton High School.
The Lady Bucks rallied from an early deficit to deal Wyoming Valley West a 43-40 loss and, in so doing, defend their District Two Class AAAA championship.
“I just can't say enough about these girls,” an emotionally drained coach Adam Holtzer said just moments after the final buzzer sounded.
“We're so much more like a family that we are a team. Every night it seems like somebody else steps up and makes a game-changing play. I'm speechless. They are an amazing group.”
With this dramatic win, the Lady Bucks sealed the deal on a prime spot in the state tournament.
According PIAA officials, Paupack will open its gold medal quest Friday night against Northampton.
The Konkrete Kids are the #3 seed out of District 11. Coach Jeff Jacksits' team defeated Pleasant Valley, 53-44, in the D-11 consolation game.
Opening tip for this first round state playoff game is slated for 7 p.m. at North Pocono High School in Covington Township.
Paupack began the game ice cold on offense.
The Lady Bucks missed their first seven shots, but stayed within striking distance thanks to their trademark pressure defense.
The dynamic duo of sisters Bridgette and Nicki Mann did most of the damage, spearheading an assault that forced seven Valley West turnovers in the first eight minutes.
The Spartans led 7-0 before Bridgette finally broke the ice, driving hard to the rack for an acrobatic lay-up with 3:35 remaining in the opening stanza.
Cheyenne Reese and Olivia Hoffman combined to make life difficult for Paupack in the early going.
In fact, Valley West extended its lead to 10-2 before Coach Holtzer called a much-needed timeout.
Whatever Paupack's young mentor said in that huddle seemed to work though as the Lady Bucks charged back onto the court and seized momentum
Olivia Scartelli knocked down a deep trey and Mann closed out the quarter with a sweet reverse lay-up that closed the gap to 14-9.
The first few minutes of the second period were an ugly glut of turnovers, but Paupack kept its collective composure.
Nicki Mann hammered home a deep trey from the corner to tie the score at 20.
Then, with the clock ticking down toward intermission, Bridgette dropped long distance bomb of her own to give the Lady Bucks a 23-30 lead.
“We knew coming in that this was going to be a tough game,” Bridgette said.
“We knew that we'd have to fight for every loose ball and every rebound. Valley West is a scrappy team and they never give up.”
Raeann Ehrhardt and Molly Jansco got into the act after the break.
Ehrhardt drilled a three-pointer at the 4:52 mark, upping Paupack's lead to 28-22 and forcing Valley West to call time.
Jansco, meanwhile, was a force in the paint all night long. The sophomore center battled Hoffman, a 6' 2” senior, on the glass at both ends of the floor.
Molly would finish her evening with just three points. However, she pulled down a team-best nine rebounds, blocked a shot and altered many more.
“She did a great job,” said Coach Holtzer. “Molly has come a long way this season and we wouldn't be here without her.”
Paupack appeared to have things under control as time wound down in regulation.
However, Nicki Mann suffered a serious injury midway through the fourth quarter that brought the game to a terrifying halt.
The Lady Bucks' fearless senior guard tried to draw a charge in the lane and banged the back of her head off the hardwood.
Mann writhed on the floor in pain as trainers from both schools rushed to her side. After nearly 20 minutes of agonizing silence, more than 1,000 fans stood to cheer as Nicki was wheeled off the court to a waiting ambulance.
She was later diagnosed with a concussion and released from the hospital in the early morning hours.
“That was so hard,” said Bridgette of her sister's injury. “I really had to try and re-focus ... try to stop thinking about Nicki and concentrate on the game.”
To her immense credit, Mann somehow managed to do just that.
Bridgette would go on to score a game-high 22 points before the night was out. She also snagged six steals and handed out four assists.
“I give Bridgette so much credit,” said Coach Holtzer.
“I can't even imagine how tough it must've been for her to put that all out of her mind and focus on winning the game.”
Over & Out
Valley West made one last run late in the fourth quarter.
However, Irene Dispenza hit a clutch free throw that gave Paupack breathing room at the :25 mark.
Dispenza also contributed key rebounds offensively and defensively to help preserve the victory.
Score by Quarters...
WA (21-3) 9 14 9 11 - 43
VW (15-9) 14 6 7 13 - 40