CURWENSVILLE — Abby Dugo, Tierra Shope and Kealy Wassil made Senior Night special for the Curwensville Area High School girls basketball team Wednesday.
Coach Rusty McCracken couldn’t have asked much from the three players who were making their final appearances in Patton Hall.
The trio combined for 23 points, 14 of the team’s 18 rebounds, six steals and at least five assists as the Lady Tide led all the way in beating West Branch 49-26 to wrap up the school’s first Moshannon Valley League championship since 2007 with an 8-0 record.
“The Mo Valley League title was important to them,” McCracken said. “They wanted to put their names on that. They wanted to go out with something after a lot of dry years.”
Six consecutive losing seasons, to be exact.
Shope and Wassil were reserves as freshman while Dugo moved up to varsity as a sophomore, so they‘ve experienced their share of defeats.
Shope did crack the lineup some as a soph, but the other two had to wait until this season to step into starting roles.
“They’ve been getting better,” McCracken said. “They really did play well.”
Especially in the first quarter.
By far the largest crowd of the season — enhanced greatly because McCracken had promised to wear a prom dress if the student body raised more than $1,000 in a cancer-awareness fund-raiser — watched the Lady Tide take control early to deny the Lady Warriors an opportunity to share the crown.
Right from the opening tip.
The perfectly-executed Wassil-to-Shope-to-Ciara Strickland play put the Lady Tide on the scoreboard in four seconds, and they never looked back.
With quick, sharp passing, Curwensville foiled West Branch‘s box-and-one strategy designed to keep Strickland in check.
Twice, Wassil spotted Dugo wide open under the basket for easy twos to sandwich a runner by Strickland off a well-set screen.
“One thing about this team, they see each other and they’ve been unselfish,“ McCracken said. “We have close to 200 assists as a team.”
Dugo followed with a drive through the lane against the spread-out West Branch back line.
Then, Strickland bounced a pass off the back of a Lady Warrior, grabbing it to score on an in-bounds play under the Lady Tide basket, and Shope swished two free throws after circling wide open into the paint to make it 14-1 with 2:46 left in the first period.
The Lady Tide’s early success against the box-and-one forced West Branch coach Dan Socash to re-think his strategy and switch to a conventional defense.
“I think he saw the holes that they didn’t want to leave open any more,” McCracken said.
Shope hit another foul shot a minute later and then hustled for a steal along the right sideline and went all the way to the hoop, drawing a foul on her layup for a three-point play that gave Curwensville an 18-7 advantage after eight minutes.
West Branch, which finished 9-13, never got any closer.
“The seniors set the tone, and everybody responded,” McCracken said. “It gets contagious when they see other kids hustling and doing their jobs, and they have a tendency to follow suit.”
Action became more physical in the second period as five players, three for the Lady Warriors, went to the locker room with multiple fouls.
“They tried to put a little more pressure on us and got caught up in the foul situation,“ McCracken. “We kind of expect that. The Mo Valley League is kind of like that on a nightly basis. You’ve gotta be strong with the basketball and come out ready to play.”
Strickland scored seven points, including a three-pointer, in the second quarter as the Lady Tide took a 29-14 into intermission, when McCracken attempted five shots at both ends of the floor and sank six to add to the Cancer Awareness Fund total through pledges from the fans in attendance.
One glaring statistic showed Curwensville with only one turnover through 16 minutes.
“That’s pretty good,” McCracken acknowledged. “They were kind of sitting back in a zone, so we shouldn’t have turned it over much. And my four guards probably are as good as anybody out there.”
It went from bad to worse for the Lady Warriors in the third period, when they lost high scorers Christie Sabol to a flagrant foul early and Missy Croyle to an ankle injury, though she did come back out on the court with 1:38 left in her final game.
Curwensville widened the gap to 43-21 with three-pointers by Strickland, Hannah Dixon and Dugo accounted for most of the points.
Shope worked open in low blocks twice in the low-scoring fourth quarter to finish with 10 points, plus five rebounds and two assists.
Strickland led the Lady Tide with 21 points, while Dugo hit double figures for the first time with 11.
“Abby Dugo had a career night,” McCracken said. “She waited until Senior Night to really shine. She moved and got open, and the girls found her.
“Abby can do things. She’s a competitor. A lot of people don’t pay much attention to her. Hopefully, she can continue to be heard in whatever games we have left.”
Wassil had only two points but contributed several blocks and a steal in addition to her two key early assists.
McCracken noted the Lady Tide was really focused on blocking the perennial-MVL champion Lady Warriors from gaining a share of the 2014 title.
“It’s been such a long time since we’ve had this kind of success, and we got greedy,” he said. “Nobody wants to share a title, especially if you get a chance to win it outright.
“It was a good win. We’ll certainly enjoy it. But, hopefully, we’ve got a couple more games to go.”
Curwensville, which was 20-for-54 from the field and had only eight turnovers, will carry a 15-7 record into the District 9 Class AA Playoffs.
On Sunday, they will learn their seed and first-round pairing for the tourney that begins next week.
West Branch’s all-senior lineup, which also was honored during the pre-game ceremony, got nine points and eight rebounds from Taylor Kolesar, eight points from Croyle and a game-high 10 rebounds from Madison McCracken.
The Lady Warriors did win the rebounding battle with 27, but their shooting (10-for-46) was impacted by foul troubles and the injury that kept Croyle on the bench for nine minutes . They failed to score more than seven points in any quarter.
In the junior varsity game, West Branch pulled away in the fourth quarter to win 49-29. Sarah Guy and Katie Evans had nine and seven points, respectively, for Curwensville.
McCracken, who wore a floor-length purple gown and was the object of many photographers before and after the game, pointed out the reason behind his challenge to the students for the fund-raiser because his parents and two siblings are cancer survivors.
“We’ve been trying to contribute to the cancer centers for years,” he explained. “They took good care of them, so I do what I can to help other families.”
Moshannon Valley League – Curwensville 8-0, West Branch 6-2, Moshannon Valley 3-4, Glendale 2-6, Harmony 0-7.
WEST BRANCH — 26
Missy Croyle 3 2-7 8, Nichole Miller 0 0-0 0, Christine Sabol 2 0-0 4, Madison McCracken 1 2-3 4, Taylor Kolesar 4 1-2 9, Taylor Pedmo 0 1-1 1, Katie Trude 0 0-0 0, Breana Hayward 0 0-0 0, Jaylee Rockey 0 0-0 0. TOTALS: 10 6-14 26.
CURWENSVILLE — 49
Heather Thorp 0 0-0 0, Tierra Shope 3 4-6 10, Ciara Strickland 9 1-2 21, Kealy Wassil 1 0-0 2, Abby Dugo 5 0-0 11, Hannah Dixon 2 0-0 5, Sarah Guy 0 0-0 0, Christine Limbert 0 0-0 0, Katie Evans 0 0-0 0. TOTALS: 20 5-8 49.
Three-Point Field Goals – Curwensville 4 (Strickland 2, Dugo, Dixon).
Score by Quarters
West Branch 7 7 7 5 – 26
Curwensville 18 11 14 6 – 49
Officials – Bill Overly and Tom Stafford.
Lady Tide Scoreboard:
|12/09||@ Mo Valley||36 – 35||1 – 0|
|12/10||@ Brockway||46 – 35||2 – 0|
|12/13||RIDGWAY||57 – 20||3 – 0|
|12/16||@ Harmony||60 – 23||4 – 0|
|12/20||KANE||38 – 49||4 – 1|
|12/27||CLEARFIELD||50 – 46 ot||5 – 1|
|01/03||@ DuBois Central||34 – 55||5 – 2|
|01/06||@ West Branch||ppd.||5 – 2|
|01/07||JOHNSONBURG||ppd.||5 – 2|
|01/10||MO VALLEY||45 – 30||6 – 2|
|01/13||HARMONY||59 – 21||7 – 2|
|01/15||ELK COUNTY||46 – 51||7 – 3|
|01/17||JOHNSONBURG||43 – 47||7 – 4|
|01/20||@ Glendale||57 – 39||8 – 4|
|01/21||@ Ridgway||52 – 24||9 – 4|
|01/24||BROCKWAY||37 – 46||9 – 5|
|01/27||DUBOIS CENTRAL||27 – 34||9 – 6|
|01/29||@ West Branch||ppd.||9 – 6|
|01/30||@ West Branch||53 – 37||10 – 6|
|01/31||@ Johnsonburg||51 – 42||11 – 6|
|02/03||GLENDALE||63 – 28||12 – 6|
|02/04||SHEFFIELD||55 – 36||13 – 6|
|02/07||@ Kane||36 – 47||13 – 7|
|02/10||@ Clearfield||47 – 42||14 – 7|
|02/12||WEST BRANCH||49 – 26||15 – 7|
|D9 Playoffs, TBD|