ALLPORT — The Curwensville Area High School girls basketball team found young and improving West Branch a much tougher foe the second time around the Moshannon Valley League, but the outcome was the same as the Lady Tide prevailed 50-36 to clinch the 2007 championship.
The winners are 7-0 with one game remaining, while the second-place Lady Warriors finished 5-3.
\”I don\’t know how many league championships our girls have, not that awful many,\” Curwensville coach Vic Gearhart said. \”That was one of our goals, and we\’re very happy to have reached that. So, we\’re real proud of the girls.\”
With West Branch playing a triangle-and-two defense to limit high-scoring Dani Struble and Jackie White, Curwensville got an early spark from Holly Fink, who canned five shots in the first 5:08 for a career-high 10 points, and Hannah Walls and then turned to Struble and Walls in the second half to end the title hopes for the pesky Lady Warriors.
Struble, who came into the week as the leading scorer in District 9, wound up with a game-high 15 points, but her school-record free throw streak ended at 28 when she missed her first attempt. Walls chimed in with 13 points.
West Branch coach Doug Myers, who starts five juniors, called on Brianna Parks and Kristen Perks to stick with Struble and White, respectively, and they responded with an outstanding effort. The Lady Tide\’s big guns were scoreless in the first quarter and had only three points by halftime.
\”We\’ve been working on that,\” Gearhart said. \”Teams are going to throw that at us, and we have some kids and role players who are showing they can score, too. They\’re gonna try to shut down our two big scorers, so our three off people are going to have to pick it up.\”
Fink, a junior, and Walls, a sophomore, proved to be saviors in the first quarter. Fink hit from the baseline and Walls grabbed a loose ball and tossed in a short jumper for a 4-0 start with 1:24 gone, and the Lady Tide never trailed. Fink, who missed only one shot in the quarter, tallied Curwensville\’s next eight points by working free along the baseline. A three-pointer from the left wing by Walls enabled the visitors to lead 15-10 at the first rest stop.
\”Earlier in the year, those kids wouldn\’t have looked for those shots,\” Gearhart said. \”Now, they are starting to, and we\’ve got to make \’em. If we shoot 40 percent, that\’s going to be enough to keep us in ball games until we find a way to get the other kids loose. And that\’s how it happened tonight. They picked it up.
\”Holly was hitting everything early. To their credit, they found her open, and she hit the shots. She’s not real mobile, which is something we know she needs to work on. She needs to learn once people start taking her shot away, she’s gonna have to learn to pump fake and drive. And that will come.\”
In the second period, the two teams didn\’t score as many points as the two groups of future Lady Warriors did during halftime. West Branch\’s only points came with 1:24 left in the half when reserve Rebecca Kephart was fouled on a shot in the low post and completed the three-point play to make it 22-13. Ronna Knepp helped build Curwensville\’s 12-point lead with shots from the foul line area.
After the Lady Warriors closed the gap to 22-17 on Kari Larson\’s drive and Misty Modzel\’s shot in the lane, the Lady Tide gradually opened a 35-24 by the end of the third quarter. Struble had eight points and Walls tallied four.
In the first minute of the fourth period, West Branch cut its deficit below double figures one more time with Perks\’ field goal in the lane and Parks\’ free throw. However, Curwensville scored the next 11 points to grab a comfortable 46-27 lead with 4:53 to play.
Holly Lansberry ignited the run with a baseline drive and free throw. When Parks was tagged with her fourth personal foul, Myers switched defenses, and Struble found the 3-2 to her liking, nailing a pair of three-pointers around a field goal by Walls.
\”Hannah has really picked up her offense the last several games,\” Gearhart said. \”She\’s looking for an outside shot. And she had a nice drive, too. She\’s finally learning if people come running at her, just dip and go around them.\”
He gave credit to the Lady Warriors for their improvement since Dec. 14, when the Lady Tide rolled to a 50-20 lead after three quarters en route to a 69-51 home win.
\”They\’re a lot better and I was really happy with the win, but we\’re disappointed with our rebounding effort,\” he said. \”We have to do something to get more rebounds. We gave them way too many second and third opportunities on the boards. A team that\’s going to convert those is going to make it a different ball game for us.\”
White was one Curwensville player who did her share under the boards, but she couldn\’t cash the putbacks and finished with five points.
\”She had some turn-in moves and needed to get a quality shot in that situation,\” Gearhart said. \”I don\’t know if she was too concerned about getting fouled, but she had opportunities to score. And they\’ll come. There\’s going to be nights that she\’s going to clean up the boards and get more open opportunities.\”
The MVL title was one of three reachable goals for Curwensville this week. Now 16-4 the Lady Tide can set a school record for wins and claim the Allegheny Mountain League South Division crown by beating Sheffield at home Friday and Ridgway on the road Saturday afternoon in the makeup of Tuesday night\’s postponement.
\”It\’s right there for us,\” Gearhart said. \”It\’s what we\’ve worked for all year.\”
West Branch (9-13) was led by Jolene Wesesky\’s eight points. Three Lady Warriors had seven apiece.
In the prelim, Alesia Bressler\’s 14 points led the Curwensville junior varsity to a 26-15 win. Rebecca Kephart topped West Branch with seven points.
CURWENSVILLE — 50
Dani Struble 4 4-7 15, Hannah Walls 6 0-0 13, Ronna Knepp 2 0-1 4, Holly Fink 5 0-0 10, Jackie White 1 3-4 5, Holly Lansberry 1 1-1 3, Shannon Hamm 0 0-0 0. Totals: 19 8-13 50.
WEST BRANCH — 36
Kristen Perks 1 0-2, Brianna Parks 1 4-8 7, Kari Larson 2 5-6 7, Misty Modzel 1 1-2 3, Jolene Wesesky 3 1-2 8, Rebecca Kephart 1 5-7 7, Victoria Jarrett 0 0-0 0. Totals: 9 16-25 36.
Three-Point Field Goals: Curwensville 4 (Struble 3, Walls 1); West Branch 2 (Parks 1, Wesesky 1).
Score by Quarters:
Curwensville 15 7 13 15 — 50
West Branch 10 3 11 12 — 36