Athens falls on late basket
WILLIAMSPORT - All game long Monica Dougherty had been the offensive catalyst for the Athens Wildcats in their PIAA, Class AAA playoff game against Holy Redeemer on Saturday.
With just a minute to go Dougherty again had the answer on offense for the Wildcats, hitting a jumper to put Athens on top 38-37.
However, it was a defensive play by Redeemer star Alexis Lewis that proved to be the difference.
Down by one after Dougherty's basket, Lewis got a steal under the basket with 32 seconds left and converted the layup to put Redeemer on top as they won 40-38.
"With 30 seconds left I knew I had to do something," Lewis said of the play.
For most of the quarter Lewis was working toward the steal and she got it at the perfect time.
"I was trying my hardest for it," she said.
In the early going Saturday it was Redeemer who was hot offensively as they got out to a quick 9-2 lead.
However, back-to-back threes by Monica and then her sister Danielle Dougherty got the Wildcats back within one.
After a Redeemer basket made it 11-8, Monica Dougherty tied things with a three.
The rest of the half was close, but Redeemer never fell behind, leading 18-16 at the break.
"We got down early in the first quarter, but we kept fighting," Athens coach Kelly Burkhart said.
In the third quarter a three-point play by Alyssa Platko put Redeemer up 28-22, but Monica Dougherty hit back-to-back jumpers to cut the deficit to two and Christin Dunkling scored inside as Athens tied the game at 28 entering the final quarter.
At times Redeemer coach Chris Parker thought his team would pull away, but every time the Wildcats had an answer.
"It was a tough game," Parker said. "I think this team is battle tested after that exhibition schedule that we played. I thought we had them on the ropes a few times, but they are a good team and they got back in it. A win is a win."
In the fourth Danielle Stopper hit a jumper to give the Wildcats their first lead since Dunkling scored the opening basket of the game.
A basket by Platko tied the game at 30, but Athens took the lead back as Dunkling scored to make it 32-30.
Lewis then took over with five straight points, capped off by a three-point play, to make it 35-32 Redeemer.
A pair of free throws by Monica Dougherty got the Wildcats within one at 35-34 and Stopper gave Athens the lead with 1:47 left in the game.
A pair of free throws by Lydia Lawson put Redeemer back on top 37-36 with 1:20 to go, before Dougherty's jumper gave Athens that one point lead in the final minute.
After Lewis put Redeemer on top, Athens had an opportunity, but a steal sent Lawson to the line where she hit one free throw.
Stopper got the ball with six seconds left and a chance to tie things, but her layup attempt rimmed out.
"We had chances, we had a shot, unfortunately it didn't go," Burkhart said.
Parker knows that it was the defense that was the key for his squad.
"I have been trying to preach defense all year," Parker said. "The last minute or two minutes, that's all about our defensive effort."
Parker preached defense and his players listened.
"He tells us all the time you can't win with offense, you have got to win with defense," Lewis said.
Athens defense was hurt by tight calls on standout defensive guard Rachael Donnelly on the perimeter that had her in foul trouble.
"That hurt us to not have her defense and not to have her be able to play the way she usually plays," Burkhart said.
Monica Dougherty led Athens with 17, while Lewis led Redeemer with 17 points.
Dunkling had 10 for Athens and Stopper had six, while Danielle Dougherty had three and Jensen Dunkling had two.
One of the challenges for Athens was getting the ball inside to Christin Dunkling.
"They are pretty long up top," Burkhart said. "We worked hard, we had our chances we played hard, you can't fault the effort."
Along with the 17 from Lewis, Rdeemer got seven from Platko and six from Alana Wilson.
Lawson had three and Sarah Warnagiris Sara Altemose and Chelsea Skreaenak all had two points in the game.
Despite the loss Burkhart knows the girls should be proud of what they accomplished this year.
"I told the girls it's not the way we want to end the season, but the loss can not take away from a great season," Burkhart said. "They brought a district title back to Athens for the first time in 10 years and they brought an NTL title back for the first time in six years."
Seniors Dunkling, Monica Dougherty and Stopper are all players that will be missed.
"They helped turn this program back around," she said. "They fought hard for four years and now it's up to the younger girls to maintain this level of play."
Redeemer will now face the winner of District 1 champion Villa Maria Academy and District 3 fourth-place finisher West York on Wednesday.