Lourdes defeats Sayre, wins fifth straight Class A title
MONTOURSVILLE - Lourdes Regional used an 11-2 run early and shut down Sayre's 3-point attack for the majority of the game in winning its fifth straight District 4, Class A girls basketball title with a 37-27 victory here Saturday afternoon.
Elyse Skerpon notched a steal mid-court and turned it into a lay-up to give Sayre a 2-0 lead just 49 seconds into the game, but the Lady Red Raiders turned nine Lady Redskins turnovers into an 11-4 lead with 32 seconds remaining in the first quarter.
Sayre coach Bill Trump said his team may have been caught up in the moment of its first District 4 championship game appearance.
"We played a little intimidated and weren't aggressive offensively.
"(Lourdes) came out high in their zone and we didn't attack the gaps like we needed to," said Trump. "We talked about that at halftime and I think we did a lot better job attacking their zone in the third and fourth quarters.
"They are a very well-coached team and they're experienced. They've won five in a row.
"I think their experience was a key," said Trump. "They probably weren't nervous in the first quarter. Some of those seniors have probably played in four (District title games) and their juniors in the last three â¦ it definitely takes away the nerves.
"This is the first experience our girls have had in a game like this - they were just excited to get to this level," added Trump. "It's tough to re-focus."
Longtime Lourdes coach Mike Klembara agreed, but also credited his team's league schedule for preparing them.
"We play in a very difficult league and I'm not giving a bad rap to the Northern Tier League at all, but you have to look at who we face on a nightly basis and who we've lost to.
"We've beaten some very quality teams along the way, too" said Klembara. "Our league is a war almost every night."
Trump said Lourdes didn't do anything defensively his team wasn't prepared for.
"We knew they were going to bring pressure," he said. "We talked about it, but we just didn't get our people in the right spots. We made some mistakes we didn't need to.
"(Lourdes) is such a methodical team. You can't beat the press and think you have a wide-open lane to the basket because they are going to be flying back.
"We beat it a few times and attacked the basket, where we had talked about bringing it back out and running our offense - kind of a slow down game," said Trump.
"Overall, our game plan was there," added Trump. "We played great defense in spurts - held them to no field goals in the third quarter, but we just didn't put a whole game together offensively."
After Adrienne Malorzo, off an assist from Mollie Robinson, cut Sayre's deficit to 11-6 with a short jumper with 3 seconds remaining in the first quarter, Lourdes scored the first nine points of the second quarter - capped by a Sarah Getchey 3-pointer with 2:30 remaining - to take its biggest lead of the game, at 20-6.
Kelsey Young, off an assist from Paige Wampole, ended Sayre's scoreless drought at 5 minutes and 50 seconds, then Kelly Villanti turned a steal into a lay-up to slice the deficit to 20-10 with 2 minutes remaining in the half.
Trailing 22-12 coming out of the halftime locker room, Villanti trimmed the lead to seven with a 3-pointer with 6:33 left in the third quarter.
Later in the quarter, Robinson hit a pair of free throws to cut the Lourdes lead to five, then a minute later came up with a steal and fed Villanti for a lay-up to make it 26-23 with 16 seconds remaining in the third quarter.
Villanti opened the fourth quarter with a steal, but Sayre missed three shots from close range on the offensive boards and failed to trim the lead further.
Lourdes answered with five straight points to push its lead back to 10, at 31-21, with 5:21 remaining in the game.
However, Sayre made one final run as Villanti drained a 3-pointer from the top-of-the-key with 4:47 remaining in the game and Robinson followed with her only 3-pointer of the game 56 seconds later to cut the deficit to 31-27, but that was as close as the Lady Redskins would get.
After an errant Lourdes free throw, Sayre missed an open look at a 3-pointer.
The Lady Red Raiders extended its lead to 32-27 with 2:23 left in the game, then the Lady Redskins turned the ball over moments later
Rachel Schultz scored on a lay-up against Sayre's pressure defense with 1:52 remaining and Lourdes added three free throws in the final 84 seconds to ice the win.
Trump was pleased with his team's execution in the second half and its resilience in the face of a double-digit first-half deficit.
"We got the ball inside and attacked the gaps and finally got some outside shots to fall.
"We just got going a little bit too late," said Trump. "If we could have knocked down some of those shots in the first half we could have made it a better game.
"The way we turning the ball over in the first half and the way we went cold, it looked like it might be a blowout, but that didn't happen," added Trump. "Our girls kept their heads up and fought back hard. We put some pressure on them. I'm proud of the way we played overall."
Klembara said he wasn't surprised by Sayre's second-half comeback and knew the Lady Redskins would be a tough foe.
"I told our girls (Sayre) was a guard-oriented team, so it was our guards against their guards.
"We respect Mollie Robinson to no end, she's a very good ball player,' said Klembara. "(Elyse Skerpon and Kelly Villanti) are fine players, too. We knew they were deadly from the outside.
"It took awhile for them to heat up, but I told our girls (Sayre) would come back," he said.
"Our kids responded well (to Sayre's run) and we shot our free throws well late in the game," added Klembara. "We played smart and I was very pleased with that."
The Lady Redskins made just 5 of 23 (22 percent) their shots from the field in the first half. They were a little better in the second half, connecting on 5 of 19 (26 percent). They also turned the ball over 22 times in the game.
Villanti led Sayre with 10 points, three rebounds and three steals, while Robinson added seven points, six assists, four rebounds and three steals, and Young scored four points and hauled down nine boards. Malorzo chipped in with four points and three rebounds and Wampole grabbed four rebounds.
Nikki Komara and Getchey led Lourdes with 11 points apiece and Rachel Schultz added seven.
Sayre, now 21-4, will face District 11 champ Tri-Valley next week in the opening round of the PIAA, Class A Tournament at a site and time to be determined.