POTTSVILLE — Though it was by a slim margin, the York Catholic girls' basketball team led Dunmore for nearly the entire first 24 minutes of action Tuesday night in a second-round PIAA Class AA playoff game.
The Irish had done just enough in the opening three quarters to be in front. They did their best to pack the defense inside to prevent 5-foot, 10-inch Dunmore center Mariah Maciejewski from doing damage in the paint.
But Dunmore hung around by continuing to answer from the outside, just as it did to open the fourth quarter when Kayleigh Semion knocked down a 3-pointer to tie it up. And again with under four minutes to play when Dunmore freshman Maddie Martin nailed a trey to put Dunmore in front.
Martin, a freshman, would go a cool 6-for-6 from the free throw line in the final minute. York Catholic had one last chance to tie it up as time expired, but Deanna Chesko's 3-point attempt from the corner clanged off the rim and Dunmore walked away with a 39-36 win.
"I just tried to stay calm and knock them down," Dunmore's Martin said of her clutch free throws.
The freshman point guard scored 11 points in the fourth quarter and finished with a game-high 18 points.
"As far as I'm concerned I've seen a good point guard before in (Delone Catholic's) Maddie Comly, and this kid is, she's there," York Catholic coach Kevin Bankos said of Martin. "She's only a freshman. They're gonna be a handful the next couple of years with her."
Dunmore, the District 2-AA champion, shot 4-of-8 from 3-point land (50 percent) and 9-of-10 (90 percent) at the charity stripe. Maciejewski (10 points) and 5-foot-9 forward Jill Korgeski (four points) also proved to be pesky down low.
"That's why they're a very good basketball team," Bankos said. "They have an inside game and an outside game. You can't lose the shooters. They just did a great job of moving the ball around and making sure they found their shooters. But you still have to hit the shots. And they did. So credit to them."
York Catholic used a good mix of offense to lead 17-14 at halftime and 23-20 after three quarters. Center Hannah Laslo totaled all 10 of her points in the first three quarters, while guard Marissa Ressler had seven of her 10 points through three quarters.
After Dunmore tied it 23-23 to open the fourth quarter, Zaenna Echevarria (two points) and Chesko (eight points) nailed back-to-back jumpers to stretch the lead to 27-23 before Dunmore went on a 7-0 run to take a 30-27 lead. Anne Lehr (six points) knocked down her only 3-pointer of the game to tie it back up with 2:33 remaining. But York Catholic would miss its next three attempts — a Lehr layup, an Echevarria 3-point attempt and a Lehr 3-point attempt.
The classy Bankos took blame for the loss.
"I thought we got stagnant. We didn't lose the ball a lot. We thought we could run Zaenna as a guard to the high post and kind of create trouble for them. They adapted well to it. We kind of stood around. I didn't make adjustments in the timeouts that we needed to make," Bankos said. "It's not on the kids. It's on me for not making those adjustments."
Twice in the final 40 seconds York Catholic knocked down 3-pointers following offensive rebounds to keep them alive to the very end, when Chesko's last attempt from beyond the arc failed.
The Irish, who reached the York-Adams League title game and won its ninth-straight District 3-AA title this season, finished the year at 24-5.
"I told the kids after the game ended that 'look, this is gonna hurt. It should because we have expectations we didn't meet. But at the same time they're part of a program that's a nine-time district champ. They got to the county championship game. They accomplished a lot," Bankos said.
— Reach John Walk at firstname.lastname@example.org.