EXETER — The banging in the bleachers, the screams from the stands, the hooting and hollering grew to a feverish pitch with the season on the line.
And Allie Barber admits she heard it all. She just didn’t let it distract her.
Barber cooly sank two free throws with four seconds to play Saturday at Wyoming Area High School, lifting Pittston Area to a 32-31 victory over North Pocono and completing a last-minute comeback that put the Patriots in the District 2 Class 3A semifinals.
“I heard it,” Barber said of rumbling from the crowd as she stood at the free-throw line with Pittston Area’s season on the line. “But that kind of makes you want to make it even more.”
Not even a North Pocono timeout between the two foul shots could subdue Barber’s fire and focus.
Barber pumped her fist emphatically after making the first attempt, which tied the game at 31-31. Then, when the Trojans called time — possibly to ice her — Pittston Area coach Kathy Healey began covering scenarios in the event Barber’s second free throw missed its mark.
“We were deciding whether to put rebounders into the game,” Healey grinned. “She (Barber) said, ‘Coach, I got it. Set up the defense.’”
Barber swished the winning free throw, then Pittston Area’s harassing defense didn’t allow North Pocono to get another shot off until after the final horn sounded.
That ended a roller-coaster District 2 Class 3A quarterfinal game where Pittston Area fell behind big, gained control, gave it up and had to rally late to save its season — which will continue Wednesday against top-seeded Scranton Prep (22-1) in the district semifinals.
The Patriots nearly didn’t make it that far.
North Pocono rolled out of the gates with long-range shooting, making a pair of three-pointers and nearly a third while taking a 14-2 lead.
“I don’t know if we were expecting that, exactly,” Barber said.
But Barber scored four points, Liz Waleski hit a three-pointer ahead of the first quarter buzzer and Pittston Area had pulled to within five. Five points from Waleski, four from Barber and Eastin Ashby’s three-pointer had the Patriots holding a 23-13 lead at halftime, and they carried a two-point advantage into the fourth quarter.
That’s when things nearly fell apart for the Patriots.
Just about every player on Pittston Area’s team watched shots rattle off the rim in the second half, and Pittston Area fell into a five-point hole by scoring just three points over the first 13 minutes of the second half.
“I think we all were frustrated at some points in the game,” said Barber, who led the Patriots with 12 points. “Basketball is a frustrating game.”
Somehow, Pittston Area found a way.
Waleski finally broke through, burying a jumper at the three-minute mark to pull the Patriots within three points. Jackie Rabender and Taryn Ashby each connected on single free throws to shrink Pittston Area’s deficit to one.
And all the noise in the gym couldn’t keep Barber from burying two from the line in the final seconds, setting up a showdown with Prep and guaranteeing the Patriots will play in at least a third-place game for the right to advance to the PIAA tournament.
“Everybody played with heart,” Healey said. “It’s all heart and desire. You can never count us out.”
Pittston Area 32, North Pocono 31
NORTH POCONO (31) — Kaitlyn Lewis 4 2-3 12, Mallory Mokay 2 0-0 5, Megan Taylor 1 0-0 2, Maria Day 2 0-0 4, Alexis Stephens 3 0-0 6, Rory Jordan 1 0-0 2, Brooke Bauman 0 0-0 0, Mariah Maglio 0 0-0 0. Totals 13 2-3 31.
PITTSTON AREA (32) — Allie Barber 4 4-4 12, Liz Waleski 4 0-0 10, Taryn Ashby 0 1-2 1, Jackie Rabender 2 2-4 6, Eastin Ashby 1 0-0 3, Marley O’Brien 0 0-0 0, Jaime Chisdock 0 0-0 0. Totals 11 7-10 32.
Three-point goals — NP 3 (Lewis 2, Mokay); PA 3 (Waleski 2, E. Ashby).