WILKES-BARRE - As the horn signaled the end of the first overtime, a Holy Redeemer layup attempt rattled around the rim as the Royals raised their hands in celebration.
It fell out.
And along with it, Redeemer’s district championship dreams crashed to the floor.
Nicole Getz, an Abington Heights freshman who proved to be the coolest customer on the floor Wednesday, swished four foul shots in the final two minutes as the Comets dealt second-seeded Redeemer a crushing blow with a 41-39 double-overtime victory in a District 2 Class 3A girls semifinal nail-biter at Wilkes University’s Marts Center.
“It just wasn’t with us, wasn’t meant to be,” Redeemer coach Chris Parker said.
It means the Royals, 20-5 overall, will face Pittston Area on Saturday for the right to advance to the PIAA tournament as the District 2 third seed, while the sixth-seeded Comets (16-9) will battle No. 1 Scranton Prep for the district title.
“It’s unfortunate,” said Parker, whose team was also stopped in the 2013 district semifinals by Honesdale, “because this team has a lot of high expectations.”
Instead, the Royals have to settle for playing in the district’s third-place game for the second straight season.
“I don’t know, we played at two college gyms this year and we didn’t play well in either game,” Parker said. “The bottom line is Abington played better than we did. I don’t want to take anything away from those kids at Abington - they beat us to loose balls, they out-rebounded us.”
And for most of the night, the Comets held control of the outcome.
They carved out a six-point lead when Catie Nealon dropped a pair of 3-point goals late in the second quarter, and held a 15-12 lead at halftime.
Alexis Lewis pulled the Royals within one, 25-24, when she scored nine of her game-high 24 points in the third quarter. But Redeemer didn’t catch up until Lewis flashed in front of a pass, stole the ball and flew down the court for layup that gave the Royals their first lead since the opening minutes of the game, 31-30, with 94 seconds remaining in regulation.
It didn’t last.
Mariah Tulaney went to the foul line with 31 seconds on the regulation clock, and converted two free throws to send the game into a first overtime tied at 32-32.
Nobody scored over those four minutes, although Redeemer came agonizingly close at the end.
A 3-point attempt in the final seconds of overtime 1 bounced out, and an attempt at a rebound basket did the same.
So the teams went at each other for four more minutes.
“Those two shots by Alexis Lewis and Rebecca Prociak couldn’t have gone any deeper into the basket,” Parker sighed. “They bounced out.”
Then Abington Heights bounced the Royals out of title contention.
Liz Bamford made a pair of foul shots, Nealon converted her team’s only basket of the overtime periods and Getz followed with four straight free throws that left the Comets with a commanding 41-34 lead with 26 seconds to play in the second overtime.
“After I made that first one, I kind of had the rhythm,” Getz said. “I just thought of a color. My coach said when you’re shooting foul shots, think of a color. I actually thought of lime green.”
That stretch of free throws should have turned Redeemer green, right?
The Royals responded with a 3-pointer from Kayla Hons with 17 seconds still on the clock, then got a steal and rebound bucket from Prociak with two ticks left.
“The girls wanted this so bad,” Parker said.
But they couldn’t pry away the ensuing inbounds pass, and time ran out on their district dreams.
“I believe we’re a better team than Abington,” Parker said. “But Abington was a better team than us tonight. At the end, we fought and we clawed our way back in the game. They were able to slow down the game, which is what we did not want to happen. The bottom line is, they out-rebounded us and out-hustled us.”
It was the third straight hustle of a Wyoming Valley Conference team in the district tournament for the Comets - who took out Dallas and WVC Division I champ Crestwood earlier and avenged an early-season nine-point loss to WVC Division II champion Redeemer on Wednesday.
“After beating Crestwood, we got really pumped up for this game,” said Getz, who finished with a team-high 13 points. “I think we played really good defense. That was a crazy game. But I really felt like we were going to win.”
Abington Heights 41, Holy Redeemer 39
ABINGTON HEIGHTS (41) — Liz Bamford 1 5-6 7, Maura Nealon 1 1-2 3, Nicole Getz 4 4-4 13, Breanna Toro 2 0-0 4, Catie Nealon 4 0-0 11, Bobbi Benson 0 0-0 0, Mariah Tulaney 0 3-4 3, Emma Henzes 0 0-0 0. Totals 12 13-16 41.
HOLY REDEEMER (39) — Sara Flannley 2 0-1 5, Rebecca Prociak 3 0-0 6, Lydia Lawson 0 1-2 1, Ayssa Platko 0 0-0 0, Alexis Lewis 10 3-6 24, Julie Kosik 0 0-0 0, Kayla Hons 1 0-0 3. Totals 16 4-9 39.
Abington Heights`6`9`10`7`0`9’ —`41
Holy Redeemer`6`6`12`8`0`7` —`39
Three-point goals — AH 4 (C. Nealon 3, Getz); HR 3 (Flannley, Lewis, Hons).