WILKES-BARRE - The first deep shot of the game Julie Kosik attempted ripped through the next and nearly brought the house down on its way to the floor.
So did the next one.
And the next.
By the time she was done, Kosik had five three-point field goals in the first half. And Holy Redeemer had a lead to play with.
Kosik celebrated her 18th birtday in style Saturday, giving the Royals a big boost off the bench until big guns Alexis Lewis and Alyssa Platko got going in the second half as Redeemer pulled away from Pittston Area, 62-46 in the District 2 Class 3A girls basketball third-place game at Wilkes University’s Marts Center.
“I was feeling it. I was hot,” Kosik said. “We did come out slow. If my team needs me — anyone our team can step up. This time it was me. When I knocked down those shots, everyone got pumped up.
“They were just finding me.”
The Patriots simply found Kosik a little too difficult to deal with.
Because without her, things seemed to be playing right into Pittston Area’s hands.
The Patriots double-teamed Redeemer’s star scorer Lewis, holding her scoreless in the first quarter and to just six points in the opening half.
Meanwhile, Liz Waleski scored six points in the opening quarter, and Allie Barber and Eastin Ashby both hit a couple of baskets as Pittston Area shot out to a 16-7 lead.
“We didn’t want to come out and press right away — something we do a lot — because we felt Pittston would have prepared for that,” Redeemer coach Chris Parker said. “We kind of sat back a little in a man defense and zone. When it (the deficit) got to 16-7, we went into our 22 press. I thought that completely turned around the game.”
So did Kosik’s shooting.
The birthday girl delivered Redeemer’s biggest gift of the season, as her shooting touch helped save the day. Kosik fired up four three-point goals in the second quarter — pumping her fist harder and letting out a louder shriek after each one — as the Royals turned a nine-point deficit into a 25-19 lead.
“I’d be embarrassed to see myself,” Kosik said of her on-court celebration. “But it was a fun game. When I’m on, I’m on. When I’m off, I try to get the ball to other players.”
Nobody could have predicted Kosik would go off the way she did.
Back on Jan. 18, Kosik buried four three-point field goals and scored 12 points in a two-point overtime loss to State College, but has shown only flashes of that big-game shooting ability since. She was held without a point in Holy Redeemer’s two-point overtime loss to Abington Heights in the District 2 Class 2A semifinal round Wednesday.
“We knew she could get hot, we knew that,” Pittston Area coach Kathy Healey said. “(But) you’re so focused on Alexis.”
The Patriots pulled within 27-25 at halftime on Eastin Ashby’s three-point field goal just before the horn and Kosik didn’t score again.
But she didn’t have to.
Lewis got loose for nine of her game-high 20 points in the third quarter — including a three-point play that gave the Royals a double-digit lead midway through.
“She’s going to have her 20-plus every night, regardless of what defense teams play on her,” Parker said.
And Platko broke out a strong scoring game on the blocks, tossing in six points in each of the final two quarters to finish with 16 points while helping Holy Redeemer pull away.
But it all started with a hot hand by a non-starter.
“We talked about other kids having an opportunity to step up,” Parker said. “Julie Kosik was that kid who stepped up tonight.”
It helped the 21-5 Royals step out of a rut.
They had targeted winning a district title since the preseason, and found it tough to recover from being knocked into a third-place district game by Wednesday’s 41-39 double-overtime loss to Abington Heights.
“It was difficult,” Kosik admitted. “We had a talk at practice and we decided we wanted to keep going and keep having fun. We just want to keep playing and see if we can make a run.”
That run will start next weekend, when the Royals face District 4 champion Mifflinburg.
“That was one of our main goals, the district championship,” Parker said. “The girls were devastated, the coaching staff was devastated. On Thursday, we didn’t practice, didn’t even pick up a ball. We sat down and talked as a group for two hours and had a conversation. (Friday) was our best practice of the year. The kids were extremely excited and focused again, want to have a run in states.”
For the 19-5 Patriots, their run in Class 3A is over for awhile. They’ll be moving to Class 4A next season, after being stopped just short of states by Holy Redeemer for the second straight year.
“I couldn’t be more proud of my girls,” Healey said. “We had an amazing season. Nobody would think we were going to win 19 games, we had a chance to win the league, we’re in the Final Four of Triple-A. And (going to) 4A, that’s fine, too. We’ll play where we play. We’re still going to come out and work hard.”
Holy Redeemer 62, Pittston Area 46
PITTSTON AREA (46) — Taryn Ashby 0 2-2 2, Allie Barber 4 5-8 14, Jackie Rabender 2 1-1 5, Liz Waleski 5 0-0 11, Eastin Ashby 6 0-0 14, Jamie Chisdock 0 0-0 0, Marley O’Brien 0 0-0 0, Megan Cummings 0 0-0 0, Jordan Fritz 0 0-0 0. Totals 17 8-11 46.
HOLY REDEEMER (62) — Sara Flannley 0 0-0 0, Rebecca Prociak 2 0-0 4, Lydia Lawson 0 7-8 7, Alyssa Platko 6 4-7 16, Alexis Lewis 8 4-5 20, Kayla Hons 0 0-0 0, Julie Kosik 5 0-0 15, Megan Corridoni 0 0-0 0, Brittany Hebda 0 0-0 0, Autumn Kaminski 0 0-0 0. Totals 21 15-20 62.
Three-point goals — PA 4 (E. Ashby 2, Waleski, Barber); HR 5 (Kosik 5).