PIAA Girls Basketball: Valley West’s defense dominates in second-round win


Source: Paul Sokoloski | Times Leader

Wyoming Valley West’s Andi Blaski buries a 3-pointer in the Spartans states win.

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    For highlights from Wyoming Valley West’s victory Thursday, visit the online version of this story at timesleader.com.

    FORKS TWP. — First, the Wyoming Valley West Spartans talked about what they planned to do.

    Then they went out and did it.

    Never mind the fact Valley West didn’t get much opportunity to practice their second-round state plan.

    Neither snow nor a team full of dangerous shooters was going to stop the Spartans from executing to near-perfection.

    So Gabby Smicherko and Erin Gibbons both scored 12 points Thursday, and that was plenty of punch to lead Valley West past Springfield-Delco, 51-33, in a PIAA Class 5A girls basketball second-round playoff game at Easton Middle School.

    “We knew coming in we had to really lock up on defense,” Gibbons said.

    They just used a different kind.

    Instead of their usual man-to-man defense, the Spartans switched to a zone in order to better control Springfield-Delco’s peppering 3-point attack.

    Only with heavy snow blanketing the area, Valley West didn’t get much chance to work on the plan — when a Wednesday practice essentially became a short shoot-around when only two-thirds of the team was able to make it to the high school gym.

    “Honestly, we didn’t even practice 1-2-2,” Smicherko said of the zone. “(The coaches) just said, ‘You’re playing 1-2-2, watch the film.’ ”

    The 22-5 Spartans didn’t need much practice to make the second state win in school history appear almost perfect, earning a date with Archbishop Wood, a 28-25 winner over Bishop Shanahan, in this weekend’s Class 5A quarterfinal round.

    They held the District 1 champion Cougars to just two points in the second quarter and nine in the third, when a two-point lead for the Spartans after the first quarter turned into a 34-21 gap by the end of the third.

    “Defense, defense, defense,” Valley West coach Gary Ferenchik said. “I thought they were just too quick for us in a man defense. We worked on our zone, just making their shots more difficult. I knew this was one heck of a team. The defense really stepped up for us.

    “Great win against a great team.”

    Valley West got off to a great start, as Toni Amato came off the bench and popped a 3-point goal and Andi Blaski hit another late in the opening quarter to get the Spartans out to a 12-10 lead.

    Then they built on it.

    Gibbons, who scored 10 points in the opening half, buried a pair of her own 3-pointers in the second quarter and Blaski hit her second long-range bomb as the Spartans stormed into halftime with a 27-12 advantage.

    “I knew I had to come out for my team and do what I had to do,” Gibbons said.

    Valley West just kept doing whatever it took to ensure victory.

    Smicherko hit a bucket in the third quarter, then swished four straight foul shots to give Valley West a 45-21 lead with 4:45 to play.

    “It was, ‘We win this, or we’re done,’ ” Smicherko, a senior, said. “We just played our hearts out.”

    Right to the end.

    Spartans’ 6-foot center Colleen Cwalina got going late, hitting a clutch three-point play and two foul shots in the final quarter. And Gibbons tossed in two free throws to restore a 20-point lead with little more than two minutes remaining to cut off a brief, late run by the Cougars.

    “It’s a great feeling,” Gibbons said of the school’s first trip to the girls basketball state quarterfinals.

    It’s a feeling that carried through the entire team.

    “Wow,” Ferenchick said. “This is great. It’s just a great win for this program.

    “I’m so proud of them.”

    Lower Moreland 33,

    Berwick 20

    A magical season continued through the first half of the second round of PIAA play for the Bulldogs.

    Then the second half hit.

    And dreams of reaching the state quarterfinals slipped away.

    Lower Moreland shook off a slow start and rebounded from a halftime deficit to beat Berwick in a second-round Class 4A state game at Hamburg High School.

    “We beat ourselves,” Berwick coach Bill Phillips said. “We didn’t play with any sense of urgency. We were very sloppy with the ball. And we shot 15 percent from the field.”

    Berwick, which last reached the second round of the PIAA tournament in 2006, raced out to an 11-4 lead early in the second quarter and held a 12-9 lead at halftime, behind a 3-point field goal from Reese Mensinger and four points apiece from Roni Isenberg and Tori Talanca.

    “We started off OK,” Phillips said. “We had 11 turnovers in the first half and still had the lead.”

    But it didn’t last, as Lower Moreland took a seven-point advantage by the end of the third quarter and iced the game in the fourth.

    Isenberg, Berwick’s 6-foot-1 center, led the team with seven points.

    The Bulldogs finished a surprising season at 17-10 with its first trip to states in 11 years.

    “I was very happy with the overall season,” Phillips said. “Our division’s very tough, we played some tough teams. Down the stretch, I thought we played very well. We beat Wyoming Area, we beat Scranton Prep, got to play for the District (2) title. Couldn’t ask for anything more.”

    PIAA Class 5A second round

    Valley West 51, Springfield-Delco 33

    SPRINGFIELD-DELCO (33) — Alyssa Long 2 1-4 6, Maggie O’Connell 0 0-0 0, Amanda Hopkins 1 0-0 2, Jordan D’Ambrosio 3 0-2 8, Belle Mastropietro 4 4-4 13, Erika Biehl 0 0-2 0, Jamie Brower 2 0-0 4, Bridget Whitaker 0 0-0 0, Colleen Culberston 0 0-0 0, Steph McCann 0 0-0 0, Courtney Clark 0 0-0 0. Totals 12 5-12 33.

    WYOMING VALLEY WEST (51) — Erin Gibbons 4 2-2 12, Andi Blaski 2 0-0 6, Natalie Gruver 1 3-6 5, Gabby Smicherko 4 4-4 12, Colleen Cwalina 1 5-5 7, Toni Amato 2 0-0 6, Katie Johnson 0 2-2 2, Katie Mackiewicz 0 0-0 0, Nicole Boutanos 0 1-2 1, Sidney Scarcella 0 0-0 0, Lindsey Gruver 0 0-0 0. Totals 14 17-21 51.

    Springfield-Delco`10`2`9`12 — 33

    Wyo. Valley West`12`15`7`17 — 51

    Three-point goals — SD 4 (D’Ambrosio 2, Mastropietro, Long); WVW 6 (Blaski 2, Amato 2, Gibbons 2).

    PIAA Class 4A second round

    Lower Moreland 33, Berwick 20

    BERWICK (20) — Reese Mensinger 1 3-4 6, Tori Talanca 2 2-4 6, Abbey Burt 0 0-0 0, Megan Dalo 0 0-0 0, Mikayla Davis 0 1-2 1, Mallory Pinterich 0 0-0 0, Alexa Wall 0 0-0 0, Roni Isenberg 3 1-2 7. Totals 6 7-12 20.

    LOWER MORELAND (33) — Riley Malone 0 0-0 0, Jimia Davis 0 2-4 2, Allison Asher 0 0-0 0, Alex Kritsinger 0 0-0 0, Jordan Cohen 0 2-2 2, Ceili Corduff 5 0-0 15, Rachael Millan 4 4-7 12, Nicola Caster 1 0-0 2. Totals 10 8-13 33.

    Berwick`9`3`5`3 — 20

    Moreland`4`5`15`9 — 33

    3-point goals — BER 1 (Mensinger); LM 5 (Corduff 5)

    For other sports stories, click here.

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    By Paul Sokoloski

    [email protected]

    VIDEO

    For highlights from Wyoming Valley West’s victory Thursday, visit the online version of this story at timesleader.com.

    Reach Paul Sokoloski at 570-991-6392 or on Twitter @TLPaulSokoloski

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