DALLAS – They made plenty of noise in the few steps they took from the front doors of Dallas High School to their awaiting bus.
Sure, some of the exclamations were because they were leaving the warmth of the school and encountering the frigid, blustery winds.
But most of the noise from the Pittston Area girls basketball team was because it was celebrating a new view of its season – looking down from the top of WVC Division I.
The Patriots went to Dallas on Thursday and led for all but two minutes in a 54-46 triumph over the Mountaineers. The victory leaves the teams tied at 8-2 in league play.
This is amazing, said Allie Barber after a game-high 16-point effort. We know they beat Crestwood. We know they're a very good team.
The win capped a season sweep by Pittston Area, as the Patriots beat Dallas 49-47 on Jan. 7.
The Mountaineers focused their efforts on reigning Player of the Year Mia Hopkins, holding her to a season-low 12 points. Hopkins was not to be denied, though, posting a triple-double (15 rebounds, 13 blocks).
She was still a key, Pittston Area coach Kathy Healey said. But the team fed off her. She takes them all the time, but tonight, the kids said we've got your back.
Hopkins also had three assists, though the shifting Dallas defense made it seem like more. Barber took advantage, driving to the hoop – her weaving scoop in the final seconds of the third quarter put Pittston Area up 38-34 and looked like a deflating shot for Dallas.
Coach just said to go out there and take charge. She wanted me to go to the basket, said Barber, a sophomore who set a career high for points in a season with 193. (Opponents) always play more on Mia, but she shares. She doesn't care who gets the points.
After a Liz Waleski three-pointer made the Patriots' lead seven, the Mountaineers made a final charge. Ashley Dunbar put home a Katy Comitz offensive rebound, then Comitz had a steal and a jumper, set up in between by Dunbar. Samantha Missal's stickback – Dallas' fourth shot of its possession – made it 41-40 with 5:30 remaining.
We missed a lot of easy shots and did not finish in transition, Dallas coach Kelly Johnson said. We missed defensive assignments. All that together did us in.
Eastin Ashby, on her way to a season-high 15 points, made a runner along the baseline and a free throw to make Pittston Area's lead four. Dunbar answered with a layup in traffic with five minutes remaining, but it was the final field goal of the night for Dallas.
Jackie Rabender (seven rebounds) put home an offensive carom to start an 8-0 run for the Patriots that iced the game.
With the way everyone covers Mia, especially the last couple of weeks, we've got to show them we're a complete team, Barber said. We've got to make them pay for it.
Talia Szatkowski paced Dallas with 13 points and had 10 rebounds, but foul trouble and adjustments by Pittston Area limited her effectiveness in the second half. Tanner Englehart had 10 points, 15 rebounds and five blocks in the loss.
I don't think our kids got as good of looks as they did in other games, said Johnson, whose team was 1-for-9 from three-point range in the first half. We've got to be ready for those situations.
We thought that if we took away their threes, we would have a good chance, Healey said. Going 11-for-11 from the free-throw line helps, too.
Pittston Area (16-2) and Dallas (12-4) are a half-game ahead of Crestwood (7-2, 12-6) with four game dates remaining. Crestwood has five games remaining in league play.
PITTSTON AREA (54): Allie Barber 8 0-0 16, Liz Waleski 1 2-2 5, Amy Silinskie 0 0-0 0, Jackie Rabender 3 0-0 6, Mia Hopkins 4 4-4 12, Ali Brady 0 0-0 0, Eastin Ashby 5 5-5 15. Totals 21 11-11 54.
DALLAS (46): Ashley Dunbar 4 0-0 8, Tanner Englehart 3 4-8 10, Talia Szatkowski 5 3-4 13, Jess Hiscox 2 0-0 6, Samantha Missal 3 0-0 7, Katy Comitz 1 0-0 2, Maggie Michael 0 0-0 0. Totals 18 7-12 46.
3-Point Field Goals— PA 1 (Waleski); DAL 3 (Hiscox 2, Missal)