WILKES-BARRE — The 1,000th point of Allie Barber’s career came on her signature move, a darting drive to the basket followed by a jump-stop layup.
Which was only fitting.
Because Pittston Area not only stopped a string of girls basketball misery in the district playoffs, the Patriots jumped straight into history.
Barber scored 13 points Friday, Liz Waleski added 14 and Pittston Area won its first-ever girls district basketball title by dominating Hazleton Area, 50-40 in the District 2 Class 4A championship at Wilkes University’s Marts Center.
“It’s unbelievable,” said Waleski, a senior sharp-shooter who popped a pair of 3-pointers from the corner during a 14-3 third quarter that gave Pittston Area complete command. “I can’t even express my feelings.
“I’ve waited four years for this.”
Pittston Area’s long wait to put a girls district basketball banner in its gym is over.
That’s where the Patriots headed after their riveting victory, intent on cutting down the nets on their home floor.
“It’s definitely a great feeling,” Barber said.
Along with it comes Pittston Area’s first-ever trip to the PIAA playoffs, which begins Friday with a game against the No. 7 seed from District 12.
“It’s amazing,” Pittston Area coach Kathy Healey said. “First-ever district title and first-ever state playoff game. The kids really played hard. We talked about it all week.
“They were focused.”
The Patriots, who split two games with Hazleton Area during the Wyoming Valley Conference Division I regular season and watched the Cougars walk way with the conference title, relied on poise and precision to claim their crown.
The Patriots fell behind 12-4 on a 3-pointer by Hazleton Area’s Makaela Browdy in the first quarter, and were behind 25-21 at halftime after Cougars scoring ace Mackenzie Yori erupted for 11 first-half points.
“We were a basket or two away from really setting ourselves,” Hazleton Area coach Joe Gavio said.
Then the Patriots pushed the pedal.
Relying on the resolve that led Pittston Area to district titles in other sports — seniors Barber and Waleski, along with sophomore guard Taryn Ashby, captured crowns in soccer and track and field during their illustrious high school careers — the Patriots poured out their hearts by playing defense in the second half.
Pittston Area limited the hot-handed Cougars to three points in the third quarter — all of which came during the period’s final two minutes.
By then, Pittston Area was swarming the scoreboard.
Taryn Ashby slithered inside with a bucket that gave the Patriots their first lead, 26-25, less than two minutes into the second half and Pittston Area was off and running.
Waleski dropped a pair of 3-point bombs in the quarter as Pittston Area took a seven-point lead, then built on it during the final eight minutes.
Alexa Noone started the scoring in the final quarter by popping a 3-pointer to give the Patriots a 10-point lead.
Waleski followed with a steal and a layup to boost the Patriots’ advantage to 40-28. Then Barber twice thwarted brief Hazleton Area spurts, first driving for a layup that gave her 1,000 career points before knocking down a pair of foul shots later in the quarter.
“It’s definitely an important feeling,” Barber said. “But the whole week, I’ve been saying it doesn’t matter, as long as we win.
“I didn’t want my season to end with my team.”
The performance ended Hazleton Area’s bid to win its first district title in five years, mainly because Barber and Waleski kept burning the Cougars’ vaunted press defense with precision passes and swift dribbling.
“Two four-year starting guards, that’s big,” Gavio said. “To their credit, they broke the press nice. We started panicking a little. No need to panic.”
In the end, though, it was tremendous poise that brought Pittston Area its long-awaited title.
“It feels absolutely amazing,” said Patriots forward Jamie Chisdock, who kept Pittston Area in the chase by scoring four important points in the first half before finishing with six. “We worked so hard this season. To finally accomplish this win is an amazing feeling.”
Especially since it came against the Hazleton Area team that beat the Patriots out of a WVC championship.
“We talked about redemption,” Healey said. “We talked about how they got the league title, we’ll take the district title.”