Blairsville moves to District 6 title game
HOLLIDAYSBURG — Ralph McGinnis coached the Richland girls basketball team to a semifinal victory over Blairsville a year ago.
Wednesday, McGinnis was on the Blairsville bench coaching the Bobcats to their first trip to the District 6 Class AA final.
Blairsville (23-1) used a 16-0 run to open the second half and cruised to a 53-33 victory over No. 1 seed Bald Eagle (22-2) in the semifinals at Hollidaysburg High School.
The Bobcats, who were seeded No. 4, will play Bellwood Antis at 5:30 p.m. Saturday at St. Francis University.
Blairsville trailed once in the game, 1-0, on a free throw by Lexi Josefik.
Then sophomore Nicole Boyer found her touch. She hit her first four shots, including two 3-pointers, as Blairsville raced to a 16-8 lead. Bald Eagle stayed close in the second quarter and closed to within 26-22 at halftime. But things quickly changed after halftime.
“We gave them too many open looks in the first half, so we stepped closer and extended the defense,” McGinnis said. “We went to our spread defense to make them make longer passes, which allowed us to get the shooters and contain them. We also made it a point to get the rebound.”
Bald Eagle went 1 for 10 from the floor and committed seven turnovers in the third quarter.
“Our defense is pretty awesome, and to hold them to four points in the third quarter was something,” McGinnis said.
The defensive pressure also allowed Blairsville to kick in its up-tempo offense. Senior guard Mackenzie Livingston had numerous steals that resulted in easy baskets for the Bobcats during the third quarter.
Livingston, who was 11 for 11 from the foul line, finished with 13 points, 10 rebounds and five steals.
“I knew we had to step it up in the third quarter,” Livingston said. “I knew the lanes were going to open up for us once we started driving. We knew they'd get lazy and start fouling. Free throws would be huge in this game.
“We knew they'd do the skip passes, so when we extended (the defense) I was able to cheat a little. We started frustrating them.”
Boyer, who had a team-high 14 points, scored four points in the third quarter as Blairsville outscored Bald Eagle, 20-4, to grab a 46-26 lead.
“I guess I was just on fire,” Boyer said. “I knew when I got hot they came out on me, and it opened things for other players.”
Sophomore forward Chelsey Koren finished with 10 points for Blairsville.
“I had to play really strong defensively,” Koren said. “After I picked up two early fouls, I knew I had to play smarter. Coach trusted me that I wouldn't get another foul.”
Blairsville also was 17 for 18 from the foul line and out-rebounded the bigger Bald Eagle squad, 42-23.
Marissa Ward led Bald Eagle with 15 points, but 11 came in the first half. Josefik had 12 points, while 6-foot-2 center Kaitlyn Miller was held to six points and eight rebounds.
“Getting to the District 6 championship is pretty amazing,” Livingston said. “This being my senior year, it's good to lead this young squad this far.”
Paul Schofield is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach him at email@example.com.