West Shamokin girls prevail over Riverview
Though they hope the play-by-play particulars of their WPIAL Class AA preliminary round game will fade from people's memories, members of the West Shamokin girls basketball team certainly expect the end result of their matchup with Riverview to stick in people's heads for years to come.
Leaning heavily on a lockdown man-to-man defense that created headaches for Riverview, the Wolves prevailed, 27-21, on Friday at Plum to secure the school's second-ever playoff victory and also set a record for most wins in a season.
West Shamokin (13-10) advances to the first round, where it will meet No. 1 seed Seton-La Salle (18-4) on Tuesday at a site and time to be determined.
“Style points don't matter,” Wolves coach Judd McCullough said. “That's the way we play — with a lot of guts, a lot of heart and a lot of toughness, and we just scratch it out. Give Riverview a whole lot of credit, because they battled and battled without one of their top players. … I'm proud of our effort, especially down the stretch.”
The Raiders (13-10) struggled in both transition and set plays without 5-foot-7 sophomore guard Sadie Buchser, who sat out for disciplinary reasons. Without Buchser, who averages 14.5 points per game, Riverview scrambled in its search for a confident shooter and ball-handler.
Junior forward Bree Patsey provided the biggest punch, scoring eight points. Sophomore guard Nikki Polens followed with six points for Riverview, which led 8-2 late in the first quarter but then went the entire second quarter and most of the third without a field goal.
The Raiders faced a 16-9 deficit late in the third quarter and rallied to cut West Shamokin's lead to 20-19 with 3:07 left in the fourth. They finished with 28 turnovers.
“We've struggled to score off and on this season, and that was with Sadie,” Raiders coach Keith Stitt said. “There aren't many Class AA teams that can lose a 15-, 20-point scorer and replace them. We could've packed it in and said we can't score without Sadie. But they didn't, and I'm very proud of them for that.”
Though never overwhelming offensively, West Shamokin delivered when it needed a key basket.
Senior Tristan Cribbs sank a 3-pointer as time expired in the first quarter to cut Riverview's lead to 8-6.
Junior Lizzy Cornish, who had a game-high 10 points, made a runner in the right lane as the second quarter ended that put the Wolves ahead, 11-9.
Cornish threaded a backdoor pass to Kelly Clowser that kept West Shamokin ahead of Riverview, 20-17, midway through the fourth quarter. With 1:58 left in the game, senior Stephanie Schrecengost hit a 3-pointer — her second of the game — that gave West Shamokin a four-point cushion.
“The first half was really bad, but I got confident,” Schrecengost said. “(Riverview's comeback) was overwhelming and stressful — they wouldn't really call anything. But we fought back and came out with the win.”
Riverview will lose just one senior, forward Madison Long, to graduation. Stitt encouraged his girls to look past the team's struggles and focus on the benefits of the postseason experience.
“I've been trying to plant this seed since the end of the section schedule that the end (of the season) was coming,” Stitt said. “We have a lot of good things on the way: we have a good group of freshmen coming in, almost everyone on this team back, and we're dropping to Class A, so we'll see how that shakes out.”