Unbeaten Mt. Lebanon girls weather storm
EBENSBURG — Mt. Lebanon's players felt a sense of urgency, but coach Dori Oldaker wasn't getting rattled.
The Blue Devils' unbeaten season in high school girls basketball was being challenged in the waning minutes of a PIAA Class AAAA quarterfinal Friday night at Central Cambria.
"There was a ton of time. As a coach, you can't get rattled," Oldaker said.
As it turns out, Mt. Lebanon's record remained unblemished after it fought back from a five-point deficit to beat State College, 49-45, and advance to the state semifinals against either Cheltenham or Downtowntown West.
Mt. Lebanon (29-0), the WPIAL champion, bowed out of last season's state semifinals.
Sophomore guard Madison Cable scored 16 points, and Mt. Lebanon outscored State College by six points after trailing at halftime, 22-20. The Blue Devils' used a 14-9 fourth-quarter edge to seal the victory.
Cable and senior Emily Miller each converted a pair of free throws in the final seconds for Mt. Lebanon (29-0), the state's only undefeated boys or girls team.
"At halftime, I said to the (seniors), 'Is this going to be the last game• It's time for you to step up,'" Oldaker said.
The 5-foot-11 Miller is one of just two seniors on the team.
"You either win or lose at the free-throw line," Oldaker said. "When it was time to step up, she did."
It was Miller's block of a driving shot in the lane by State College's Chrissy Cooper with time winding down that preserved Mt. Lebanon's slim advantage near the end of the game after the Blue Devils seized the lead in the final 2 minutes.
For most of the second half, it looked as though District 6 State College (18-7) would pull off an upset.
"Their 3s were killing us," Oldaker said.
Cooper, a senior guard, led State College with 18 points, including four 3-point shots. Her 3-pointer with 5:33 left gave the Little Lions a 41-37 lead.
"We were down five at one point, and I told them we had a ton of time," Oldaker said. "If we just chip away and play good defense ... we're young and getting a ton of experience."
Cable's two free throws with 33 seconds remaining completed a Mt. Lebanon comeback and gave the Blue Devils a 45-43 lead. Her layup 18 seconds later made it a four-point cushion.
But following a rebound shot by State College's Kate McDonald, it was Miller's blocked shot that stood out.
Mt. Lebanon's 6-0 run resulted in a 43-41 lead after Jess Babe connected on a 3-pointer.
Courtney Nellis' layup for State College tied it at 43-43 before Cable's go-ahead free throws put Mt. Lebanon in front for good.