Historic season ends for Freeport
SLIPPERY ROCK: Freeport girls basketball coach Kirk Lorigan expected Tuesday's PIAA Class AA second-round playoff game against Seneca to resemble a heavyweight boxing match.
And with Freeport backed into a corner, Seneca used a third quarter flurry to knock out the Lady Yellowjackets, 52-38, at Slippery Rock University's Morrow Field House.
In a span of about two minutes in the third, Freeport lost the lead for good, and, saw one of its senior leaders exit the game with an injury.
Forward Michelle Vascik went down with a foot injury and did not return.
The Lady Yellowjackets (23-5) never seemed the same after that, watching a one-point lead in the third turn into a double-digit deficit by the 1:26 mark of the fourth.
Freeport missed 10 consecutive shots to open the fourth.
The game at times had a similar feel to Freeport's 42-20 loss to Carlynton in the WPIAL championship game.
"We never got in sync offensively," said Lorigan, who came out of the locker room and greeted the media with tears in his eyes. "This was such a big floor; maybe I have to do a better job calling in plays.
"We were not ourselves. We couldn't get any rhythm going. Sometimes, you have nights when the ball doesn't bounce your way."
The loss brings an end to an historic season for Freeport, which saw the team set a record for wins while advancing further in the WPIAL and PIAA Class AA playoffs than any team in school history.
It also marks the end of a brilliant era for seven seniors, all of whom contributed to the team's success.
"They have set a standard in the program," Lorigan said of the seniors -- Vascik, Julie McCorkle, Megan Prazenica, Courtney Callas, Shannon Reesman, Maria Lutz and Nicole Beggs. "From our fourth-grade girls up, they will look at our program and see the bar has been raised. They'll see that this is what you play for."
Seneca (23-6), meanwhile, advances to the quarterfinals to play Freeport's WPIAL Section 1 rival Greensburg Central Catholic Friday at a site and time to be determined.
It will be the Lady Bobcats' first appearance in the third round.
"We expected this to be a physical game," said Seneca coach Joe Craig. "Our girls really picked it up defensively. We knew Freeport had some good shooters, and we didn't want to give them anything easy."
Mansfield recruit Kelli Eastman led the Bobcats with 18 points, Annemarie Priester added 12 and Lisa Brozewicz had 10.
Vascik was to get X-rays after the game. She was on crutches as she headed for the team bus after re-injuring her right foot while battling for a rebound. She broke the foot Dec. 15 against Greensburg Central Catholic and missed 14 games.
She was helped off the floor with 3:45 left in the third and did not return.
Meantime, Freeport lost a lead it held for much of the first half.
Seneca tied it twice in the third in the third before McCorkle's three-point play gave Freeport a 26-23 lead with 5:29 left in the period.
But just when things started to look up for Freeport, Vascik went down, and Seneca reeled off nine straight points to take a 32-26 advantage at 2:27 of the third.
McCorkle scored on a layup off a fast break, and point guard Nicole Beggs hit a short jumper to get Freeport to within 33-31 after three.
Seneca started the fourth with an 8-0 run to make it 41-31.
Lutz scored Freeport's first field goal of the fourth at the 1:30 mark.
By then, though, it was too late.
Although she only scored two points, Vascik had created havoc against Seneca inside. She was grabbing rebounds, diving for loose balls and altering shots before the injury.
Neither Lorigan nor Craig thought Vascik's departure was the game-breaker.
"I think it contributed to us winning," Craig said. "I think we did a good job against them defensively. When (Lorigan) lost Vascik, he lost a key scorer inside."
"These girls are there for each other," Lorigan said. "They know what it's like to play without Michelle; they've done it before. It was tough to see her go out, but I don't think it was the reason we lost."
Freeport got off to a slow start, missing its first four shots while falling behind 7-3. But Reesman's three-point play off a steal under the hoop got Freeport to within 7-6, and Callas' free throw tied it 9-all after the first quarter.
Seneca tied it 12-all on two free throws by Brozewicz, but trailed the rest of the second quarter.
Freeport built its largest lead of the game, at 21-15, on a 3-pointer by Lutz, driving layups by Vascik and McCorkle and a jumper from the left corner by Reesman.
McCorkle led Freeport with 11 points, while Reesman and junior guard Laney Pastoria had six apiece.
Seneca made 17 of 27 free throws, Freeport hit 5 of 8.